Editor’s Note: Confessions of an Ex-non-collector

by Debra Fitzgerald

Winter is a time for inside projects. That’s been difficult here because, for the first time in my life, we bought a house that didn’t need a ton of interior work. It hardly needed any at all. Switch up some drawer pulls, add a barn door, refinish some of the doorway framing – these things are not a winter’s worth of work.

Casting about, I landed on my overstuffed T-shirt drawer. This is a drawer that multiplies. It multiplies so much that I have a bag on a top shelf of my closet that also contains T-shirts. Cleaning out the drawer, I simply transferred the overflow to this bag.

And then I realized what I was doing and, stunned, sat back on my heels. 

I’m a minimalist. I abhor collections, remember? I could start a business helping people clean out closets if I didn’t already do it for free, remember?

My T-shirt fetish was so deeply hidden in my closet that I didn’t even know about it. There was only one thing to do: prune the collection. 

Easier said than done. Can I really give up that Led Zeppelin concert T-shirt from the Boston Garden – an event that happened so long ago it feels like it happened to a different person? Can I really toss that T-shirt from Greece from my first overseas trip? Or that really cute T-shirt, a midriff printed with one of my favorite symbols, even though I’m more likely to colonize Mars than wear a midriff T-shirt again? 

As I went through the pile and met with no after no of answers, I realized these material “things” were not thing-like to me. They embodied times and places in my life, past states of mind, body and spirit. They were like some kind of T-shirty cuneiform. If I laid them out in chronological order, side by side, I could read a shorthand story of myself: places I’ve gone and lived, things I’ve liked or discovered or wanted to achieve or hoped or disliked or felt or needed. 

Who can part with that, I told myself, and, satisfied with the justification, stuffed the bag back in the closet.