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Holding on to those “just in case” clothes


Readers who yo-yo diet, I need advice for my VERY IMPORTANT FIRST-WORLD PROBLEM. I have come to the realization that I am too mobile to have this many clothes. I consider amassing clothes (and washing them all the freaking time) to be a lower-middle-class American thing and it is a trait I have brought with me to Europe. It is just easier to get cheap clothes of a decent quality in the US. Add to that the fact that not many European clothes come in my size (I’m a US 14 which is supposedly a European 44 which is technically a standard size, but, yeah, no… a US 14 is more like a 48 here, which is in Fat Girl store territory) and I have a tendency to hoard because I can’t easily or inexpensively replace items, especially jeans (H&M has my “size” jeans but in my experience their jeans last about three months on me). In the words of my roommate, the Fat Girl stores basically propose tent-like clothing options made of elastic and bright colors that have the added effect of making you look like Carlos. This also means that when I find something that actually fits and is socially acceptable or work appropriate, I buy in bulk. I’m less likely to throw away old or faded clothes because of the fear of not replacing. I have some clothes I brought over from the US five or even ten years ago that I cannot bring myself to throw away. Finally, my weight, in a given year, can vary up to fifty pounds, so I have everything from size 12 to size 18.

I made the first step in February and threw away all my size 20 clothes (we won’t talk about that *represses*). But still my problem is that I have an American-sized closet (aka 48 square feet) worth of clothes that I will need to get into two medium-sized suitcases and a European closet (around 27 square feet). Ideally, I would need to only use half or a third of the closet so that other people may use it in my absence (the closet is in Lausanne). I have thrown all the clothes in my room on the floor in a massive sorting frenzy (I am sure *someone* was shocked and disgusted last night when I made His Royal High-ness pull something off a high shelf in my closet) so that I may have a zen wardrobe before Zug.

In the goal of increased minimalism, I have already steeled myself to give/throw away: anything I haven’t worn frequently in year (and this goes for what is still in my ex’s basement), anything with holes due to wear, anything faded, and anything that just doesn’t fit right. In the same vein, I stopped buying makeup except to replace items a year ago and so I have also *drumroll* thrown away all perishable makeup products I am not using (lipsticks etc). I have kept all my powder products (which if stored and used properly, can last 5 to 10 years) but most will be stored until December. I have started purging my purses and shoes. My goal is between six and ten pairs of shoes (I have around 20 now). Purse-wise, I am getting rid of anything that does not hold all my crap or doesn’t stay on my arm well . I’m doing really good throwing away papers and crap too. I figure my salary statements show up on my e-banking, and paper-wise I am only keeping my original tax returns, pension fund crap and letters of rec, phone contracts, rental contracts, etc (in other words, I am getting five years of stuff down to dropbox and one classeur fédéral). Like all those who aspire to minimalist wardrobes, I need to get rid of my “just in case clothes”- those that I want to wear when I am thinner, those I am afraid to trash in case I get fatter, and those formal clothes I think I might need one day. I think I can pretty much meet my objective of 10 or so square feet of stuff in storage plus my suitcases, but I have four pieces of drama:

1. My wedding dresses. One is an embroidered shalwar kameez, another is a silk Moroccan caftan. I don’t like the negative associations with these items but, especially the caftan, I can’t bear the idea of giving them away. I should mention though that the caftan is white and looks like a wedding dress. I can’t decide if I will truly regret not having them, or if it is just another piece of my ongoing ambivalence about the whole divorce thing (aka hate the ex, but sad about the fact that I have a failed marriage under my belt).

2. I have five pairs of size 12 summer work pants from the US that, in all honesty, are about 15 pounds from being able to pass my thighs and 25 pounds from really looking good on me. Brutal honesty, I have it. They are brand new and tailored to my inseam. Even if I did a crash diet (I can lose 25 pounds rather quickly and will likely lose 10 or 15 during Ramadan), weather-wise I wouldn’t get to wear then for about a year. They fall firmly into the “one day I will fit into them” category like so many other things I have already given away this month. I’m trying to be strong with myself and hold to the “if it doesn’t fit today lose it” rule but I know I will deeply regret not having these items next July if I happen to be thinner. I know for a fact that I can’t get the same quality for the same price in Europe, and I definitely can’t get the same cut, which looks good on me when the pants fit. I find work pants in Europe to be cut like MC Hammer pants: too long in the crotch and too tight on the ankle. The resulting effect makes me look even more Oompa Loompa than usual. These, on the other hand are boot cut and with a short waist to hip ratio. I rationalize that it isn’t like I am holding on to a size 4 or jeans from junior high or something and that being 25 pounds lighter this time next year is highly likely, but I am torn.

