Out in my garage sit two 30-gallon plastic tubs labeled “t-shirts”. Between the two of them, the tubs contain roughly 100 shirts. Half of the shirts are ones I bought at concerts back in the late 80s and early 90s. The other half are shirts that for whatever reason I have some sort of sentimental attachment to. Some of them remind me of where or when I bought them and others remind me of things I was doing when I wore them, but all of them remind me of something.
Also, none of them fit. None of them will ever fit. Some of them never fit in the first place.
My senior year of high school, I somehow ended up in student council. I couldn’t tell you back then how my mullet-wearing, Firebird-driving, metal-loving, acne-ridden face got elected into student council any more than I can explain it now, but it happened. Everyone who was elected received one of these sweatshirts. The largest size they came in was XL. Even back then I wore a 2XL (especially in a tight-fitting sweatshirt that shrank the first time you washed it). I was uncomfortable every single time I put it on. When I was forced to wear it for school events I would frequently sneak away to a bathroom stall and spend a few minutes with my knee shoved up inside the sweatshirt in an attempt to stretch it out to the point where it would hide, rather than accentuate, my stupid roly-poly-shaped torso. It never worked. Eventually I told everyone I lost it and I quit wearing it. Seeing this shirt brings back a lot of memories, some good and some bad.
That being said, I cannot come up with a logical reason as to why I still own this shirt. It no longer serves its original purpose — that is, of being clothing. I can’t wear it. I couldn’t wear it when I was 18. I could diet for the next 5 years and still not be able to wear it. If by some miracle I were able to wear it, I wouldn’t. Why would I wear a student council sweatshirt from 1991?
Yesterday, I threw it away. I could have donated it, but I didn’t. I donate lots of clothing. I didn’t want to donate this one. I just wanted it gone, and now it is.
Here’s another one that found its way to the trash bin yesterday. This shirt is another case of hanging on to clothing for sentimental reasons. Back when I started working at Best Buy (1994), employees were given a single shirt with the option of buying more. Since I often worked several days in a row and didn’t feel like doing laundry every single day, I bought a couple of extra shirts. When you quit you were expected to turn your original shirt back in, but the additional ones you bought were yours to keep. This was one of those.
Like the sweatshirt, I can’t imagine wearing this shirt out in public even if it still fit, which it does not. I hung on to it because it reminds me of some fun times. I had a great time working for Best Buy and I met a lot of people there that I am still in contact with today. But I don’t need this shirt wadded up in a plastic bin out in my garage to remind me of that. Into the trash it went. In about 30 minutes yesterday I went from two fully stuffed bins to one that’s only 2/3 full.
Some of the shirts evoke stronger memories than others. I seem to have a strong connection with the concert ones. One of the shirts out there is a t-shirt with a can of Spam on the front. I wore that one to my late night wedding reception back in 1995, which is why it’s still out there. Slowly I’m coming to the realization that getting rid of a shirt (or a plaque, or a toy, or a book) doesn’t mean you are getting rid of the memories attached to it. Sometimes a shirt is just a shirt, and a shirt that doesn’t fit anymore is just trash.