Clearing out’s not so simple

By Andrée Murphy

I NEED to clear out my wardrobe. Not just a little clear-out, but a serious bleach and polish clear out.

I have been putting it off for quite some time. As you always seem to do with jobs that seem so big. One of the reasons for putting it on the long finger is that an item I know I need to make a decision about is a long black coat that has seen better days.

If you read articles about de-cluttering and making room in modern lives, you’ll soon learn that there is no room for sentimentality. No room for wondering if that lovely dress will fit – when I get skinny again. Or, when I at last figure out how to, patching that pair of jeans that still fit perfectly but have a hole in the knee and another one somewhere rather more embarrassing. And it especially has no room for life stories connected to the most cherished of items.

When I was young I grew up in what I thought was a privileged home. My father worked as a building contractor. He did okay, until my early teens. Then things changed. My mother had a saying during that time, she talked about her friends who were finding things tight – “They have no money AFTER the bills are paid. We have no money BEFORE the bills are not paid,” she’d say.

When the TV rental man came and repossessed the very old TV we had and carried it out past me and my two friends one Tuesday teatime, a little part of me died. The phone had already been cut off for about six months and that had been horrible and embarrassing, but no telly – that was the worst. And then the house was lost. And we had to move, without my now bankrupt father, to Tallaght on the outskirts of Dublin. I liked Tallaght and my new school.

I didn’t like that there were no footpaths anywhere you wanted to walk. I also didn’t like that there were no conventional shops for miles and only a few caravans and containers selling overpriced necessities. But my mother was incredible. If she didn’t have a happy, sunny disposition she did have a can-do attitude.She made bread, grew vegetables and knitted jumpers. For years we all wore clothes that had been given to us. But it was the 1980s, so a dark granda shirt over a dark long skirt could be seen as a kind of Cure/Smiths alternative. Well, at least in my head…

I never possessed a new coat until I was nearly 30 years old, when my now husband bought me one. I don’t know to this day if he knows how big a deal it was for me. I’ve always told him it’s lovely, but maybe I didn’t tell him how I felt so rich to have a partner who wanted to buy me a coat and enable me at last to own a coat of my own.

The years of wearing others’ cast-offs or a coat that I had worn since I was 14 had never really bothered me, but that moment he made me try on a long black coat in Arnotts and told me he was buying it for me, well… every winter when I put it on I felt like a million dollars.

So the coat is going nowhere, it’s staying put, getting a little touch-up and being lovingly kept.