Sorting T-shirts, and the Weekly Photo Challenge: Reflections

I love window shopping. Not that I want to buy the things in the windows — I just like the art of display. If windows are in the process of transformation and I get to see the art take shape, so much the better. I took this picture of a Fifth Avenue window (New York City), earlier this month.

Changing NYC window. Bergdorf Goodman.

A display in the act of changing — Bergdorf Goodman.

Windows can be surprisingly deep. It’s hard sometimes to tell what’s behind and what’s in front, let alone where the picture plane is.

Now I have to admit that I did buy something on this trip — a T-shirt at the Met Museum, so it counts as a souvenir, plus, it was marked down to $12.00. Upon reflection, now that I have a new T-shirt it’s time to get rid of some that I already have. I found 9 to donate and 3 to consign to the rag-bag to use for cleaning.

Why did I keep so many T-shirts? People I love gave them to me; they came from previous trips that I want to remember; they were free; or I wore them out but thought I might “need” them for painting or working in the yard. And do you know what? — I also found a cache of never-worn T-shirts that Bob had.  Should I have a give-away on my blog? If you’re interested and have a US mailing address, leave me a comment and let me know how to reach you. They’re mostly size XL. Here’s a selection…

Never-worn T-shirts, mostly free or from Cons

T-shirts: some were give-aways, some from past Cons.

Are T-shirts a reflection on the owner? I’m sure Bob just got Jar-Jar and those smiley-face ones to give me a hard time. Um, *admission* — maybe I gave him the vampire smiley-face.

Here’s another thing I’ve been hoarding lately — articles about hoarding.  I know I need to let those go too, but before I do, here’s a quote from Olivia Judson’s “Home, Dismantled”,  NY Times, February 16.

I never agreed with the idea that personality is defined by objects;  I would rather say that objects are defined by personality. Yet when someone is dead and belongings are all that is left, dispersing those belongings feels like an erasing of that person’s physical presence on the earth.

And another,

An old T-shirt waves at you and says “Remember when we went to Hawaii together?” … a dried corsage — where was the dance? who was the date? — reminds you of the girl you were, who thought a corsage worth saving. In other words, objects are keys to remembering what happened and who you were, and their loss can make the memories inaccessible.

There in a nutshell is why I still have trouble getting rid of Bob’s things, as well as my own things. Like those window reflections, reasons can go surprisingly deep, and it’s hard sometimes to tell what’s up front and what’s behind them. Hopefully, with all this effort, I can be like that window display — changing.

Related articles:

Here’s a link to Home, Dismantled by Olivia Judson, Feb 16, 2014 NY Times

More on the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Reflections

And here’s one on dressing Bergdorf’s windows.


26 thoughts on “Sorting T-shirts, and the Weekly Photo Challenge: Reflections

  1. When my 20-year-old son died in a motorcycle accident, he was living with his dad & step-mom. 2 weeks after his death, they had a garage sale & began to sell all his personal belongings! His best friend had asked for the return of a special sports-team shirt he had given our son, but they sold it instead. He had my husband’s tools for working on his car, but they got rid of those too. We got an attorney & emergency court order to make them stop after the first day but it was too late for some things. This was cruelty/heartlessness at its worst, in my opinion. How I felt was voiced in Olivia Judson’s quote “when someone is dead and belongings are all that is left, dispersing those belongings feels like an erasing of that person’s physical presence on the earth.”
    They were not destitute or in need of the money. It was heartless but now multiple years later, I try to think maybe they weren’t being very rational. Some events are too painful to even think about.

    But like you, I value the LIFE that was lived and can now share some of our son’s things with others who would appreciate them. Keeping them in my house does not honor the generous person that was my son.

    Bob’s T-shirts – oh, my, my surviving son would love some of them, I’m sure. He wears crazy quotes, fishing & drinking t-shirts, all the time.
    I appreciate you sharing your heart and hard-decisions on your blog! You warm my heart.

    • How sad that they sold your son’s belongings without contacting you. That happened to a friend of mine after a beloved aunt’s death, when the husband sold mementos the family would have loved to keep. I guess we each have a different threshold of time to grieve, and length of time to keep our mementos. I’ve been really slow to disperse things. But on a brighter note, I’m so glad to hear your surviving son is here for you.
      Do let me know if you’d like a better picture of any of the shirts to see if he would like them.

