Marie Kondo Sparks No Joy in Me

Decluttering is Easy. Shopping is Hard.

Marie Kondo Sparks No Joy

Everybody is obsessed with Marie Kondo and downsizing their possessions, especially clothes. Not me. I want more clothes, not less. Sweaters. Blouses. Dresses. Cute shoes. But there’s a problem – I’m shopping adverse. I hate going to a Mall and I’m not finding much success shopping online.

I never liked shopping. Blame it on my mother. Of course.

When I was an early ‘teen, my girlfriends used to swap clothes to supplement wardrobes. It seemed like such fun. My mother, a shop-a-holic, was cruelly clothes-swapping adverse and won’t let me. (As a child, she got lice from a sleep-over friend. This, I believe, was the source of her anti-swap stance.)

Mom shopped for the entire family, but with special zeal for me. I remember one astonishing outfit purchased at the height of the Beatles, Twiggy, and “Yellow Submarine”: a sunshine bright yellow vinyl suit with thin purple stripes. Pause and think about that – yellow vinyl. It was possibly the wildest, coolest thing you have ever seen. So, you can imagine how much gawky, peer-conscious ninth-grade me hated that suit and my stylish, hip mother.

Anchors Away?

In college, my best girlfriends wore these cool black “sailor’s pants.” After admiring them for an entire semester, I asked where I could buy a pair, and was told about “The” Navy Surplus Store on such and such street. Cool name, I thought and off I went. It was, of course, an actual Navy surplus store.

“Huh? My friends were wearing pants sailors had worn? Gross. Couldn’t you get lice, a venereal disease … or leprosy … that way?”

Yuck. And faster than you can say, “Anchors away” I was out of that store!

Once a Borrower, Never More

My mother’s clothes-swapping aversion aside, the practice never worked for me. One time I lent a room-mate a favorite fancy dress. She returned it so sweat-soaked, I could not remove the stains and stink. The dress was unwearable. The friendship ended.

I did borrow once. During a summer study program in the Soviet Union – hailed as the coldest summer in 100 years – I borrowed a sweater from a Leningrad friend of mine. I had no choice. This was in the mid-70s. Communism didn’t provide many shopping opportunities and besides, I was a poor student on a budget. The sweater smelled when I got it, but it beat shivering.

The challenge was – and I defy the combined wisdom of the late Emily Post and today’s Miss Manners – how to return a stinky sweater and politely remind its owner that the smell wasn’t mine? I had tried washing that odiferous item three times in the ice-cold water from the Neva River that flowed through our “hot” water dormitory tap to no avail. In the end, I just said, “Spasibo” (thanks) and fled the scene of the borrow!

Daddy to the Rescue

I recall just one fun shopping expedition growing up. It was with my decidedly un-chic father. We were out of town at a boring family function. When a discussion came up about killing some time buying me a new winter coat, my father volunteered to do the deed!

Off we marched to Saks Fifth Avenue, cigar in his one hand, me holding the other. As Big Julie puffed away, I – for the first time – had complete selection autonomy. I picked an outrageously hippy dippy Sherpa-like coat worthy of the musical Hair. Purchase made, hours still left to kill, my ever-logical father asked, “What else do you need? Why don’t we start at the top floor and work our way down?”

And that’s what we did. We shopped till my father’s last cigar ash dropped!

Professional Me

When young, even though I didn’t like to shop, clothes were easy. I looked good enough in most things (except for thigh-hugging knits – curse my family chubby leg genes!). And as a TV news “personality,” I was lent on-air clothes by a fancy department store.

But those take-it-for-granted look good days of youth are decades gone. Today, it takes an awful lot of make-up, hair dye, careful clothes selection, money, and prep time to look half-way decent.

Now, I understand why my always elegant mother took such pains with her appearance. It wasn’t simply that she lived in an era when women were more put together. Queen Dorothy never went out without lipstick, earnings, a handkerchief, and a pocketbook. They formed her carefully curated armor against old age and invisibility!

Yet, for me, shopping is torture. Invisible sales help. Insane prices. Dirty dressing rooms with unflattering three-way mirrors, harsh lighting, and jagged straight pins on the floor. All these things leave me ready for a straightjacket and deep dark despair!

Technology to the Rescue?

But with the Internet, I had hoped life – or at least shopping – would be easier. Sadly though, my online shopping efforts have been a flop. I order. I return. Order. Return. Retail failure after failure. It’s a lot like shopping in a store – still too many choices, still confusing size labels. Plus now, frequently, shipping fees.

Is Renting Different than Borrowing?

I considered trying the much-publicized Rent the Runway, because of its personalized shopping approach

Now, given my sweat aversion and germ-a-phob tendencies, you might wonder why I even considered Rent the Runway. Dry cleaning, baby, dry cleaning! RtR does it on a massive scale!

The company has the world’s biggest warehouse and dry-cleaning complex in New Jersey, processing thousands of items each hour.  Be still, my laundry-loving heart!

But alas, RtR with its designer glittery glam doesn’t cater to casual, work-from-home, free-lance Berkeley-based writers who simply seek an upgrade from baggy sweaters and sweats.

Options. More Options

Yet, ironically since first clicking on the Rent the Runway website, my online options, like my waistline, are exploding.

Ads and offers for all sorts of online clothing services flood my inbox and online ad space – Stitch Fix, DailyLook Elite, LeTote, and Allume. Some rent clothes. Some send monthly selections to choose from and buy.

It’s overwhelming – which is exactly the drowning sensation I feel at the Mall!

So, I guess I’m doomed. Unless my parents magically re-appear to take my hand and take me shopping, I’m likely to remain …

Unstylishly Muddling through Middle Age,

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