3. My (some are vintage) Petit Bateau t-shirts, some of which are too small: These fit both the “don’t technically fit” and the “old and have holes” criteria. I have some bought last year which fit at the time but are tighter than I would like at this weight (I could technically wear them but it wouldn’t be my best look), and I have some old ones which date from WHEN I LIVED IN MONTPELLIER (before some of you were born) that I use as sleep shirts. I already threw away one which had gaping holes in the elbows but I’m honestly at about 20, half old and half new. The new ones I got at the outlet, I couldn’t resist. I just can’t. Not Petit Bateau.

4. I can handle janky towels (to an extent, as long as I don’t find random body hair from other people on them) and janky sheets (I often keep old sheets on the bed if I know I am going away so that Pablito can smell me). I am only taking four towels and two sets of sheets to the new apartment, but one thing I cannot live without are fresh washcloths. The kind that smell like they have been washed in 200 degree water. I use at least one a day and usually two. When I would go to Algeria I would hand wash everything else but bring enough washcloths for the whole trip. I don’t know how to zen out my washcloth stash if I only have washing days in the basement twice a week. Handwashing them not an option because I can’t wash hot enough to de-funk them to my liking and you can’t over bleach towel fabric. Specifically, I don’t know how you want me to use something I used on my feet (or other places) on my face the next day, or for several days. Especially if it can’t dry out. I just can’t. Thinking about it makes me shudder.

My current plan is to store the new Petit Bateau and the work pants in the same bag in storage, together, and keep them until next spring, thereby breaking all rules about zen wardrobes and minimalist living. I figure giving them another year in limbo would add more credence to admitting the fact to myself that I have to part with them eventually. If I magically fit into them, I can take out the bag from storage as is. I have no solution for my decidedly first-world washcloth drama. I am still at a loss for my wedding dresses.


Author: Nicole Cunningham

American Expat and convert to Islam living and working between Lausanne and Zurich, Switzerland.

9 thoughts on “Holding on to those “just in case” clothes

  1. I can’t give much specific advice, although I do sympathize very much with your predicament. The “American-sized” clothes issue is also one I face, but perhaps even worse than you, given that I live in Asia where 98% of all Asians are much smaller than me. (Last month, when I returned to the US for a visit, I went shopping for a lot of clothes. My only regret from the trip is that I didn’t buy more.)

    However, generally speaking, I would say, “Be ruthless.” When I originally moved to Korea, I had cut down 20 years worth of my possessions to a total of 23 boxes, which, actually, was quite a lot still. Last month, I found that the overseas freight charges had skyrocketed (about 10x what they were back in 2001). So, when I cleared out my storage facility, I cut those 23 boxes down to 2. My parents also happen to be going through the same problem, at least trying to clear out the house; I told them aim to throw away 90% of everything.

    Good luck!

  2. Keep the dress pants. You will fit in them eventually 🙂

  3. LMAO

    The best advice I was ever given on the subject is this one: make 3 piles, one with the clothes you don’t like, one with those you like and one with those you love. Keep those you love and throw the rest away.

  4. Hola Guapa!
    I completely get la situation des Right Size vêtements… J’ai tant de misère à trouver des pantalons qui me vont que when find une pair qui me va, I buy trois.
    I Rubbermaid everything. Et ici et là I become ruthless and ask myself if they have been in the light of day (happily) in the last year. Si non, il y a qqn d’autre qui en a besoin plus que moi… the Wedding Dresses however, I would vacuum seal and store. Sage them first 😉

  5. I solve this kind of dilemma with the “things I reasonably should get rid of but can’t yet because xyz” box that goes into storage.

    Other than that: twice a WEEK?!! you’re aware I get twice a MONTH, right?

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