In a fit of spring-cleaning pique this weekend, I finally attacked my laundry bomb of a closet. After I’d re-hung everything, it was crammed like a Macy’s sale rack. Wait – exactly like a Macy’s sale rack. Why did so many of the clothes still have tags on them?!
One by one, I flicked through the hangers. Oh, that cocktail dress I bought in case I started eating at fancy restaurants! The skirt that would look perfect at the tea party I might someday throw! Awww, these gray slacks will look exquisite at a career networking event – assuming one day I stop deleting emails about career networking events.
Anyone glancing at my closet would be thrilled to meet the socially daring, inestimably chic workaholic who owns those clothes. Heck, I’d be thrilled to meet her. ‘cause heaven knows I’m not that girl at all.
You guys know you do it too. Every once in a while when we do our shopping we lose focus on who we are and fantasize about who we’d like to be.
“I’d be a fool not to buy wheat germ at this price! Maybe tomorrow I’ll wake up as a total health nut!”
“I really ought to keep a three-pack of blank canvases around. Wouldn’t it be fun to spend a day in the park, painting passers-by?”
“One day I’ll totally learn to play this cool old guitar!”
Newsflash: you’re not a Barbie doll. Just buying the accessory pack isn’t going to make you the person you want to be.
A stern pragmatist (or someone who was less of a penny-pincher) would tell you to toss all the junk cluttering your apartment and, along with it, all those beautiful empty dreams of the person you might someday be. Just accept your charmingly flawed self and do what you’ve always done!
It’s good advice, I’m sure, but let me give you a little cheat code for reality: sure, owning the right props won’t make you the kind of person you’ve always wanted to be. But using them? Totally will.
Last weekend, after I was tired of cleaning, I wriggled into the cocktail dress, put on a never-worn sparkly headband, and hustled myself down to Whole Foods, where I bought all the other ingredients for oat and wheat germ pancakes. And they were delicious.
Okay, so it didn’t change the fact that I’m still a scrubby, pizza-addicted dreamer. But at least my fantasy-future-self accessories are more than museum pieces now. And instead of waiting endlessly for the right occasion to use them again, next time the mood strikes, I’m just going to make my own occasion.
What unused goodies are gathering dust in your apartment while you wait for “the perfect time” to use them? And when are you going to man up and use them anyway, occasion or not?
Oh man, I am such a fan of buying weird costume-y type articles and then finding excuses to wear them. I mean, why WOULDN’T you want to have on hand a neon blue wig and elbow-length pleather gloves and a silk robe with a dragon on the back, you know, just in case?
Although…when I put them all together like that it sounds more like just in case I feel like dressing up as some kind of anime dominatrix character. Which…maybe I do. Maybe that would be a good party theme…
I tend to keep little trinkets that are meant to be used.
I have pretty little soaps given to me in junior high school that I’ve never used because, well, they’re pretty little soaps! I also have a travel pack of rubber ducky tissues from around the same era of the pretty little soaps. How can you blow your nose into the rubber duckies? YOU CAN’T, that’s how.
And most recently, I was given a set of tea towels that have anthropomorphized food stuffs on them. I absolutely cannot wipe my hands on that smiling cupcake because what if I leave a stain? It will never be the same ever again!
Maybe one day I will man up and use all of those little awesome gifts, but today is not that day.
Edward - Entry Level Dilemma says
When I got married, my grandmother gave us several pot holders and towels. I had the same problem. They looked so great and new (vs the rags I was used to using, that I hung them up on the wall. Then one day I accidental got a huge grease splatter on them. Now I have no problem using them.
Edward - Entry Level Dilemma says
GetRichSlowly had a post about this a few weeks ago about how he used to buy things with hopes of learning the skill associated with it (like a musical instruments, books on coding, etc) and then never using them because he didn’t already know how to perform the skill. So now if he wants to learn a skill, he takes classes to learn if before ever buying the associated tool.
I have a few clothing items in my closet from this type of syndrome. I started hanging out with a classy dresser and he urged me to buy a nicer wardrobe. He even went shopping with me to pick things out. But I rarely wear that stuff. Jeans, t-shirt, and a flannel shirt are just my style. Anything else is just me pretending to be someone else.
Except for the fedora. I love my fedora. My wife doesn’t. So I wear it randomly when she isn’t around, like yesterday when I was moving boxes into storage while she was at work. 🙂
John Bardos says
I love getting dressed up (a little in inexpensive clothes) when I get on a plane. It makes me feel like I am a jet-setting executive, even though I have to walk to economy class at the back.
The Ex says
Good post! Working in Silicon Valley, the challenge I face is to not overdress. So I’m rarely taking tags off of things as fancy as cocktail dresses. But I think I can relate to this because I have a similar feeling about my witty/indie T-shirts I’m always buying from webcomics, Threadless, and shirt.woot.com. “Is today the day I wanna wear the S’Morse Code shirt? Should I save that cool steampunk shirt for another time? Will my coworkers get that the oranges holding the handguns are supposed to look like Samuel L Jackson and John Travolta and that it’s a ‘pulp’ pun, or will they think I’m condoning violence? Or all of these actually lame and should I never wear them?” But I’ll take this as an endorsement to wear them proudly.
