September 30, 2023 | Rome, Italy


By |2018-03-21T18:35:02+01:00December 20th, 2008|"American Girl"|
Macy's Christmas shopping spree, 1946.

felt a strange mix of dread and anticipation. I was making my annual trip to the Salvation Army donation center.

I’d been collecting my personal cast-offs over the year and today I was driving it to the drop-off site. It was my end-of-year rite with a big motivating factor: a tax write off.

Since the IRS required documentation, I had to go through the contents and make note of each item. I opened the first bag and one-by-one started writing down its contents on my pad.

Two dress slacks,” I began. Were these the ones given to me by the guy I dated from St. Kitts? The tags were still on and I’d never worn them.

The day he brought them over he’d asked me to model them. When I slipped the slacks up my legs and buttoned the waist, it was clear they were too small. I was bound by the lining and the waistband dug into my skin. I yelled from the bedroom they didn’t fit. He wanted to see just the same.

“They look great!” he said, “They fit nice and snug and I can see your figure. You’ve got a damn nice figure.”

“But I can barely move and the fabric is pulling at me. They’re way too tight.”

“Baby, you’re just not used to wearing tight clothes. I tell you, they look great on you.”

Was that the last time I saw him? I wasn’t sure. I put them on the floor and continued rummaging.

Three dress shirts, button down,” came next. I remembered that my sister was with me when I bought them. She said they were all wrong.

“You have an angular face already. You shouldn’t be wearing geometric patterns that accentuate your jaw. You need frills and softness around your face.”

“I’m not a frill kind of girl,” I told her. “Curlicue and flowery prints aren’t for me.”

“But they look good on you. Why do you want to look like a man? You need to doll yourself up sometimes.”

I exhaled deeply and stuck the shirts on the pile.

One dress jacket-vintage 1950.” This item incited an internal dialogue.

One voice: “You just had this dry cleaned. It’s finally winter and maybe this season you’ll find a venue to wear it. You should keep it.”

Response: “No, you shouldn’t. You’ve carried it around for 20 years and wore it once. Why on earth would you want to keep it?”

“But the fabric is incredible and they don’t make things like this any more.”

And so on…

Then I thought maybe I should take the jacket to a vintage store in Manhattan and at least get some money for it. Vintage is so “in” right now.

My shoulders caved in and my head dropped. I knew the truth. I tucked the sleeves in, straightened the collar and folded it gently on the pile.

I was sad. I had loved that jacket. This was hard.

Three business suits, two with skirts, one with pant.” I cringed when I saw them. Had I really worn these things? The jackets were padded at the shoulder and the buttons were big full moons. I added them to the pile as if handling the kitchen garbage.

I looked at my progress. I still had three bags of clothes left, a box of books and an odd arrangement of electronics. Even with all this charity I still had closets full of things I wanted to keep. I shook my head in disgust. What did I need all these things for? Belongings are so overrated.

Before depression set in, I catalogued the remaining items like a store clerk doing inventory. I saw the item, I made the note and moved on to the next one. When I was completed, I knotted the bags, taped the box and threw the remaining odds and ends into a tote. Adrenalin pumping, I carried the lot of it to the car and closed the door.

When I got to the Salvation Army, I couldn’t wait to unload. I handed over what I had at the door and signed off on the receipt for my tax exemption. Slip in hand, I drove home.

I was instantly relieved, liberated in fact. I’d never felt so good. I wanted to go home and get rid of the rest of what I owned. I drove off swearing never to buy another item in my life.

There was just one problem. I’d picked the wrong season.

About the Author:

Madeline Klosterman wrote the "American Girl" column from 2008 through 2019.