As much as a long, deep exhale calms the nervous system, de-cluttering calms the soul. It’s been proven to help with anxiety; getting rid of junk helps the scatterbrained feel more collected and can cause the organized a level of satisfaction akin to orgasm.
But clutter is the language in which the sentimental speak, and without it, it can render one feeling listless and alone. It’s for these reasons and likely more that I held onto these clothes as long as I did. They are a portraiture of a life long passed - a life I’d be hard-pressed to believably describe now; my children would laugh in my face at the thought of my doing LSD and prancing around the forest.
In that box lies a sliver of my soul that once sparkled brightly upon anyone brave enough to look, the wardrobe of a nomad, a wanderer, a follower of the wind.
It’s been ten years since the attic became home for these clothes. Putting them up there was more of an afterthought than anything else; I didn’t intend for them to become a time capsule. The box somehow survived the cull when we moved from our rental to the house we bought on Elderberry Lane. I remember wanting to hold on to them, not because I thought I might wear them again, though there might have been a small part of me who would’ve wanted to, but because of what they represented: a reminder of what life was like before the domesticity, before the house in the suburbs with the raspberry bush.
A reminder that I had a life before this one; and some weary encouragement that I’ll have another one after this, too.
Because now, ten years later, the house we built is on the market following the dissolution of our marriage. I’d all but forgotten the attic existed, let alone all that it was housing long buried treasures. As soon as I saw the box, I knew what it contained. Seeing it evoked a wave of nostalgia, urging me to open it and be re-told the tales of my youth. Sitting cross-legged on the dusty floor, I went through each garment as if I were flipping through an old photo album:
The floral print unitard that was my festival staple from ages twenty to twenty-five. The one I was wearing when I fell in love with my first real boyfriend; what a whirlwind romance that was and what a lifetime ago. Looking at the pattern now transported me back to that time as acutely as a smell might. It smells of nothing but the dustiness of decades past, but just the look of it is enough to bring me back to Sasquatch Festival 2013, a time of beer bongs on top of RVs and hangovers that settled in before night even had a chance to fall.
The mint-coloured A-line skirt folded neatly on top on an orange and white polka-dotted crop top; my go-to outfit whenever I was in the mood to play the part of fifties pinup girl, back in my concert promoting days and the rockabilly scene. The outfit brought up a memory I hadn’t thought of in years; the complete and utter infatuation I had with the standup bass player of my favourite band, to the chagrin of my boyfriend at the time. That doomed relationship went up in flames as it was always going to, and my desires came to life in a night of passion with the beautiful French musician; one I swore I’d never forget. Funny then, that I only remember it now upon seeing the outfit he peeled me off me all those years ago.
The black denim shorts I lived in that summer in Italy; thinking back I can’t even recall washing them the whole month I was there, though they probably clung to me during an impromptu ocean dive or two. I’d fled to a sunnier place, as one inclined to might when healing from a broken heart. Like everything else, that summer and that heartbreak faded into the faraway corners of my mind; who would have thought it’d all come tumbling back because of a pair of shorts?
The pair of Birkenstock sandals I wore every single day from May to October for eight years straight. They were a special edition with an orange and pink floral pattern decorating the three straps; I never saw another soul wearing that version of those sandals, like they were made just for me. I should’ve thrown them out, they are all but destroyed, the cork sole curled up and frayed. They’re the one thing in this box that probably still fits so I slipped them on, and even after all these years, they hugged the contours of my feet like I’d never abandoned them.
I held on to those clothes all these years as if they were photographs; and in some ways, they are. Looking through them now, nearly twenty years after I wore them, I see that it’s finally time to part ways. They are no longer who I am. They’re no longer my size either but that’s not the point. I won’t be wearing the paisley-patterned tasseled crop top I wore at Burning Man 2012 anytime soon.
But I know someone who might. Lucky for me, fashion moves in cycles and I have a daughter with my exact frame. So, feeling oddly emotional I loaded up the tattered box into the trunk of my Nissan and drove it over to her house, the one she just bought with her new husband. There’s a cynical part of me who wanted to warn her about the perils to come, but she’s not me; she might not make the same mistakes.
She’s not me, but later that summer when she sent a picture of herself wearing the tasseled crop top, a roaring and raging music festival as her backdrop; it was like I was looking back into a rippling mirror of time.