Sparking joy with square brackets


I’m lazy so I tend not to get rid of stuff until I absolutely have to, until I run out of space or I feel so emotionally unbalanced that tidying seems like a good idea.

To be fair, I don’t have a lot of storage space (because London). My wardrobe had reached the point where I’d just stuff clothes in at random, meaning everything was creased and I only wore what fell out when I slid the door open.

So I took everything out and arranged it in piles: long sleeved tops, t-shirts, jumpers, trousers and dresses. This is a good way to work out how limited your taste is. I have a lot of black, grey and navy. With the occasional bright pink item as if belatedly trying to inject some personality.

Also my wardrobe doesn’t seem especially grown up. I have band t-shirts I’ve been collecting since I was 14. The gigs I used to go to rarely stocked female sizes and I’d often end up with a baggy XL that swamped my tiny teenage frame. Happily it means now they are closer to a reasonable fit, although it’s debatable whether you should still wear clothes you’ve had for over 20 years. Is it cool and eco-friendly or tight and tragic?

I found a t-shirt which friends bought me for my birthday at university. It’s official merchandise of Transport for London, depicting the iconic tube logo. Iconic and also ironic given my feelings about commuting by tube these days.

I tried the Marie Kondo approach. Did holding the TFL t-shirt spark joy? It sparked memories. I’d almost forgotten I was once a kid from the Midlands who found the London underground system wildly exciting. ‘It’s like the monopoly board!’ I’d say, ‘and I’m travelling on it!”

I seem to have lost this enthusiasm.

The thing is I don’t like shopping. There are too many people whenever I can get there. Queues are annoying, changing room lighting is annoying, sizing being different in every shop is annoying. Fashion is annoying. Trying to figure out what shop is now age appropriate for me is annoying (it’s not Topshop, that’s all I know). The only thing I enjoy buying is necklaces because they won’t upset me by being too tight.

Luckily jeans and a T-shirt works for my current work attire. But I do intend to mix it up a little, maybe branching out beyond black tops, black leggings and black dresses. Living dangerously.

I bought a light blue coat recently so that’s a start. Unfortunately a man did ask if I was ok “in my delicate condition” whilst I was wearing it, so I’m trying to still want to wear it. Maybe he just meant I was juggling my laptop, handbag and trying to get a door open at once, which looked delicate. Who knows what a delicate condition even means – the 1950s called and wants its vocabulary back mate!

Anyway, I also have a talent for wearing shoes until they fall apart on my feet. Worryingly that doesn’t seem to take long. I’ve had a few great pairs of sandals that I wore all summer until the soles scuffed and the strap broke. Winter boots bought last year were letting water in, which seemed odd until I realised the sole was splitting. Then it seemed fair enough.

In a recent rain shower, my feet damp and cold and my spirit wilting, I took decisive action. I wanted a comfortable waterproof pair of boots so I head straight to the Goretex range at Ecco. They had my size in the sale. It’s not a fashionable choice but a round-toed, robust, heavy-soled sensible companion. These shoes look like you could tramp around London for the next 6 months and they won’t fall apart. Like a no-nonsense Goth granny. That’s what I need. I changed into them in the shop, telling the thrilled shop assistant he could throw away my old boots.

This is how I now do shopping.

A recent trip to Stoke reminded me shopping doesn’t always have to be a painful but necessary experience. In the former Potteries shopping centre (now re-branded), I waltzed into the changing rooms of a department store on a Saturday with an armful of clothes. I didn’t have to wait or only take in 4 items.

In the changing room, I overheard the kind of conversations that show people in the Midlands are less rushed and more chatty. “Eh duck, what do you think of this?” an unknown woman yelled. “Will it work for a wedding? I don’t normally do formal, I don’t, not since my hip problem. I’m not much for dresses”.

Several others assured her that her attire would indeed work if accessories were added. She went on to complain her figure was “like a square bracket” and they reassured her everyone’s is. I am still trying to figure out what a square bracketed woman looks like.

So with a bag of clothes for the charity shop, and a few new joy sparkers, it’s back to the wardrobe.

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