Letting Go and Letting In

My delicious friend Micki, who is a Countess, and all sorts of lovely other things that don’t fall neatly under any titles, appeared at my door two years ago and promptly began to purge my closet.

It wasn’t that immediate, of course. It happened between her work meetings and around the time we raided my husband’s wine cabinet and absconded with a rather nice Amarone. Or two. If you are forced to eliminate cherished sample sale clothes from seventeen years ago, it helps to be swilling a good red.

The closet was sorely in need of, well, something. Even I could see it was distressed, overflowing with garments collected over the last few decades, some from even before I had my first daughter. It wasn’t just that upscale dresses had hung there and shrunk—don’t you hate when that happens?—it was that there were so many of them. Too many. From Saks, from Lord & Taylor, from sample sales, from little boutiques in New York and Santa Fe and LA….

None from Bergdorfs because the sales people there terrify me. I just can’t strap on stilettos and foist high make-up to go shopping, and they judge me for that.

Micki, Her Graciousness, stood with the closet door open and shook her head. She plucked a pair of white pumps with jaunty patent leather heels from the jumble of shoes on the floor. “Really? Have these been worn in the last twenty years?”

“Those were the shoes from my first wedding,” I cried.

“You hate that man,” she said, and unceremoniously tossed the poor benighted pumps into the middle of the room, beginning what would ultimately be a discard pile rivaled only by Savonarola’s Bonfire of the Vanities in Renaissance Florence.

It’s true there’s no fondness for the ex, and those pumps had crusted with disuse. But I was fond of the girl I had been, starry-eyed with hope and love, embarking on the most amazing journey: marriage. Those lacquered 2.5” heels were imbued with an innocence and idealism that would never again possess me.

“Oh my garden, what is this?” Micki demanded, holding up a forest green capri pant suit that, truthfully, had never come into style, which is perhaps why it was steeply discounted at a couture market sale. She gave me a look as if to ask, whatever had you been thinking?

“I bought that right after I had my first baby, when I started to get my body back,” I said wistfully. “Isn’t the color fabulous?” I remembered how pleased I was when my waist re-emerged. That happens when you give birth at 27; when you have a baby at 41, I’d discovered, it’s a more troublesome proposition.

Micki snorted and the heap grew.

Husband #2 poked his head in and squinted at his Amarone, or maybe by then we’d started in on the Brunello. Then he looked at the white shoes. “I’m so glad to see you getting rid of that stuff,” he said, before vanishing to find a lock for his wine cabinet.

Micki mercilessly nixed more than half of my treasures.

Out sailed an asymmetrical black knit top I’d bought from a funky little Upper West Side boutique when I was exploring my New Age personae. Would I lose that quirky but valued part of myself when the shirt went away? I wailed, “I’m just supposed to throw these out?”

“No, darling,” Micki said. “Donate the good ones to charity. Find a charity you believe in that can take them. Now try on this wrap dress, because even if it is Diane von Furstenberg, we’re not keeping it unless it looks stunning on you.”

This went on for hours, until I lay down on the floor in utter rebellion, sweeping my arms in imaginary snow angels on the rug, refusing to try on anything else. Note: I’m blaming my recalcitrance, not the excellent vino.


In the end, there was actual space between the clothes that still hung in my closet, and I found a women’s shelter who wouldn’t provide their physical address but who gave me a post office box for shipping. They gratefully assured me that the items would be put to good use, but they maintained strict discretion as to their location.

It was a few days of feeling…dislocated…before I boxed and shipped out the clothes.

I was unprepared for the buoyancy that overtook me when I walked out of the UPS store. I was suddenly lightened. I hadn’t lost anything, I had gained. Unencumbered, gravity had morphed into grace; in that magical transformation was an opening.

Who knows what possible selves will emerge over the next decade or four? I didn’t know, and that was suddenly interesting, even fascinating—an enchantment made possible by radical clearing. It was Micki’s gift to me.

Micki visits often from her home in Los Angeles, though I wish it were more often. Last month she showed up asking, “Have you heard about the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up? You must have only the things about you that spark joy. We have to go back to that closet and prune it for real. We can play music. And doesn’t the wine cabinet have some champagne?”

I said, “Yes, let’s.”