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Closet Cleaning 101

Posted Wednesday, November 28, 2007, at 8:06 PM

This weekend my darling daughter undertook the massive job of persuading me to part with almost 50 years of clutter, which I have been lovingly accumulating ever since my husband and I were married in 1963. I don't THINK any of the clutter is any older than that, however, I could have some treasures which I have been hoarding since high school. ...Maybe longer...

"Hoarding" is exactly the word which Oprah used in her program last week, when she and her Organizational Police did an intervention for a poor woman whose house had become a prison of junk, which was pushing her out of her own home. Her 3-car garage was packed with floor to ceiling clutter.

What were they thinking??

Ah, that's the sad part. I KNOW what they were thinking, because I do the same thing! I sat there and watched Oprah as long as I could, thinking, "Oh, no! That's ME! That's where I'm headed!" I just knew that one day I would be crushed to death by a towering wall of old clothes, books, broken air filter machines, and lamps that don't work.

I once read a newspaper report about two brothers who had been found dead in their apartment, beneath a pile of junk that had toppled over. ARGGG!!!

My daughter, who had TAPED the entire two-day episode of the Oprah intervention, outlined the plan: Get rid of two bags a day - one to the trash and one to the Good Will. Eliminate everything that you don't like, can't use, don't want. If it doesn't fit, get rid of it.

We started on my husband's old closet, which I was using as an overflow for my stuff. I had been getting rid of his things a bit at a time in the ten years since he died. However, I was appalled at what I had saved: 1) A double-knit western suit from the early 70's. 2) About six Medieval/Renaissance outfits from when I taught school. 3) Several out-of-date sports jackets. 4) An assortment of ties, some wide and bright, some narrow and dark. 5) An odd assortment of narrow leather belts, belonging (I think) to me, at different weights. 6) A black, string dress (my favorite) that I wore the night my husband and I won a twist competition at the Purple Crackle. (I think that was around 1962-1963.)

I managed to save the black string dress by hiding it back in a corner.

In my own closet, we found a blue denim dress that I hadn't worn in about ten years or more, but it still looked stylish to me and I was sure I could wear it again, if I lost about five pounds. My daughter says that if I can't wear it in six months, it goes to Good Will! Now that I think about it, it may take ten pounds to get in it...(So, do I get a year??)

The upshot of it all is that we filled about six bags full of Good Will stuff, which my darling daughter then packed into my Jeep, the theory being that I would procrastinate if she left them in the house!

I don't know where she gets that idea, just because one of the bags has been sitting in my bedroom for about a year...

The Gospel Mission in Advance doesn't open until Thursday (tomorrow), and I've been carrying those bags around since Sunday. I can't bring home dogfood or goatfood or anything, because my car is full of old clothes!

It's so easy for these children of the 21st Century! They didn't grow up with parents who lived through the Great Depression, saving string, saving tin foil, washing plastic bags and reusing them, canning vegetables from the garden, mending clothes, darning socks...

My sweet little Grandma Giles, my daddy's mother, mended our clothes by sewing patches into split seams, never bothering to match the material. As a teenager, I remember being horrified at her little patterned patches, showing up under my arms! "Mom! Look what Gramma did! I can't wear this!"

Never mind, get the seam ripper and take out her careful little handmade stitches, sew it up on the sewing machine. Keep the peace...

Bless her heart, I'd give anything to have one of those mended blouses now. Fold it into the cedar chest and show it to the kids. "This is how your great grandmother mended clothes, children."

Aldous Huxley..."Brave New World.." "Ending is better than mending, ending is better than mending..." Are we there yet? I think we may be...

Why is it so hard to give up the old things? If I haven't used it or worn it in ten years, why keep it? My chests of drawers are full of things I don't use, and there's no room for the new things coming in.

About a year ago, I made a vow that I would never buy any more new clothes...I would continue to recycle the ones from the past. Since that vow, things have changed a bit in my life, and I'm of a different mind now, so I guess it's time to move on.

Let the old, worn-out things go...

Except for the black string dress. You never know when there'll be another twist contest...

From the dark hills of rural Tillman, this is your aging twister, Madeline, signing off for November 28, 2007.

Showing comments in chronological order
[Show most recent comments first]

Madeline Dearie,

I did the same thing over the weekend..filled five bags full of clothes from three different closets. They ranged in sizes from 10-14! Always saving things for the fat days or the hopeful skinny ones. I too, put aside a black dress. Regretfully, I never won a twist contest in it, so it went the way of the faded Christmas blouse with jingle bells for buttons and the suede skirt that I believe I've had since the late 70's. There were shoes with heels higher than my annual salary. I finally managed to say goodbye. It must be a holiday thing, this urge to suddenly organize and get rid of clutter. Just this evening I removed everything that was magneted to my refrigerator side, including the grandson's drawing of the solar system. It was at least six months old. I think Pluto was denied membership since its drawing. There is now actually a little daylight between items hanging in my closet..amazing!

It's a good feeling once accomplished. It's the "getting to it" that's the hart part. One must be in a "pitching" frame of mind before attacking the problem. Congratulations!

