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.