      • after further thinking, probably would be best if you took the entire collection of those T-shirts to the nearest charity site or homeless shelter… free yourself from the concerns of them & allow them freedom into the universe to find their new owner. My son always loves when I give him new ‘funky’ t-shirts & wears them happily. So I’m sure some other young man will find them.
        After further thinking, I realize I may be adding another level of burden to you. no need to be another cause for despair! don’t mean to sound ungrateful but I know how we can get caught in the role of matching the item to its ‘perfect’ owner.
        Last week I finally sent a box of clothing from Ohio to South Carolina that I collected over 1 year ago (!!!) that was ‘perfect’ for my younger sister… and realizing in that same time she has lost over 30 pounds so none of these will probably even fit…

    • I don’t know the situation at all, but maybe that’s how they dealt with their grief – getting rid of things as soon as possible. As for the selling, maybe it was because that way they ensured that the people who took the items wanted them. I think it would be hard giving things to charity shops and then finding them there 6 months later with no-one wanting them. I guess we all deal with death differently, but I always like to see (hope) the best in people… Lindsay x

      • I hadn’t thought of that. My sister in law and I used to shop in the used clothing stores in a neighboring town, but for quite a while after we donated my mother’s remaining clothes & things, we didn’t want to go there (and possibly see her things). I like the idea of seeing the best —

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  4. In my minimalist journey I have learned to let go of a lot of things I thought I was keeping for sentimental reasons. But I hadn’t seen them for years. They were in cupboards or boxes. They were not being used to bring back happy memories, they were in the dark and gathering dust. I picked out a few things which I now have on display and I picked a few more that I have kept for my children but the rest I let go and I still have those memories.

    Whenever I thing I “ought” to keep something I think of my parents. My mother lives in a huge London house that is stuffed to the gunnels. It isn’t quite ready to go on one of those tv hoarder programmes, but it’s not far off. She keeps things, collects things and buys things, even if she doesn’t need them. Recently she discovered two pairs of original (1960s) Biba suede boots unworn in their boxes. I offered to wear them but she said she was going to sell them, fair enough. But that was two years ago and they are stil sitting there unused.

    My father lives in a small flat in Los Angeles. He has travelled all over the world and been exceptionally rich and penniless and homeless. He has sold most of his valuable belongings in order to live and now lives simply and happily with no regrets for his decisions.

    Who is happier? I would hazard a guess my father. He is happy to let go. My mother can’t. Belongings can do more than collect dust, they can have an individual and collective negative effect too.

    A friend of mine who’s father died recently had a set of teddy bears made out of some of his favourite clothes. One for each of her sisters and her mother. They are beautiful and a lovely way to keep her father in her life and become a family heirloom that can be used and loved.

    • I admit I do feel the compulsion to study things as I unpack them. Each box is a little time-travel trip and a window on the life of someone who’s no longer here (though like you, I wonder why things get kept if they’re not out where we can see and appreciate them).
      And Biba’s boots! I remember Biba’s from 70’s trips to London. I have a friend who had a quilt made from her T-shirts collected from races and marathons she’s ran. I thought of that for Bob’s ties, but donated them to be re-used instead. Thanks for the thoughtful comments.

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  6. I love that you bought a T shirt for 12 dollars, and then got rid of 12 tee shirts. Was that a coincidence?! Or just serendipity?

    And no, I don’t have a US postal address, But I was thinking about a post you wrote AGES ago the other day, about your glass food storage containers you had way too many of, and wishing I could somehow have taken them off your hands… so if you ever want to have a giveaway of really heavy expensive things to post, I am waiting for the opportunity! : )

    • Good catch — I didn’t even notice the synchronicity of 12. There may even have been 12 of Bob’s shirts in that cache (not all were in the photo). I’ll certainly keep you in mind for vintage pyrex. There must be some way around the postage issue. EBay, for example, has a central domestic shipping address for international packages.

      • I’ll have to fly over and visit! Or maybe you can come to me? Or maybe we can meet in the middle! Didn’t we arrange to meet at Frida Kahlo’s house?! : p

        PS if you still have the vintage pyrex, put my name on it : )

        (But I’m good for t-shirts, thanks!)

      • Yes! I do remember the discussion on Frida’s house, but any of those options will do. (and bring a BIG suitcase) I’ll try to finish sorting the basement — there may be more pyrex…

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