-- Posted by bringwine on Wed, Nov 28, 2007, at 10:08 PM

Hahaha! Do we all have that slinky black dress tucked back in a corner somewhere??

I refuse to give up the size 14's, but the size 10's are history!

I'm starting on the drawers now, but I need some pretty sturdy trash bags. I've ripped out the handles on the last ones I got at DG.

As for shoes -- my feet hurt just thinking about those high heels! I can't even wear the low cut flats anymore! Those pointy-toed heels from the sixties have done a number on my feet! They look like pretzels!

-- Posted by goat lady on Thu, Nov 29, 2007, at 7:25 AM

Hey-you been creepin' round my back door? Chatting up my old man? Surely I am the only one that saved my prom dress,shoes, AND silk flowers? I was one hot disco mama,I get vertigo now just looking at those stilletto (sp?) heels.As prom queen,it was my duty to preserve this night in history,wasn't it?

My prom king hubby got off easy-his baby blue ruffled tux was a rental.

He can never understand how I can get furious over the thought of getting rid of any of OUR magical night(never was queen again,unless you count our doublewide-lol).

As for the rest of the accumalation,yeah,that could be some serious undiagnosed mental illness,along with his garage clutter.

Oh,if only one of our loving kids would clean it out for us!

-- Posted by AngelinaJolie on Thu, Nov 29, 2007, at 5:29 PM

All Hail the Twist Queen!! This should be an easy softball trivia question for you TQ: What song was recorded by what artist that was the only record to reach #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart both times it was released as a 45 rpm single? And it sold over a million records both times!

-- Posted by FJGuy on Fri, Nov 30, 2007, at 1:55 AM

Cameo Records, 1960 the first time, "The Twist." He did it again in 1961, same label, same song. Never done again! Hail Chubby Checker!

-- Posted by bringwine on Fri, Nov 30, 2007, at 6:37 AM

Congrats BW! I didn't know the info about Cameo Records. Madeline and you can perform around and bill yourselves as the Fabulous Twist Sisters! We know that Madeline will be wearing her slinky black dress, so you'll have to come up with something equally eye-catching.

-- Posted by FJGuy on Fri, Nov 30, 2007, at 7:02 PM

Most definitely! My ensemble will no doubt include something flannel and orthopedic...but tasteful..always tasteful.

-- Posted by bringwine on Fri, Nov 30, 2007, at 7:16 PM
Madeline Dejournett's response:
Bringwine, thanks for fielding that question for me! I haven't checked these blogs since the middle of the week. These nighttime meetings are wearing me thin! If I don't work over the weekend, there won't be any Advance news in the NSC next week!

Well, "wearing me thin..." may be going a little far, I guess. If it were true, I would be able to squeeze myself back into that black string dress!

I think I'll have to opt out for tasteful flannel and orthopedic shoes, too!

Chubby Checker! Ah, there's a memory! "Let's twist again, like we did last summer..."

Hey, guys, if you'd like to see an old video of Chubby Checker, check this out:

The Twist (1961) is at,


Let's Twist Again (1962) is at,


Super cool hairdo!!

Yeah, those were the days!!

-- Posted by goat lady on Sat, Dec 1, 2007, at 2:31 PM

If I could only fit into that little black/red/knockout dress. It would be a miracle, and I believe.....!!! We are suppossed to keep such things around that amuse and make us smile. I just wish the junk drawer would not run over to fill every other drawer/empty space in the house.

-- Posted by Grati Tude on Sat, Dec 1, 2007, at 10:57 PM

Anyone today who doubts that people used to weigh much less, take a look at "Chubby" Checker. He was considered overweight in the 1960s ... while today he would almost be considered skinny.

Back to the original blog topic. You shouldn't be so hard on yourself MD. The book, "A Perfect Mess," makes the case that what looks like a mess can actually be much more organized and functional for a person than if everything looked like it was neat. The author even argues that companies that require employees to keep their desks cleaned off and that everything be kept "neat," can be seriously hurting their employees productivity, and hence, the company's profitability. So MD, if it works for you to have a well-organized desk that happens to be well stocked with paper, then there is no rational reason for you to change. BTW, the subtitle of "A Perfect Mess," is, "The Hidden Benefits of Disorder--How Crammed Closets, Cluttered Offices, and On-the-Fly Planning Make the World a Better Place." Might be worthwhile reading for your beloved neatnik daughter!?

-- Posted by FJGuy on Mon, Dec 3, 2007, at 6:39 PM
Madeline Dejournett's response:
In some cases, I think you're absolutely right, though I'm not sure my situation is one of them.

I have a former student who is now an art teacher in a nearby school. I went to interview him for a feature story and he said, "I meant to clean up this room before you got here!" He had a big plastic lizard hanging over the door, brightly-painted student work laid out on a table, an empty R2-D2 robot container for soft drinks in a corner, and lots of clutter around. I told him that I would have been disappointed if he had cleaned it up. If I had been one of his students, all the clutter would have inspired me to be creative.

