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'Out with the old' adage does not always apply

Some people do it every spring. Others every fall, each New Year, or any time they change addresses. There are people who never do it, and others who only do it when they "feel like it." There are also those constantly in the midst of doing it.

Some plan it out beforehand -- months in advance -- to make sure they're ready. For others it's spontaneous. They wake up one morning and just go for it.

That's right, readers: Last week I cleaned out my closet.

I sorted through piles of T-shirts and stacks of skirts, hangers hung with denim and poly-cotton blend, shelves of ratty old long sleeves and once-worn sweaters and enough work pants, dress pants, skinny pants, baggy pants and pajama pants to cover the lower limbs of pant-less people the world over.

I meant to do it several times over the past year. Each time, I threw out an item or two -- something I couldn't fathom wearing in front of other people, something with more holes than fabric, something that I hadn't been able to zip up since middle school -- but always something undeniably past its peak, beyond any semblance of wearability, something I wouldn't miss.

It was never my favorite T-shirt of the past five years, even if I couldn't recall it having been midriff-baring when I bought it. I never tossed out the dress I'd gotten on clearance (because who could pass up a price like that?) which I'd find in the far reaches of my closet -- near the Narnia border, never having been worn but looking so darn good on that hanger I'm sure I'll find somewhere to wear it one day.

This time, I had to toughen up. No more sneaking the jeans I loved -- but couldn't get past my hips without a case of Vaseline and a very silly bounce-and-tug dance -- into the "keep" pile. No more giving in to the truly adorable T-shirt I hadn't seen in so long it felt like I was shopping within the confines of my own closet.

I finger-painted two thick black lines on my cheekbones, got into sumo wrestler stance and mercilessly informed the excess contents of my closet that there wasn't enough room in my room for the both of us.

Several screams, laughs, mental anguishes, internal dialogues, shed tears and battle scars later, I emerged with three bags' worth of clothes to be handed off to those who didn't yet realize their closet-clinging power.

Free at last.

Of course, having to let go doesn't just apply to old clothing.

When I left for college last fall, I had to leave a lot behind, like the pink polka-dotted mushroom the size of an armchair that I've been hoarding since "Peter Pan," which wasn't likely to fit in a dorm that gets a "no" to "Is it bigger than a breadbox?"

That's called living within your means, kids.

While signing away my soul on student loans, I had to let go of the idea of a debt-free existence.

That's called facing reality, folks.

But not everything has to be let go of.

Last weekend, I had a girls' night with my best friends from high school, and we were just as giddy and giggly as ever. We still talked about boys and gossiped about people we graduated with and wondered where we'll be in five years. We still ate too much candy and made plans for the road trip we've been mapping as far back as fossilized records date.

And yet, there was no feeling that those times are something to toss out now that we're hitting 20 (Happy belated, Rachel!).

Some things are worth being held on to, like good times and faithful friends. Other things, like pants so green they practice photosynthesis, probably aren't.

But those pistachio-colored rain boots that a pal and I spent weeks scouring the surrounding area for ... they can stay until next time I clean out my closet.

Thressa Johnson attends Hamline University in St. Paul.

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