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Tossers and hoarders

I’ve never had any truck with pompous types who claim that there are two kinds of people in the world, except when I’m the one making the pronouncement. So I am here to tell you that among those who own worldly goods, a spiritual and moral divide separates the tossers from the hoarders. Tossers (I’m one) get a self-righteous charge from purging every corner of stuff we deem to have served its purpose. As you’ve doubtless observed from all those articles and web sites that exalt the “conquering” of clutter, our camp has the upper hand these days. Pity the poor benighted hoarders, whose refusal to part with their kids’ grade-five homework (when the kids now have cars and mortgages) is now cast as a weakness just this side of mental disorder.

My husband inclines toward hoarding, which became a bone of contention on our recent move. He’s not an extreme case. That would be a friend of ours, a single woman in her 50s, who not long ago bought a 3,900-square-foot house to accommodate her 45 bookcases. She wouldn’t dream of parting with a book. “Not even a beach book?” I asked her.

She looked troubled. “Well, sometimes I go to the beach.”

“Yes, but why reread an old John Grisham when you can go out and buy the new one?”

Silence. Whether she’d reread The Firm had never concerned her in the slightest. We tossers just don’t get hoarders, and this became painfully clear at the height of moving frenzy. Something compelled me to ask my husband, “Why on earth do we need a hardcover Latin dictionary? Is anyone here reading Latin these days?” I felt so lofty, so sure of myself as I gave away swaths of books, a whole set of cast-iron pots and bag upon bag of exquisitely finished clothes in natural fabrics and unusual colours. Packing up the best part of a wardrobe by Lida Baday, I thought of the advice dispensed by women’s magazines (including the one I edited for a decade): “If you haven’t worn it for two years, pitch it.”

According to the self-appointed style mavens, who revel in the trends of the moment and disdain the least hint of the passé, there’s no room in a smart woman’s closet for anything but timely “pieces” that add up to “looks.” I used to believe this. No longer. What was never really in, as defined by the arbiters of fashion, can never be out. For instance, a floor-length, crushed-velvet gown by Sonia Rykiel, purchased at 90 percent off sometime around 1985. In royal purple, with a flounce at the hem, it’s not the kind of garment I’d buy today (I mostly stick to cream and pastels, which are said to flatter the aging face, and ruffles strike me as flamboyantly girlish). I was about to stuff the gown into a garbage bag when I remembered wearing it to dinner with the Queen. Okay, so I exaggerate a little. We’re talking an affair for at least 700 local worthies, not an intimate tete-a-tete with Her Majesty. Still, I felt queenly in my purple velvet gown—and as beautiful as I have ever felt in my life. How could I let it go?

Not long before we moved, I wore the gown to a friend’s birthday party. “Great dress!” someone said (a couple of people, to be honest). “Where did you get it?”

I told her the truth: “Just shopping in my closet.” Enough reckless tossing! A brave new world beckons, with way more than two kinds of people in it.

Posted by Rona

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