Ordeal by wardrobe


There will not be many people wearing soft fuchsia coloured leather gloves in the North Island of New Zealand this winter, but I will be one of them.

They were a gift from my daughter last Christmas. She brought forward the present giving ceremony, and insisted that I open my presents first before anyone else opened theirs, because she wanted to see the look on my face when I saw them. She’d brought them back from London months before. I hoped my face showed everything she hoped when I unwrapped them. I can’t put them away. They sit on my dressing table – a symbol – of many things.

But her solicitude for my wardrobe doesn’t stop at leather gloves. This weekend she pounced, and said that the following day we were going to go through my clothes, and I was going to sort everything into keep, store and throw away! I had a friend who had also undergone this ordeal by wardrobe, when her daughters dismissed all her lovely clothes as ‘tragic,” so I knew what I was in for.

I had to agree that something had to be done, as I was always losing things in the muddle of too many hangars on the rail. As the morning wore away, it got easier and easier to let go.

“You’ve got too many white T-shirts.” was the first pronouncement. “There are five days in the week, how many do you think you can wear?” Resisting the temptation to correct her arithmetic I feebly tried to think why I would want more than a dozen white T-shirts, but nothing came to mind…

“No more brown, or dull sludgy colours” was the next diktat. “They don’t suit you. You need bright clear colours.” No arguing with the considered opinion of an expert… so out went two thirds of my wardrobe.

I tried to salvage a few comfortable jumpers and slide them into the store –and- second- thoughts pile. “No,” said the arbiter  – “how long is it since you bought that? – fifteen years?  – Well it may have looked nice then, but it’s hopelessly out of date now – anyway, it’s got moth holes”…

No, that’s worn, no, that’s got pilling, no, that’s the wrong colour … gradually the wardrobe emptied, and the to-keep pile was pitifully small. The throw- out pile (for the womens’ refuge) was huge.

“No, you have to give up labels”, she pronounced. “But I always cut mine out,” I protested… “Yes, but look – you just said ‘but that’s a Jaeger, ‘when I tried to throw away that jumper.”

“Okay, I get it”, I sighed. “I can’t believe you’d have bought this,” she exclaimed, holding up a black and gold embroidered evening coat.” “No, I can’t either,” I agreed, “so I’ve never worn it”. “Right, Trademe”, she said. “Anything with tags you haven’t worn we can sell and just think, even if you only get five dollars each for all this stuff you’ve never worn, it’s all money towards a new wardrobe!”

By now she’d found various un-worn shirts I had had made that had never worked.“I hope by the time I’m your age, I’m not making these sort of mistakes,” she muttered…“What are these?” she cried, holding up a pair of well tailored tartan pyjamas beautifully piped in red. “What on earth have you got these for? How long have you had them?”

“Exactly nineteen years,” I replied truthfully. “I saw a picture in a magazine of a model wearing pyjamas like these, cuddled up in front of a log fire with a cup of hot chocolate, looking so cosy and glamorous.” She looked at me disbelievingly. “Have you ever worn them, have you ever done that?”“Not yet”, I admitted, “but I might.” She opened her mouth to say something withering, but then took pity on me –“OK, you can have your dreams,” she said, and dropped the pyjamas on the to-keep pile.

By now we had descended into the bottom of the wardrobe to the shoe department. While I sat on a small stool scrabbling around in the darkness, she took the opportunity to tweet her friends. “Sorting my mum’s wardrobe” went the message – “keep, store and throw.” Back came a flutter of twitters from people who obviously had time on their hands that morning. The opinion seemed to be unanimous – too hard basket for them… I thought to myself, now at least one third of Auckland knows I’m throwing away my clothes.

There had been a time when my daughter needed a whole cupboard for her shoe fetish, but no more, it seems. “If I buy a new pair, I gash another pair,” she lectured me… so out went shabby oldies,  Moroccan slippers, shoes that pinched, boots that had the wrong sort of heel… the good news was that I found a pair of beautiful black suede indoor shoes that I’d never even worn and had lost about seven years ago. Needless to say a whole harvest of handbags was dissipated. “But you know I’m a bag lady,” I whimpered….

At the end she shook her head in a tolerant and kindly way.  ”I’m proud of you, I never thought you’d do it so quickly and easily – now don’t you feel better?” she coaxed…” A lot lighter?”  “Definitely a lot lighter”, I answered, looking at the giant pile destined for the womens’ refuge… a smaller pile that I could have second thoughts about and store, and then the  emasculated line of shirts and skirts, trousers and jackets hanging on the rail.

But as I looked, I had to admit she was right. She’d even hung them so I could see what to wear with what. Best of all, I’d found the three jackets she’d lavished on me last year that I’d forgotten about – one Jaeger and two Ralph Lauren… labels, I said!

Yes, there is nothing like a daughter… and thankfully, they keep you on your toes, as they can always see room for improvement. I do hope she approves of what I choose to wear with the fuchsia pink leather gloves when winter comes. Maybe I‘d better get her advice – after she‘s finished stacking the three metres of fire-wood sitting in my garage…  there really is nothing like a daughter!

