I’m going through a painful process as I sort and thin possessions. Yes. I am parting with some of my shoes. Imagine mournful music playing at this point.
A love of shoes is a common weakness for women. Maybe for some men, but I’ll confine myself to generalizations and stereotypes of my own gender here. I am definitely not alone in this. Visit any shoe store and the selection for women is much larger than for men. I feel very proud of myself if I only choose three or four pairs of shoes when I pack for a weekend. I’ve known some women to need a whole suitcase for shoes for a week. I quickly say to myself, “I’m not that bad!” But of course these things are all relative. My husband can’t understand why I might need multiple pairs of black shoes for a trip. But while the color may be the same, the style is different. Who would put black heels with an outfit that needs black flats?! But he never really gets these subtleties.
What I really struggle with is giving up favorite pairs of shoes. I used to love Pappagallo shoes, and had a quite a collection in my closet. Then I lost my source for buying that brand. But although I bought the last pair in the early 90s (can’t believe my son was in 1st grade at the time, that really puts this in perspective for me) I’ve never been able to give up any of them. Not that I still wear them. No, they’re dated enough that I would feel strange about that. But they’re Pappagallos! And because I have kept my shoes in their original boxes and I’m careful to wipe down and polish, even shoes from that era still look almost new. But really, I’m not stocking items for a museum. And if I’m not going to dress in vintage clothing, why am I still hauling them around?
So, I have a multi-step plan. First I pull out anything that is even remotely questionable. I can part with two pairs using this filter. Then I look again and try to determine if there are classic styles that I haven’t been wearing that I really would put back into use. You know, sometimes you just transition to newer items because they are new, not because the older things are out of style or too worn. So I determine that another two or three pairs of low heeled pumps really are wearable, and looking at online shoes stores, could have been purchased yesterday. So I was right all along about classic styles…they really do last, or come back into fashion!
So that leaves me with a dozen or so pairs of shoes that I am struggling to give up. I know, realistically, they won’t be coming back to my clothing rotation. I did get a lot of use from them at the time. Now I just have to steel myself and let go. I look at the colors and the lines of the shoes, I remember times I wore them or outfits I paired them with. Something that seemed like a routine chore is surprisingly poignant, because suddenly this is not about getting rid of old shoes at all. I’m walking through an era of my life when I was in my early 30s and I had young children. I had a different life. Rob and I were the young parents. We had a lot before us.
Now I am a grandmother of an almost-one-year-old, and I have a lot of old shoes. I have new ones too. My life hasn’t stood still. And if I have a few moments of nostalgia for the past, I can shake it off and remind myself that today is good too. But it’s funny to me how out of the blue, in a stab of realization, these gains and losses are defined all over again, and by unexpected catalysts. Who would have thought cleaning out my shoes would take me to 1st grade, or soccer games, or the office I worked in at the time? Or the trip Rob and I made to New York? Or a house I once loved?
One of my favorite quotes says, “You’re never safe from surprise till you’re dead!” Well, sitting in the middle of my closet floor, surrounded by the past, cleverly disguised as shoes, I experience surprise at how sharp and sweet the memories are. But I look again and realize that I am keeping the memories, the really sweet stuff. It’s the shoes I’m cleaning out. My heart will still be able to go back and visit those times, at moments that I choose, or need to. The scenes in my mind are still there, tucked away. But I can let go of the shoes. That’s not where I live; they’ve outstayed their welcome, and it’s time to send them on their way.