Tuesday, 30 January 2007

Old clothes

I need to kill myself first before I cut my heart out. Because I've done something today that I've put off for weeks, months, and possibly years. Seven years to be precise. I've cleared out my wardrobe.

Now this sounds like a trivial thing. But it's not. First, there's the matter of the location of the wardrobe. That alone is painful. It's in the downstairs bedroom, once a cellar, which is destined to be the childrens new playroom when we move all bedrooms upstairs. There's a strange and beautiful corridor leading outside the bedroom, turning out from the main structure of the house, lit by skylights, starry at night, sunny in the day, all sunk into the ground.

And how did we bring out the beauty of this architectural wonder? We put a wardrobe in it. Not any old off-the-shelf wardrobe at that, but a purpose-built DIY wardrobe to fit the space exactly. Now, even going to the wardrobe is a wounding reminder of a misconceived project. I'm not proud.

The next horrible moment is entering the wardrobe itself. There are three rails deep, like Narnia. Three rails of pre-children living. In there I'll find a cocoa brown sueded dress touring Bologna, sandy peach shorts fooling around a beach in Thailand, a white cotton dress, sitting in the two-seater, buzzing to Scotland. I'll discover a crisply-cut cream jacket, brightly springing out of a taxi in London, and a long and slender dress, chatting over champagne. There'll be summer tops, winter coats, and a clear turquoise dress, getting married. From these silky folds, fuzzy suedes and deep, soft woollens, I'll handle tickets, receipts, jottings, and telephone numbers from travels and journeys Brazil to China; I'll smell vague perfumes from familiar shorelines, strange rooms, places of wonder.

None of these clothes I've worn or even looked at in the last seven years. Most will be two or three sizes too small, and rely on a shape to fill them that I won't recognise. The dresses will have waistlines, the hemlines will rely on slender knees. These shapely-cut clothes will demand curving necks and ankles.

But the clothes that are sorting the wardrobe are a baggy acrylic jumper with holes in the armpit, and a tee-shirt with a red paint stain. The jeans, torn on the leg, were held on the spike that was left when the oven door fell off. The top button won't be fastened. They're servicable for muddy playgrounds, bleeding knees, vomit, baking biscuits, clay-pot making, painting dinosaurs.

When I get past the door to the wardrobe itself there are the horrible practicalities of the gutting process. Five hours of it. The agonising, hand-wringing, decision-making. The 'Could I ever possibly squeeze into it again?' moment, followed by 'Would I want to?'

I thought this was supposed to be cleansing. Not likely. Because of course these are not dresses, or skirts, coats, tops and jackets, they're aspirations and expectations, dreams and plans, desires and satisfactions, restrictions and freedoms, and now they're all bundled up in three lots of bags. The first travelling to the local tip, via an offer on freecycle. The second in the cupboard, destined to hang around ebay, if I ever get to it. And the third the lingering dreams I cannot bear to part with. These will all be pointlessly stored, probably under the eaves.

What the heck. In the new bedroom upstairs there's a basket waiting of acrylic jumpers with holes in, jeans where the top button never does up, clothes that are ripped, soiled, or torn. These clothes won't have many expectations, desires or freedoms. And if they do, they'll be found in vomit, poo, blood, flour, clay, and poster paint.

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