The Shirt I Never Wore

Once upon a time (or in 2009 to be exact), I spent an impromptu afternoon with an old friend who was visiting Boston from New York.  We had a fabulous and nostalgic afternoon walking around the North End (where we had been neighbors) and hitting all our old haunts.

One stop was a favorite boutique on Salem Street.  We had already had a glass of wine (maybe two) and were in celebratory shopping mode.  As luck would have it, the sale rack was brimming and offering an irresistible extra 25% off.  Now, I should preface this by mentioning that I am a cheapskate when it comes to clothes, and I’m a sucker for a good sale.  So of course I made a beeline for the deals.

I flipped through the trendy, colorful selections looking for something that was both my size and less than my impulse-buy threshold of $70.  One thing and one thing only met both of those qualifications. It was a flouncy, sheer, peasant shirt that was $69.95.  It was not my style and I had no idea what it would go with, but it was fun and I was feeling so very carefree. I marched up to the counter and scoffed at the 2-week return sign on the counter – this shirt was a find!

Seven years, two kids and three moves later, the peasant shirt hung sadly in my closet – worn but once to a bridal shower when I horribly mismatched it with some black tailored pants and flowery pumps.  Every time I tried to force myself to wear it thereafter, I would change at the last minute. No matter what I tried to wear it with, it just never seemed quite right.

Yet there it hung in my closet, year after year.  As I flipped through outfit options and my fingers grazed the fabric, I felt a rush of both sentimentality and guilt. Sentimentality for the fun, nostalgic afternoon I spent with a dear friend in a beloved place; guilt for the $69.95 that I flitted away.

The sentimental attachment I felt made some sense.  Many of my possessions are special because they belonged to a loved one or were purchased on an amazing trip.  But in this case, I didn’t need the shirt to connect to the memory or the place or the friend.  It was, well, just a shirt.  And as for the guilt?  Forcing myself to stare at my $69.95 impulse buy every day for years wasn’t going to put the cash back in my wallet.

My guess is that some of this sounds familiar to you. Maybe it’s not a shirt – maybe it’s a bowl or a throw pillow or a manual camera you were sure you were going to learn how to use. Everyone makes a purchase decision that they regret from time to time, for a whole slew of emotional or well-intentioned reasons.   Holding on to the proverbial peasant shirt out of guilt perpetuates a vicious cycle because it is a constant reminder of the misguided purchase.  It is so much healthier to simply let it all go – the guilt and the object.

I don’t know what it was that finally made me take the plunge.  Perhaps it’s my new profession and the realization that I’ll need to practice what I preach if I’m to coach others through these decisions. Or maybe I was just sick of the space being used in my not-so-huge closet.  But a few days ago, after a stare-down with the flouncy, impractical top, I yanked it off its hanger once and for all.  It was time to say goodbye.

In case you were worried about the shirt’s fate, I’m pleased to say it’s found a home.  It now resides with my much younger sister-in-law whose fun, adventurous wardrobe welcomes it with open arms.  And now I have an open hanger in my closet, ready for something that will actually make me feel good.  It’s a win-win.  Next time, it’s not going to take me seven years to get there.

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