When I was in high school, I owned a puffy vest from The Gap. The color was a shade of powder blue, with vertical elastic ribbing on the sides. (They literally ‘don’t make them like that anymore.’) It was a staple of my wardrobe at the turn of the millennium. It carried me through school days, to hike in the woods, and to spectate evening high school football games. It even had pockets! In the year 2000, who needed a coat when you had a puffy vest!?
I wore mine constantly….until one day, I didn’t wear it anymore. At all.
But I kept it. Something about it made it hard for me to let it go.
For nearly twenty years more, my powder blue vest accompanied my life’s journey…from a dark corner of my closet. It lived at my parent’s house through my college years, until it traveled with me to my first, second and third apartments, and eventually to my first home.
I passed down and donated other clothes and I didn’t want to wear the vest anymore, but I just couldn’t seem to let it go.
A few years ago, I became familiar with the work of Joshua Becker and Becoming Minimalist, and I started my journey to declutter my life. Starting with my closet.
My powder blue vest survived multiple rounds of decluttering. Do you find that there are certain things in your closet that you’ve attempted to declutter (perhaps more than once), only to find that at the back door, something makes you pull it from the pile and put it back into your closet? This was the story of my powder-blue vest.
Until one day, finally, I let it go.
I let it go along with a pile of other belongings that had been closet-bound for years, including a quirky purse given to me by a friend – a knock-off of a designer bag made from sewn-together metal triangles. It was probably a little too cool for me to begin with.
Into a box and off to our local donation thrift store they went.
“I hope you find a great new life.” I silently and genuinely said to my stuff as I handed the box over.
That was that.
Two days later, I sat working at a local cafe with my laptop open in front of me. I was “in the zone” until something called my attention upward. As my gaze rose, I noticed an empty chair in front of me. Over the shoulders of the chair was draped a powder blue puffy vest. Could it be?
I looked around, almost as if to say to the others, “Do you see what I’m seeing?!” Of course, everyone was absorbed in coffee and conversation.
I stared intently at the vest. It was the exact same color as mine. Only one thing would make me certain it was in fact “my” vest. I leaned slightly to my right to get a better view – yes, there it was – the elastic ribbing on the side.
I couldn’t believe it. Just 48 hours after releasing my powder blue vest from the darkness of my closet, it was out for coffee with a new owner. I was delighted and found myself beaming looking at the vest, and wondering about its new owner.
In that moment a petite older woman with silver hair approached the table with her lunch on a plate. She sweetly smiled at her friend and sat down in the chair. She leaned back into her chair, softening against her new vest.
“This is so wonderful,” I thought. I couldn’t wait to tell my husband, my sister, my mom, and pretty much anyone I encountered that day.
Weeks later, I was at our local park with my kids. Running through a big open field, we were enjoying fresh air and sunshine when I heard a door slam shut and found myself looking up toward the parking lot.
A young woman had just gotten out of her car and was grabbing some bags from her back seat. I squinted to see more clearly, as she took a purse from her car and slung it over her shoulder. The sunshine reflected on the metal pieces, and my jaw dropped open. It looked just like the one I had donated.
My mouth gaping in disbelief, I watched as the woman grabbed a bundle of balloons and a present, and headed into a nearby house for a party.
Now, likely it was not the exact same purse- there was really no way to tell. But, in that moment, I knew in my heart at least one other item had been granted new life, fresh air, and sunshine, with a new owner.
I recently read an article that explored the connection between decluttering concepts and Japanese Shinto culture. As I understand, traditional Shinto culture believes that everything has a spirit and that even an inanimate object can have a soul.
Although I wasn’t raised in this cultural tradition, I was raised on stories like The Velveteen Rabbit, Corduroy, and Toy Story, and so on some level, I’ve always felt similarly: even when stuffed away in a closet, physical possessions have meaning. I think it’s why I’ve struggled to let things go once they become “mine.” I’ve felt gratitude and responsibility toward things that were important to me, and on some level, it feels bad to discard them.
My powder blue vest and purse, and the curious series of coincidences with these items, have permanently changed the way I see all of the things that live unloved and unused in my home.
For twenty years, my powder blue vest sat in my closet, in the dark, going unworn. And within a few days of being given away, it was with a new owner, bringing joy to another person.
Yes, how delightful.
About the Author: Taylor is a life-long learner, facilitator, wife and mom on an ongoing quest to focus on what’s most important. As co-founder of Convers(ate), she facilitates group conversations that leapfrog over small talk and deepen relationships.