Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Anti-Wanty List

Nothing like moving to make you wonder what you were thinking, buying two subtly different shades of nail polish, printing PDFs (even 4-to-a-page, double-spaced) of books, or just generally accumulating stuff above and beyond what's needed to get through one laundry cycle. Normally, like Kei, I have a mental list going of things I want but don't need, including but not limited to clothes inspired by fashion blogs, mothers at the private school near where I taught, NYU's own very fashionable student body, etc. Now, no. I walk by frou-frou boutiques and I think, who are these people who want more clothing than they already have? I used to think, how fun for them that they can afford it.

Part of the problem is that after spending half the year away, I have double of many items. And stuff like Advil, why throw it out? Another complicating factor: the apartment we're leaving, though a studio, has a whopping six closets, meaning I had very little incentive to ponder how attached I really am to various clothes left over from high school until boxing things up. Yet another: it's summer now, meaning I have a tough time remembering that things like boots and winter coats are something other than bulky items that take up space.

Anyway, lessons learned:

-If you threw it out/donated it, would you buy another of its kind after the move? There went the pink Gap Kids polos that seemed like a good idea at the time but that I'm entirely certain I won't miss, even if I am moving to a town where they'd be appropriate. There, too, went a few pairs of pants I'm not sure I could ever close but at any rate sure can't close now. The platform mary janes I thought looked kind of cool in an Israeli way but basically look like bad 1990s revival, same. However! Everything I own that resembles/could be used as business attire could well come in handy, and I'm choosing not to dwell on the likelihood that my interview suit from age 21 will look out-of-style and where to begin on fit today. I'm not going to chuck that just because these days my uniform is green "skinny" cargos, white or gray tank top, silver clogs, end of story. Along the same lines, I was a fool to throw out my lucite makeup-holder-thingy during an earlier move - my loss and that of the environment were the Container Store's gain, because I've vowed not to have eyeliner rolling around the medicine cabinets again.

-Pick a couple favorite spices/cuisines and be done with it. Cleaning up the kitchen thus far has been this trip down memory lane: I wonder what that vinegar's like! Maybe I'll add fish sauce to my stirfry! Of course I'll get through that nutmeg! When I could basically have owned sherry or wine vinegar, olive oil, red pepper flakes, and cinnamon, and been done with it. (Cumin's nice and all, and I do use it, but there are let's just say leftovers.)

-Is it stained/torn to the point of unwearability? This seems obvious, but I always think, hey, it's something to run/sleep/write in. Thing is, it's not necessary to keep dozens of t-shirts for that purpose. Or, it's possible to own far too much clothing even without being someone who shops all that much.

-Are "important papers" important? Or, the ones that were important in 2005 may be less so in 2011, so you can't just throw everything in a box every time you move and figure that once you've arrived, you'll go through it. You won't.


kei said...

Wow, to revisit the origin of "wanty"! It's amazing how much I don't want compared to then, but now I just spend in Japan or on different things, like the house, dog, cooking, gardening, etc. I forget how Mordecai helped out with that so much. Another thing he mentions lately is going through my closet to see what I already have. This is a good point if one is the type of person to continuously buy more of the same. So to minimize spending and satisfy wanty, maybe one should consider moving, or kind of pretend like it and clean things out/donate things. I donated a number of things and went through a lot of old school stuff when we moved from the apartment to our house. And yes, no you will not go through old papers when you move...you should see our office right now. I realize you have a lot less time and lost some from Irene though. Good luck with the move!

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...


First off, I just saw a fantastic shiba in Princeton - bright orange! And really interested in my shoe laces.

Wanty... comes and goes? I was so happy when I realized my old apt. had 5 closets, not 6 as I'd thought, only to arrive at the new one and see that there's a closet, one (ok, and a utility-type closet, and a bathroom cupboard-closet, but one for clothes), with enough space for the clothes of one male scientist who's not much of a clothes-shopper. This is mostly for the best - I no doubt still need to get rid of more, after donating and tossing a ton - but it will make the "shopping the closet" challenge more difficult, if my wardrobe consists only of the dozen items I actually wear. More practical, but no "I forgot I owned that!" surprises. That, and your tendency to buy more of the same, also one I have, is, if you have enough space, a good way to make sure you're always wearing something you like, and that it's not too worn-out. If I'd reacted to the soldes at Petit Bateau by just getting one tank top and leaving it at that, that would be one unusable-except-for-running tank top by now, etc.

kei said...

