Coffee heat rising

Stuff tsunami

Spent all of yesterday afternoon at a little party helping a friend go through her deceased mom’s clothing. Some of it. The challenge: decide which pieces, in about ten huge bagsful, should go to the consignment store and which should be yard-saled or sent to Goodwill. Press, fold, and box the consignment-worthy stuff; bag the yard-sale stuff.My friend has already earned enough to take a nice vacation by consigning earlier rafts of the mom’s clothes, and she still has many bags and boxes of stuff left to go. So far, she’s made $1,500 selling clothing through consignment. I’ll bet she’ll tote another $800 worth to the store today.

Mom was a lively gal, very funny and charming. She LOVED clothes, and shopping for clothes was her main source of entertainment. Mother and daughter often shopped together. Most of the stuff they bought wasn’t very expensive—Mom worked at WalMart. But she had a real flair, and quite a lot of it is very cute. She was a sucker for sales, and so much of it was bought at deep discount.

The result was that her apartment was chuckablock full of stuff, stuff, and MORE stuff. The clothing alone, as you can imagine from the prices it’s fetching, was enough to stock a boutique. Then there were the mountains of perfumed bathing supplies, makeup, and various bric-a-brac.

Well, she always looked nice.

As a confirmed cheapskate, this habit amazes me. She was far from wealthy. The only reason she finally got out of a cheap rental in a less-than-ideal part of town and into a little condo was that near the end of her life she inherited a small sum of money. I find myself wondering how much better she could have lived—or even IF she could have lived better—had she bought about a sixth of that amount of clothing over the years and done something else with the money.

I don’t know whether she paid for the stuff in cash or ran a tab on a credit card. Either way: she ended up with money out of pocket and a vast clothing collection in house. Many pockets, we might say, with little or nothing to put in them.

What would have happened if she had put, say, $200 a month in savings instead of into pants, tops, skirts, loungewear, and dresses?

Would it have mattered? She suffered diabetes and failing kidneys. Saving $2,400 a year wouldn’t have extended her life, and it’s hard to imagine that the occasional plump bank statement would have done much to make her life better. If buying clothes made her happy, why not? She supported herself adequately and didn’t depend on anyone else financially.

The only downside, of course, is that the clothing collection poses a huge burden for her two daughters, each of whom has spent uncountable hours trying to deal with a Himalayan range of outfits. Yesterday three women spent five hours sorting through bag after bag after bag of stuff. Even after we kiped the things we wanted, we still filled four big baskets to overflowing for consignment and repacked a half-dozen big black yard bags with yard-sale stuff. And that was only a tiny part of the job my friend faces. On the other hand, going through all the stuff reminded us of her mom, a great old gal who should never be forgotten.

She lives on, in her clothes.

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