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Knowing when you have too much

Published July 26. 2014 09:00AM

I've been spending the past week cleaning out closets, organizing drawers and finally putting some order to all my clothes.

Normally, I would feel virtuous with all that effort.

Instead, I feel ashamed.

As I pack up boxes of clothes for Goodwill and stacks of "good clothes" I'm passing along to a favorite friend, one thing becomes very clear: I have way too many clothes.

Even with all the boxes of clothes I'm giving away, it doesn't put a significant dent in what I have stuffed in three closets.

My home has two wonderful walk-in closets that should be enough for one woman. Instead, each closet is so jammed I have a hard time fitting another hanger in there.

How did I get so many clothes?

Granted, I'm a savvy shopper. My favorite place to shop is the 70 percent off clearance rack. Even then, I wait until I have a $10 coupon. Sometimes I end up paying a few dollars for my favorite labels.

By combining sales and coupons, I just bought a really nice clearance rack swimsuit originally priced at $90 for $13. I was congratulating myself on being thrifty until I tackled my closets.

To make me feel even worse about buying so many clothes, cleaning my desk files added to my shame.

In the stack of material I was saving is a long article about a woman who transformed her life by downsizing in significant ways.

Tammy Strobel said she realized she was on a work-spend treadmill. She explained in detail how she and her husband drastically changed their lives.

First, they spent months donating clothes, books, pots and pans, and even a television. They challenged themselves to live with just 100 personal items. She says she winnowed down her wardrobe and toiletries to precisely that number.

She claims she now owns four plates, three pairs of shoes and two pots.

I have a cupboard full of pots and still think it's not enough. I have no roaster and I find one soup pot isn't enough when I make spaghetti. I need one pot for the sauce and one to boil the spaghetti.

My kitchen is small with only one small cabinet to hold pots and pans. I often lament I "need more kitchen storage."

My friends and I conclude that the only advantage to having no storage is that we can't stuff it with extra things.

I absolutely love those old-fashioned, heavy cobalt blue pots. Whenever my friend Jan sees one in Goodwill, she buys it for me.

But I have sadly concluded any excess pot has to go because I have no room.

Maybe I need to take a lesson from Tammy Strobel and her husband.

After they reduced their belongings to bare bones, they downsized their home. While everyone else is looking for a bigger home with more space, they sold their home and bought a 400-square-foot studio with a nice-sized kitchen. Many of my friends have bathrooms that size.

With the money Tammy and her husband saved with their move, they now have money to travel and pursue their many interests. Most of all, she says they no longer have money worries.

You can't run up debts when you don't spend.

A Boston-based consultant group claims the economic recession is prompting more people to cut back on spending by refusing to buy anything that isn't necessary.

The consultants claim many are joining the "Back to Basics movement," buying smaller homes, saving more and spending less.

They claim there is a major shift in the nation's consumption habits.

To make that point, they told individual stories about people who drastically cut back on spending, totally dropping out of the shopping habit.

Well, not everyone is cutting back on shopping.

Another clipping in my "save file" highlights a poll done by the market research firm OnePoll. After polling 2,000 female shoppers, the researchers concluded women spend 399 hours and 46 minutes a year shopping, making 301 shopping trips a year.

According to the researchers, that adds up to 8 1/2 years of shopping over 63 years or 3,148 days of retail therapy over one's lifetime.

To play fair, the researchers noted that women are generally the ones who do most of the food shopping, and shopping in grocery stores consumed an average of 94 hours and 55 minutes a year.

I don't know who responds to those surveys. Who has the time to break down each minute they spend shopping? I do know I have to run to the grocery store a few times a week.

I may have overstocked closets, but I also have an overstocked food pantry.

A few months ago I told readers about Bobbi Sue Burton, who reacted to her crowded closets and kitchen cabinets by doing a massive giveaway. In addition to donating her own things, she collected a garage full of stuff from her friends and neighbors and then filled two more garages with donations.

Bobbi created Project Phoenix, collecting donations to pass along to others in need.

"Some have so much while others have nothing. I'm just doing what I can to help," she says.

I'm loading my car with clothes to take to Project Phoenix and making a vow not to buy another piece of clothing.

Sometimes we get to the point where we finally realize enough is enough.

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