“assuming one day I stop deleting emails about career networking events.”
So true-to-life it hurts.
“Newsflash: you’re not a Barbie doll. Just buying the accessory pack isn’t going to make you the person you want to be.”
Hahaha. If only it were that easy. Maybe that’s why people like playing The Sims so much: “Learning how to repair a fridge is easy! Just pick a book off your bookshelf and sit in a chair for 45 seconds.”
“cheat code for reality”
Such a good phrase! Did you make that up?
Pat B. says
I bought one too many hoodies and now I can’t work the new one into rotation, because it is, after all, the least becoming of the bunch.
@Danielle–even if you don’t wear dresses, I don’t think this precludes the need to shave your legs. What happens if an occasion arises where you want to take your jeans? Disaster potential, hello!
Ha, GUILTY!! Only I’ll come home, try on whatever I bought and as long as it fits rip off the tags….
So that beautifully plain $35 BCBG dress? Mine, but how many times have I worn it out? Once or twice. (I don’t have the right bits to accessorize it… Yet?)
Or the Christian Louboutin flats I bought, brand new, for $200. Deal? Yes. Worn out? Once or twice. :/ Those definitely need to come out to play a bit more…
I need to start wearing the clothes I want to wear, ha. I won’t be who I want to be unless I start acting like her. 😛
Spready B says
I find that my bigger problem isn’t deciding not to wear my clothes but forgetting I have them – and then I’m so distressed that I forgot something I really like, so I wear it way too much for a few weeks and then put it in the hamper and the cycle repeats… sound advice, sound advice!
The amount of truth in this blog that pertains to me is blinding.
From the 20 year old LAX jersey that I’ve just realized even if I could fit in it again, how stupid will I look? To the fact that I won’t sell my Dirt Bike,that I’ll most likely never ride again, because I
have two pairs of, nearly new, Fox racing pants. God bless my GF for putting up with my thought process.
And thank you for opening my eyes.
miss morgan p says
Too true, lady. My cure is to constantly be on the move, because who wants to haul around stuff they never use every few months?
Though I am guilty of this when it comes to books. Pretty covers! Soft paper! New book smell! Fetish items if there ever were some.
I don’t have too much of a problem with buying things I don’t need. Every once in a while, I’ll splurge, but I’m way too cheap to spend money on something I’ll never use again. Except for dresses. I tend to not wear dresses because that means I have to shave my legs. I currently have 4 in my closet that have seen the light of day once each.
Those seductive photos in the ads, like when I finally get on that vacation I will stand just like that and …………..look just like that…………or look they are having fun………I need to wear that for the perfect duplication of the moment.
Seriously, been hanging out in my closet? Just museum for the “just in case” moment,
I actually have a couple pair of really cute frilly panties ……….tags on.
Love your post!
I’m guilty of the guitar thing. I have to get back to that – I sooo want to. But otherwise I think I pretty much use all my (limited) stuff. I like the idea of creating occasions to use things, but I find a little self restraint at the store eliminates this problem AND leaves you with enough money for ice cream.
I’m getting a lot better at resisting these ‘deals’ (deciding I want to travel has been an amazing cure), but I still have plenty of unworn or unused stuff lying around. I need to get rid of the suitable-for-a-template-I-don’t-want-to-follow bits and pieces (from clothes to moisturisers) and just keep (and use!) the things I love. The first time I read a fashion tip to wear a cocktail dress under a cute cardigan to work, I laughed at the idea but after reading your post, maybe there’s something to it…
That Kind Of Girl says
The cocktail dress tip is pure gold! I pulled it strictly by accident a few months ago, when I spent an unscheduled weeknight at my sister’s house, then woke up for work in time to discover that the only outfit I had over there was a black lacy number left over from a cocktail party. Threw on the dress with my day-before cardigan, and I swear I’ve never gotten so many compliments on it!
Although, learn from my mistakes: make sure you’re wearing a suitably demure cami underneath to cut the cleave, because bosses and beaux have very different concepts of how much decolletage is strictly appropriate…
Nick Costello says
I really can relate to this piece! It reminds me of a guided tour inside my own closet! Thanks for writing it–I feel a lot better knowing I’m not alone!
Let’s hear more insights that can brighten my day, I suppose you couldn’t do one about a garage filled with tools I don’t understand and am scared to use!
Going I Slur says
I do this all the time! I find really cute clothes that I would love to wear but get them home and become too self-conscious to wear them. They’re still just sitting there…I should just wear ’em, make my own occasions like you suggest. Great post!
Dude, wear ’em and rock ’em! You bought them because they’re fabulous, so why not treat yourself and look fabulous yourself?