Today, I went to the vet for Mitsu...when I saw the bill, among many thoughts ("Good thing the vet experienced a bladder infection of her own recently, otherwise you'd get no pain meds!"; "Mitsu, when do you get paid? You got a job as a greeter somewhere, right? No? Model? Do they still discriminate against pointy-eared dogs and go for the retrievers?"), one of them was, Well, there goes any wanty list I had! Not to use the dog as a means to streamline one's closet or to whatever end, but those vet bills are very real!

I hadn't thought about the number of closets affecting wantiness, that's maybe an added column to the calculation, if one were to continue with that, or footnote of sorts to keep in mind! I also have one closet, but upstairs is so..."One day, this will all get fixed up" that there are clothes everywhere else, too. And there are discussions (monologues?) of a "craft room" (Glee reference), a.k.a. Kei's Lair with a walk-in closet and shoe rack. To be able to see what you have, or be able to access it with ease, is also probably something that helps figure things out. But nothing will happen until far into the future, when Kei's Lair will likely turn into Theoretical Child's Lair instead!

Dr. Koshary said...

First post from an occasional lurker. I just want to observe that you almost definitely do not need those papers from 2005. When I finished grad school last year and had to move away/put my belongings in storage, I finally went through all that paper I'd been accumulating in my little portable file cabinets. I think you could have powered a blast furnace with all the paper I threw away.

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...

From Britta:

Hmmm....I have the opposite issue, in that I share one pre-war closet and a 5-drawer dresser (plus a coat closet, a night stand, and some plastic containers under the bed, thank god) with my husband, and I am unable to convince him that actually most women in the Western world would have trouble squeezing their wardrobe into such a space, and the fact that I can actually means that despite my clothes horse tendencies, I have fewer clothes than many females my age, not that I have some anomalous and uniquely huge amount of clothing (his claim). He, on the other hand, is of the metrosexual type where he owns 2 pairs of $150 jeans, and can't understand why anyone would need or want to own anything more.

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...


Maybe wanty is life-stage-specific - something with immense relevance when you first have your own disposable income, yet still have the tastes/appearance of a high school student, give or take, but that loses its pull when you get a bit older? There are more responsibilities, more of a chance a partner (likely a man) who doesn't see why three pairs of near-identical shiny ballet flats are necessary, but also more substantial purchases to be made - a home, for example, might beat a whole lot of H&M.

Dr. Koshary,

That's probably right as a rule, but in this case, it's actually my grad school stuff I went through again (somewhat) and thought I would maybe need to keep, for teaching later, etc. But I suppose this is because I'd finished coursework prior to moving to the last apt., so nothing too substantial had accumulated since then.


I think we have about the same space situation, then, except for the $150 jeans bit. (Well, except insofar as everything bought in Europe costs a ton in dollars.) I was impressed, kind of, that I could fit all my (remaining, post-donation/dumping of the not-wearable) clothes into the partial-closet, dresser, and bins in the bedroom. This is still far more clothing than my husband owns, and thus within the context of that limited clothing space, I have a lot of stuff. The theoretical Western woman who takes more than I own when she goes away for a week (and some of my Birthright Israel fellow participants fit the bill, as do plenty of women one sees at airports) remains theoretical. It's not exactly that it's a source of conflict, so much as that any time clothing is moved/rearranged, it highlights just how much more of it I have, and reminds me that I live with another person who also needs to store his clothes, and can't just let all available space fill with striped long-sleeved shirts.

I did notice, however, that there are many consignment shops in the area, suggesting that when many (women) arrive in subsidized housing, as the hired or the spouse, a whole past life's worth of still-usable clothing needs to be disposed of. I need to fight the urge to shop those stores, and to seriously consider selling to them.

PG said...

There's also the option of storing your clothes by season, which is what I started doing when I shared a closet with a man while both of us were accumulating suits (mine at least twice as many as his).

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...


I guess, but where are the out-of-season clothes to go? Much of our storage space looks out very visibly on the living room, and it would be odd to entertain with the decor being cold-weather pajamas.

PG said...

Oh, I meant store in an off-site location. I had a 595 sq. ft. apartment so half my clothes were living with Manhattan Ministorage.