However, I hardly think my closet of out-of-date clothes is "creative" and I don't believe my messes are quite "perfect"!

As for "On-the-Fly" Planning, that is a wonderful way to put it! I believe I can find that phrase quite useful...

Yes, Americans used to weigh less, but the standard of female beauty has fluxuated greatly over the years. Marilyn Monroe was a size 14, which would be much too large by today's standards. She also didn't have the muscular fitness that we see now.

I don't recall women working out with weights in her era like they do now.

-- Posted by goat lady on Wed, Dec 5, 2007, at 7:15 AM

GL, Marilyn Monroe's curvy figure was part of her persona. She had an allure that no actress today can remotely match. I think she would be a bigger star today than she was in the 1950s. Not long ago I met a man who said that if MM asked him to jump out of an airplane at 50,000 feet without a parachute he would do it. And he is not alone. Is there any actress today who inspires that level of devotion? Not that I know of. Neither was Jane Fonda a stick woman in her prime. In Klute she was almost a little chunky -- but is there a straight man alive who wouldn't have walked across burning coals, waded across an alligator infested river, and eaten a plateful of sauerkraut if she had asked them to do so? They would have been waiting in line for where to sign up!

-- Posted by FJGuy on Wed, Dec 5, 2007, at 3:44 PM
Madeline Dejournett's response:
A plateful of sauerkraut?? Oh, come now! You surely exaggerate!

I saw Marilyn in her last movie with Clark Gable - "The Misfits," wasn't it? I thought it was terrible! At least in the brainless "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" she was pretty to look at.

Jane Fonda (as an actress - not as an activist) might have been worth a plate of sauerkraut, but I fear that Marilyn, poor dear, was pretty painful to watch on screen.

-- Posted by goat lady on Thu, Dec 6, 2007, at 8:49 AM

GL, do you think that because MM sometimes played man obsessed or somewhat ditzy women? The irony of the sort of character MM sometimes played, is that she was ahead of her time as a "feminist" trying to have control over her career. When she was in her late 20s she became the first actress to start her own production company. Her production company produced, for example, "The Seven Year Itch." She was also a voracious reader, and her husband, playwright Arthur Miller, wrote the screenplay for "The Misfits." (BTW, what is it about that movie that rubs you the wrong way GL?)

-- Posted by FJGuy on Thu, Dec 6, 2007, at 1:56 PM
Madeline Dejournett's response:
It's been a LOOOONG time since I saw the movie; in fact, I haven't seen it since it first came out -- so my memory isn't too clear, but I remember having the greatest urge to slap Marilyn Monroe! Wasn't she screaming around the campfire (or someplace out on the range) about the horses?

I guess I just thought she was too goofy. I might have a totally different take on it in this day and age. I would certainly sympathize with the plight of the mustangs - both then and now.

MD, the scene you are referring to is at the end when MM is trying to get Clark Gable to understand that he should let the wild mustangs he (and Montgomery Clift) were rounding up to sell to a dog food producer. It was only by going a little bit crazy that she was able to get Gable to think, for the first time in his life, about what he was doing. It reminds me of the real-life scene that the woman made to get through to Philip Zimbardo that he needed to stop the Stanford Prison experiment (in 1971) that was written about on Minnie's blog a few months ago. In The Misfits, Monroe and Gable drove off together, and Zimbardo married the woman who convinced him to stop the experiment -- so maybe there is a lesson there somewhere??

-- Posted by FJGuy on Thu, Dec 6, 2007, at 6:35 PM
Madeline Dejournett's response:
I hadn't remembered the dog food bit. No wonder she went crazy. Wasn't there something about the movie being unfinished? I know it was Gable's last, but was it her last one, too?

MD, you are right it was both Gable and MM's last completed movie. You are probably thinking of the movie that MM started, but which was unfinished at the time of her death. I recently saw "Teacher's Pet," with Gable and Doris Day, and it is amazing how it is still marvelously entertaining 50 years after it was made.

-- Posted by FJGuy on Thu, Dec 6, 2007, at 9:22 PM

My sister and I just recently watched "The Bishop's Wife," circa 1947 - Cary Grant and Loretta Young. It still holds up very well, too.

I like to see the customs and mannerisms that were prevalent in a particular era. Don't care what era - I like 'em all. I do find the forties particularly interesting - I guess because my mom and dad were products of that era. Forties' slang cracks me up!

I like music of that era, too. "He says 'murder,' he says..." Dinah Shore, Tommy Dorsey, Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters... That war music during the forties is soooooo cooooool!

-- Posted by goat lady on Fri, Dec 7, 2007, at 6:50 AM
Madeline Dejournett's response:
Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company "B"!!!!

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Madeline (Giles) DeJournett is the Advance writer for the North Stoddard Countian. A retired high school English/history teacher, she spent 32 years teaching in 5 schools in Missouri and Alaska. These days, she lives quietly with a menagerie of wild and domestic animals on 52 secluded acres in the remote Tillman hills south of Advance. She graduated from Dexter High School in 1960 and Southeast Missouri State in 1964. She can be contacted at advancensc@sbcglobal.net.
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