I’m guilty of this with DVD collecting. I’ll very often buy a DVD on the date of release, eagerly remove the shrink-wrap, and then recall that I don’t have enough of an attention span to sit through it, no matter how long it might be. The result is that easily half my DVD shelf has never even taken a single spin through my DVD player. But that doesn’t stop the accumulation!
I love this post! I often find myself buying work-out equipment (DVDs, hand weights, exercise balls) and cookbooks because I feel like it would be great to be the type of person who bakes a souffle and then works out in her home gym. Unfortunately I’m not that person and all these things just sit in the corner looking lonely. Thanks for the reminder to be more aware of what you buy!
Adventure-Some Matthew says
Hey! I’ve got that canvas sitting in my closet! 😀
I did finally come up with an idea of what to do with it, however, so that is a step in the right direction, at least.
You know, I was on the fence about it, but now I’m DEFINITELY going to rock a cocktail dress next time I have to make a trip to Whole Foods. You’re such an inspiration!
all the great people in the world were dreamers.
I have a different sort of the problem…..I rarely by myself anything but I dream big for others and will buy them that 3 pack of canvases or awesome looking professional pens and fancy notebooks etc…
great point tho we do all need to make the occasion on our own sometimes
I’ve struggled with that and as of late have been better at throwing myself out there to make those occasions.
I’m not a hoarder but I hate to throw out good stuff. Donating and recycling is the way to go. Good article.
I always think I’ll need more work-out gear.
Too bad I work out only enough to use it once and throw it in with my laundry every couple of weeks, and never even get to the new, once-used stuff.
Oh man…. I need to clean my closet.
Um. I don’t want to talk about this. Too close to home.
No, seriously. I do this all the time. And even better? I once bought the same hat three times because I kept forgetting I’d already bought it, but never worn it. And then? I still never wore it. But I thought it was cute enough to buy THREE TIMES.
My closet is out of control. It’s time for some spring cleaning.
Once in highschool I went to Berkley and bought a bonsai tree that you are supposed to plant yourself and care for years as it slowly turns into a tree.
almost a decade later and it has moved next the kitchen sink as of a week ago to better remind me to plant it.
I also bought a Tshirt with a white lettered self-pejorative on black.
Richard @ WpSplitTester says
Oh, now you’re hitting a sore spot! I think I’m normally pretty good at this problem as I consciously try to buy as few possessions as possible. The excitement of shopping very quickly wears off for me and I’m left with something I don’t really like and less cash in my wallet.
However I can relate to this because I have a few friends who will buy virtually *anything* if the price is right. Infact, someone just today that I know bought TEN giant packs of tacks just because they were “too cheap to pass up”. Never mind the fact that these will probably never get used. Never mind they don’t even have a pinboard. Never mind the fact they will be sitting in a cupboard gathering dust for years before finally being thrown out or given away. The store was shutting down and you’d be mad to pass up a bargain.
Except, if you don’t need it and probably never will, it is *really* a bargain? Surely that makes this a luxury, no matter how cheap it is and hence, depending on your point of view, a waste of money 😉 Rant over!!!
awesome post! we can all relate
The boyfriend has that personality trait with electronic devices and kitchen gadgets that “will definitely make XYZ soooo much easier!” I give him credit that he at least uses them for a couple of weeks, but our basement is starting to get pretty full of “yeah, this isn’t quite what I thought it would be…” I sense an approaching moratorium on anything new that has an on/off switch….
Timid hands-up over here. I have actually taken over the double closet & two dressers that I am supposed to be sharing. Oops.
He gets the closet in the spare room.
Yes, I have a problem.
ha. i started doing this too, like, i just decided that SO WHAT if i’m too lazy to dress nice in the morning and instead i wear jeans and my hair in a ponytail, and i started rocking all those some-day outfits, and you know what? now i just DRESS NICER. like, all the time. it totally worked. (oh and i had to get rid of a few of my default items too.)
I have a crockpot because it was $2.50.
Unlike most newly domestic chicas, I hate crockpots. HAAAAATE.
“But it will come in so handy when you want to—”
The Ex says
I love this comment and I love your blog name, but I love slow-cookers too. 🙁
LOVE THIS! I’m slowly infiltrating the burlesque/vaudeville scene here in Toronto and for a long time, I always wore black pants and a black shirt because I didn’t think that I would ever be as awesome and gorgeous as the girls who dress up for those kind of events. One day I decided to stop being a wimp so I wore this gorgeous 50s dress to a show and it made a huge difference to my self-confidence! Once I was actually IN the dress, (instead of staring at it and wishing I was wearing it) I realized that we all had so much in common and that I was finally showing off that part of my personality instead of waiting for someone to dig it out.
Love this post!
“Newsflash: you’re not a Barbie doll. Just buying the accessory pack isn’t going to make you the person you want to be.”
oh, now you’re just hitting below the belt.
(but I’ll still use the vapid imagery in the future to remind myself to put it back on the rack!)