PS. She checked out this story, and said she could add a few more items – what about that lost evening bag you were so thrilled to find under a pile of jumpers? Enough is enough, I said firmly.


Food for threadbare gourmets

Our neighbours have a banana tree which is weighed down with small sweet bananas, and they don’t eat them. This largesse comes our way, and I use this recipe when we have too many to eat.

Mash a cup of bananas, and melt 150gms of butter. Put both in a dish and add two eggs and a cup of sugar… I often use brown for the taste. Mix them together and then add two cups of self raising flour. Dissolve a teasp of baking soda in 3 tablspns of milk, and stir that in too. Beat lightly, before tipping the mixture into a greased 20cm cake tin, the base lined with baking paper. Bake at 180 degrees for 50 to 55 minutes. It’s cooked when the cake springs back when lightly touched. Lovely with thick lemon icing.

Food for thought

Comparison is the thief of joy. Anonymous







Filed under cookery/recipes, family, fashion, food, great days, humour, life/style, The Sound of Water, Thoughts on writing and life, Uncategorized

66 responses to “Ordeal by wardrobe

  1. wow! nice recipe you have shared of bananas!! thnks 🙂


  2. Valerie, I hear you!
    I can’t pinpoint when dressing up in my clothes transformed into wearing my clothes, and later criticizing them, but it did happen and I enjoyed all stages. Now I find myself dragged to funky Lush shops (vegan soap make-up store) and young and trendy clothing shops. Not too long ago my daughter painted my nails in 10 different colours. Boy, did I feel groovy!


  3. Juliet

    What a great story, and what a marvellous daughter. Shades of Trinny and Suzannah, but nicer. I cleared my wardrobe ruthlessly a few years ago and it was rejuvenating! Sorry not to have visited recently, but I have a Big Project on. You will hear about it very soon.


  4. Lovely story! I read the ending to my mum, half expecting her to attack me with a newspaper but – like a lamb – she agreed with you! I’ve had relatively little success in my attempts to sort out her wardrobe though … maybe I’ll try again 🙂


  5. Unfortunately it’s not just you ladies who are guilty of piling up the wardrobes. I seem to have got into the habit of buying a new shirt ( or two) if they’re in the sales,maybe a pair of jeans or slacks, tee-shirts, perhaps a jacket. My wardrobes are bursting at the seams and yet I still seem to wear the same old comfortable, familiar stuff. Tee-shirts with pictures of Julia on the front for instance or shirts bought when I had a waist.
    Mike complains about how many shirts I have when he visits and Yvonne saw a comment he made on my blog about that and threatened a sort out. If that ever happens I’m in deep trouble.


  6. Dear Valerie,

    When I was interrupted the silver rain this afternoon I was doing to my ‘wardrobe’ what your post describes. Coincidence? Who knows? Loved your post.




  7. Does your daughter offer a de-cluttering service to all parts of the house? If so, may I borrow her? And I would dearly love a pair of fuchsia leather gloves.


  8. You’ve been sorted Valerie, totally and utterly! Sometimes it takes someone else to point the obvious out to us.
    And a banana tree – we only get those horrid large unripe bananas here, I long for those small sweet and flavourful ones, so completely different!


  9. I have been planning to do this too. I actually thought fully on the task for 30 minutes yesterday. Lucky you to have live incentive!


  10. My youngest daughter will rarely throw out clothes, and she gets it from my husband who never throws anything out. I must admit to having clothes that are a couple of decades old and still look fine. I think its lovely that your daughter cares enough to take you into hand and sort you out. It actually sounded like a fun time you both had. Cherish her. Joy


  11. Your post made me laugh. I don’t have a daughter so I have to do it myself and that’s much harder. There is no one to challenge me and I keep some clothes because they feed my fantasies. I have never worn them nor will I but I dream of wearing them as soon as the right moment arrives.

    A banana tree? How lucky you are!


  12. Luanne

    Haha, this is so funny. I can just see and hear the two of you going through this! I’m glad she let you have a “dream” pile ;)! When I was 20 I used my employee discount to buy a pair of maroon patent leather shoes. They reminded me of Dorothy’s shoes from the Wizard of Oz, but without the annoying sparkles. I’ve never worn them, but I still own them. I finally decided I didn’t buy them to wear, but for fantasy.


  13. One very cold and snowy day my niece came over at my request to help me clean out my two closets to get me started on sorting out clothes. These two closets were full of my teacher type outfits (31 years) and had not been opened for at least three years since I retired. I kept some of my favourite things but most of it we donated. Now, I wear yoga pants and printed tunics!


  14. I love that post! I must invite one of my daughters to do the same for me as I am such a hoarder of clothes. I but very infrequently and keep for years! I need to follow your example – and I do love the sound of your new fuchsia gloves.
    Delicious sounding recipe too and such wise words to end with.
    Sorry I haven’t been around much lately. It’s all I can do to keep mbt going – life is just so busy – and that’s a good thing!
    All the best to you and yours 🙂


    • Hello sally – so good to hear from you – I know just what you mean about life being busy, and trying to keep up – I’m hopelessly behind… don’t know how you manage all your daily posts – all beautiful …


  15. Are you sure we don’t share a daughter? My daughter bought her own pair of fuchsia leather gloves a number of years ago. Wish they fit me, she never wears them but I covet them, not that I live anywhere to wear them either! She also has the buy one, get rid of one rule for shoes and bags and most things. Loved this post, need a daughter to come and do this with me. Mine doesn’t live nearby, perhaps yours would like a trip to Central Australia??


