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Clear out the clutter

A few years ago, my sister decided to narrow her wardrobe to seven items of clothing. This would be the same sister who, at much younger age, maintained a large walk-in closet jammed with colorful options. She would frequently send me out-of-favor items. In fact, I'm wearing one of her long-discarded shirts as I type this column.

I don't think she was ever completely successful with her plan for wardrobe downsizing — but then again, I've not received a box of rejected clothing for a while.

With my sibling in mind, I cleaned out my closet a few weeks after I retired, electing to keep only things I "absolutely loved." There were definitely more than seven items remaining in the closet, but the pile on the floor to be donated or taken to a consignment shop was huge, and the process itself was enormously cleansing.

I was prompted to think about this issue after being introduced to a book, "The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion," by Elizabeth L. Cline. When the author cleaned out her closet, she found 20 pairs of shoes, "most of which she had never worn."

It's not just Ms. Cline and I who are pondering this. There's a new trend called "slow fashion." It focuses less on the purchase of clothing and more on the concept of "make, alter and mend."

By contrast, "fast fashion" would involve seeing a shirt on sale for $7 at Walmart and buying two — without trying on either.

It's not just clothing, of course. One impassioned reader wrote to me recently about the overwhelming task of disposing of accumulated possessions from an aging relative. I sympathized because my grandmother was a hoarder. I recall walking through her house at about the age of 8 on a narrow, maze-like path with her possessions packed shoulder high. It scared me.

That memory prompted me to do a little sleuthing. I came upon an easy-to-read article written by Diana Reese titled, "18 Things You Can Get Rid of Today." It included eliminating all plastic containers without lids (with a suggestion to have a "lid-finding party and invite the neighbors to bring their containers so you can mix and match.) It talked about unused vases (donate to a florist), long-held spices (cinnamon is apparently the only one that has an indefinite shelf life) and had a simple solution to reducing excess kitchen utensils. Put all the utensils in a box on the counter and each time you use one, put it back in the utensil drawer. At the end of the week redirect all the items in the box to another possible user.

I read the article online and was about to print it when I realized I would only add to the already existing paper clutter on my desk. So I saved it to a file on my computer labeled "Ideas for Aging Well."

Maybe it should be called "Get Rid of Stuff — Feel Better After."

Sharon Johnson is a retired Oregon State University associate professor emeritus. Reach her at 541-261-2037 or Sharon@hmj.com