by Susan Karol Martel

Thanksgiving weekend 2012. Perfect time to clean out my closets. So many things I never wear. So many things out of style. So many things.

I opened my closet –one of three I had hoped to thin out –then closed it abruptly the way someone closes their garage door, feeling immediately overwhelmed, hoping to block out the magnitude of work ahead. In that moment I said, “No more clothes, no more shoes, no more jewelry, no more scarves or accessories, no more of anything until I purge myself of excess.”

This excluded professional books and magazine subscriptions, an occasional gift for others, and a toy or two –yes, a toy for myself. I’m not interested in self imposed cruelty inflicted by passing up a simple something that makes me smile. No one heard this pledge either, except some eavesdropping teddy bears; and they could be bribed easily if my plan fell through.

Thanksgiving seemed apt for this undertaking. I am thankful for all I have, like many of us, much more than I need. Purging would be cleansing and unburdening. For one full year I would avoid clothing fantasies, both happy and sad.

I wouldn’t be tempted to peek at a cute bikini in a shop window on Germantown Ave, and visualize myself in it, now, 35 years plus 20 some pounds since the last time I wore one. For one whole year, I wouldn’t be tempted to think of owning such a thing as a beautiful scarf, which could be worn as a scarf, a necklace, head gear, a shawl, or – if I was feeling frisky –as just a scarf! To cement the pledge, I told my partner.

In full disclosure, since Thanksgiving I have made two purchases: a pair of $12.99 rubber flip flops (with arch support) to wear in the garden (better than ruining a perfectly good pair of shoes); and a pair of dusty pink corduroy jeans. On our way to our favorite café while vacationing in California, I spotted the jeans on an 80 percent-off, outdoor sale rack. I walked by s-l-o-w-l-y. Temptation did NOT get the best of me that time.

The next day, working my way toward my morning joe, the beautiful pair of dusty pink cords was still on the rack. Secretly, I had hoped that someone would have bought them. No such luck. After a half caff dopio espresso, I walked back to the rack, this time, telling myself I would just take a quick look at the ticket. Unfortunately, they were my size, greatly reduced to $16 from $80. They were the kind of pants I could wear during office hours when seeing clients. Just perfect.

Then I had this thought: I could buy them for my partner and borrow them on occasion. I’d tuck them into my boots so they wouldn’t need to be shortened, my partner being five inches taller than I. I quickly grabbed the jeans off the rack, putting aside my guilty feelings over my contrivance.

With the speed of a pistol drawn from its holder during a gunfight at the OK Corral, I pulled my Visa out of my wallet and slid it through the credit card machine so quickly that the store manager, likely impressed by my moves, asked to see me to do it again.

Eleven months post pledge, my previous disclosures ended my purchasing. As for toys, I bought a Curious George Jack-In-the Box for $10 at The Happy Butterfly, a children’s book for $14 at Blue Marble and a ceramic bank reduced from $38 to $5 at O’Doodles. Period.

I had a thought the other day, which until now I haven’t spoken of to anyone: Maybe, after this Thanksgiving, I will restrict my purchases to things made only in the USA. It seems that every time I look at a label it says “Made in China. A few of my labels say “Made in Bangladesh,” and until the factories are made safer for workers, I don’t want to purchase anything with that label either.

All in all, this has been a freeing and worthwhile experience. I no longer feel that I must look whenever I see those four large, bright red letters SALE to determine if there is anything I don’t need but will surely need in the near or distant future and would then have to pay full price.

The words “full price” is a rarity in my native tongue. Years ago, I bought a $400 designer wool suit, petite eight, in my favorite color, deep purple. Fit me perfectly, like it was made for me. Only $50 at Lord and Taylor. $50! But I digress. Digression is a typical M.O. for many of us sale shoppers.

Later this month, I’ll complete this self enforced trial. It remains to be seen what I’ll do next. Not one to binge, it’s unlikely I’ll go on a shopping spree. Maybe I’ll sign up for another tour of abstinence. Perhaps I should make a pledge to you, readers, here and now, that unless I do finally clean out my closets, a task which still remains, I will do just that. And you? Stay tuned.

Susan Karol Martel, Ed.M., is a psychotherapist practicing locally, an author, columnist and recovering sale shopper.

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