  16. I gave half my wardrobe away recently to my (soon-to-be) sister-in-law – such a cathartic experience! She couldn’t believe that some of it still had the tags on, but I realised that that was even more reason to send it to a better home. Your tartan pyjamas sound wonderful – I’m glad you were allowed to hang on to them! Jx


  17. Love this, Valerie! It’s really funny, and I empathized with you throughout, but wish your daughter lived in my hemisphere! The younger generation seems to be in decluttering mode en masse, and now suddenly one is a pathological hoarder if one doesn’t want to throw everything out and live in a John-and-Yoko-style stripped-down white room. I careen between two extremes: one moment I find myself staunchly defending my right to keep a favorite book (to be fair, books with an ‘s’, lots of them), the next I find myself posting on the page of a young friend’s Decluttering Facebook group.
    And those gloves sound heavenly.


    • Hello Josna, lovely to hear from you, – so glad you enjoyed the post…I do know what you mean about books… and my clutter keeps me cosy !!!
      I don’t want to be modern and smart !!!


  18. Dear Valerie,

    Is there any chance I could borrow your daughter? This post hit me right in my closet. I’ve been weeding things out but need someone to be brutal with me. I tend to get bogged down by sentimentality. Perhaps reading this will nudge me in the right direction.. 😉

    Your food for thought hits me where I live. Comparisons are deadly. Thanks for the reminder.

    Kia Ora,



    • Hello Rochelle, I’m hopelessly behind with my blogging – hence my tardy reply… I’m afraid there’s a long queue for my daughter’s services !!!
      Lovely to hear from you, Valerie


  19. Oh how I loved this, Valarie. You are quite a trooper and your dear daughter managed to do this without bringing an absolute end to your already solid friendship.I need to borrow her. We don’t share our bananas, but our Carambola are for the taking as we can’t use them all up.


  20. Love shows up in many different ways. Sorting out mum’s wardrobe is just one of those many ways. Sending you love and hugs from Munich, dear Valerie 🙂


    • Lovely to hear from you Rachna – you’re so right – it was actually a very loving morning, with lots of laughs!
      I’m very behind with my blogging tacks, hence my late reply – much love to you from Valerie


  21. Be grateful that you have a daughter who cares enough to help with that dreaded task, and even more grateful that she lives close enough to you to stop by your house so casually.


  22. I love a good clear out, but I still probably only wear a fraction of what’s in my wardrobe!


  23. Your post reminded me of a quote by one of my favourites!!!

    “Thanks to my mother, not a single cardboard box has found its way back into society. We receive gifts in boxes from stores that went out of business twenty years ago.” Erma Bombeck


  24. Presumably her thinking was that you would never ever wear a t-shirt at the weekend. As this reverses the situation for many people, and the rest either wear the things almost all the time or never, she must think you’re contrary.

    I tend to avoid white t-shirts because I wear t-shirts birdwatching or long-distance walking and white shows dirt. My only white t-shirt is printed with HO, JOHNNY WILDMAN, WHERE ART THOU?


  25. Anonymous

    I had a vague memory, so re-checked your profile photo . . . yep! white t-shirt! No wonder you have so many– they look wonderful on you. Secretly order some more. Thanks for an inspiring post.


  26. Haha! What a colourful picture this story painted… It could be a scene for a movie. Thankfully, I’ve not had to go through this yet with my mother. I could do with a clean out myself, though 🙂


  27. My youngest daughter has threatened to do the same to my closet. She hasn’t yet, but she has cleaned out her sister’s closet a couple of times and even gone through her brother-in-law’s closet. Daughters ARE wonderful, but I admit that I would hate to lose some of the clothes she would certainly throw out.


  28. I am supposed to be on holiday from blogging but a friend just gave me some magazines and I was delighted to see the article about you in the New Zealand Woman’s Weekly of March 3rd. Not a white T-shirt in sight and you look stunning in blue.


  29. Lovely, I so need a daughter like yours. Though I sort fairly well on my own and have the same shoe rule, one in one out. Still, my closet is too full. Now, pounds are dropping off and I will need another sort, not yet though not yet.

    Fuchsia leather gloves, I think these sound delectable. Wear them with Aqua! Wear them with Orange, or Lime, or even Scarlet. I love those combinations.

    Do tell what do you plan on wearing them with?


  30. Actually, it being winter when I’ll be wearing them, I had wondered about purple !!!!


  31. Good for you Valerie, I’m big on closet purging.

    AND I’m also a bag lady!

    I never would have pegged you for a clotheshorse. That makes me happy.


  32. Dear Maggie – lovely to hear from you… I have been nuts about clothes since I was three – maybe before – when I remember being allowed to wear a sun-suit I’d grown into at last, covered in tiny pink, blue and yellow flowers… I’ve never looked back !


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