I don’t know why I had to clean my closet at that very moment. Maybe I was tired of tugging and pushing and body slamming clothes each time I needed to find something to wear. Maybe it was the time of year. Or maybe I could blame it on the fact that every southerner had a crazy relative in the family tree, and that at some time in life that “uniqueness” popped up in all of us. Had my great-grandmother Susie Savannah Starr taken over my senses?

Whatever the reason, I headed straight to my bulging closet with one thought in mind: Love ‘em or leave ‘em.

I flipped the light switch, inhaled, and surveyed the closet. When had the chaos occurred? At one time, my clothes were organized by type, season, hemline, and sleeve. Shoes were paired underneath; handbags stored above in bins; and scarves draped on hooks. Not now. Nubby wools, fine silks, and the fabrics of my life had definitely co-mingled, clashed and suffered a serious wardrobe malfunction. How had I missed the madness?

“No problem,” I said and vowed to make haste with the chore. I’m happiest when organized. “Some things need to go.”

I had been downsizing for awhile in all areas of my life so how hard could it be to get rid of clothes? I bypassed the rule of thumb “industry standard” whereby you toss anything that you haven’t worn in five years. No, no, no. Instead, I pulled out all the stops and developed a fool-proof system to determine what goes:

1) I hadn’t thought about it since my daughter Meredith was born (she’s not a teenager anymore);

2) It took Spanx a size too small, one of Meredith’s corsets, or medieval torture to get the item onto my body; or

3) It looked (or smelled) worse than the meat dress Lady Gaga wore to the 2010 VMA’s.

Okay, I had my rules of engagement ready to go. But, I sighed. I stalled. I realized that stepping on a scale seemed easy, too, until you needed to lose a few pounds. Ballroom dancing seemed like a breeze -- one, two, three, four, two, two, three, four, twirl and dip. Yeah, right. And letting go of the strings on a daughter now in college should be easy …


One by one I hauled each item from the closet to the bed, some to the floor, and the rest spilled out into the hall. “Whew,” I moaned. But was I exhausted enough to be objective and unemotional?

I scrutinized the clothes like a grown woman. My mother’s only child. One of my grandmother’s favorites. And “eccentric” Susie Savannah Starr’s great-grandchild. And maybe that’s where the problem started because when I pulled out the first piece of clothing to scrutinize, I felt the tug. It was a cute Christmas sweater with embroidered cats that matched one that Meredith wore when she was four or five. Could I really toss that out in good conscience even if I never planned to wear it again? Maybe Meredith would want to wear it if she had a little girl. How could I deprive my first girl grandchild of that opportunity? Plus, it still fit. How could any woman get rid of a piece of clothing that still buttoned?

I couldn’t, so the holiday cat sweater moved into a new pile labeled “still buttons” for later scrutiny – that sat in the area of love ‘em, by the designated area for leave ‘em.

The next few items fit into one of the established piles until I got to the jeans. Any fool knows that you can’t discard jeans with a designer label even if you hadn’t thought about them since your daughter was born 20 years ago, or if it took high-power Spanx a size too small (Meredith’s corsets or medieval torture) to get into them, or if they looked (or smelled) worse than Lady Gaga’s meat dress. So I developed a new “diet and it might fit” pile for future scrutiny – that sat in the area of love ‘em by the “still buttons” pile near the designated area for leave ‘em. Several pairs of jeans moved into this new category.

Now to the dresses. First, you have to understand that I preferred coordinates … skirts and jackets, skirts and sweaters… and rarely wore dresses except to church and weddings. So this one felt like a “gimme” when I bravely tossed dresses that I hadn’t worn in five years into the leave ‘em pile (unless, of course, they had a designer label).

I was on a roll. I tried on and put a few items in the definitely leave ‘em and a few items in the definitely love ‘em pile located by the “still buttons” and the “diet and it might fit” piles.

But then I found sweaters that were comfy. I found sweaters that were old, but still in style. I found knit, cotton, and cashmere sweaters. No matter the size, I shouldn’t (wouldn’t, couldn’t) toss cashmere. So I named a new category: “shoulda-woulda-coulda” work in the right situation for future scrutiny (except for cashmere that went in the definitely love‘em forever).

Quite a few sweaters and some blouses and jackets moved into the shoulda-woulda-coulda pile for future enjoyment, right by definitely love ‘em to keep, the definitely leave ‘em to toss, and near the “still buttons” and the “diet and it might fit” heaps for future scrutiny.

By now, I was ecstatic to see that I had a number of piles in place until my husband Allen surprised me.

“What’s going on?” He frowned and stepped over and around the piles. He looked from me to the piles on the floor, the mounds on the bed, and to the strewn items in the hall.

“I’m cleaning my closet.”

“You’re kidding, right? It looks like a bomb exploded.” He groaned and stepped over piles with a look that implied that my efforts were more mess and less organized.

“Very funny,” I said. Of course, I didn’t elaborate on my method of madness. He’d NEVER understand my love ‘em or leave ‘em (still buttons, diet and it might fit, or shoulda-woulda-coulda) system of discrimination. “I’ve got it under control.”

He shook his head, unconvinced, and said, “I need to get my jacket from the closet. I’m meeting the guys in a few minutes for golf.” Fear passed across his face. “Is my stuff mixed up with this mess?” He motioned big and wide with his arms to take in the whole room and out into the hall.

I raised my chin. “Of course not,” I said. “But you need to clean out your side soon.”

“Well, I hope you can get all of this done before I get back.” He looked doubtful and backed out of the room.

And that’s when Susie Savannah Starr arose from the dead.

“No worries,” I said as I looked at my organized chaos. “I’ll just toss everything and go shopping.” This is the perfect time for rebirth. Out with the old and in with the new. I bet I could even develop a simple system for shopping: Love ‘em or leave



Love 'em or Leave 'em was published in my "Life's a Peach" column in Liberty Life Magazine.