Mildred and her messy closet : Back to Basics Descartes’ Method

messy roomMildred had her head stuck in the closet and was tossing items of clothing out into the room in a reckless fashion. Renée was struck in the face by a maroon and white striped cardigan as she came in.

“What on earth are you doing?”

“Rethinking my wardrobe,” Mildred replied with a muffled voice, and then pulled her head out of the closet. “I have nothing to wear,” she continued. “I hate my clothes. Nothing matches, nothing fits, nothing is ever appropriate.”

Renée peered into the closet. “Where’d you get all this stuff, anyway?”

“I dunno. A lot of it I get on sale. But some of it has been there forever. I’ve just always had it,” Mildred concluded vaguely.

“So what are you going to do?”

“Give it all to the thrift shop and start again.” Mildred ripped several dresses off their hangars.

Renée stopped her friend. “Now don’t do that,” she said. “Some of it may be useful. What you need to do is get back to basics.”

“Basics?” Mildred emerged partially from the closet.

“Sure. The classics. Things that never go out of style. I bet you already have some right in here.” Renée started to rummage through the closet.

“How do you know?” Mildred sounded doubtful.

“The point is, how will you know. You just will. You will recognize a classic article of clothing right away. Clear as clear.”

“Well, I will if I can ever find it in this mess. I’ll have to pull it all out just to begin.” And Mildred began to throw more things out into the room, adding to the general confusion.

“STOP!” Renée shouted.

This was so unlike her friend’s normal behavior that Mildred did just that.

“You need a plan. A method.” Renée spoke again in her normal, quiet voice. “Let me make a suggestion.”

“Well, I wish you would.” Mildred pushed a strand of hair away from her eyes.

“First, don’t settle for anything but the basics. Don’t be tempted by a fabulous velvet-trimmed jacket that might be great if you only had the right slacks to go with it and the right occasion to wear it. Ask yourself if it is unquestionably a classic. If it isn’t. . .”

“I know!” Mildred cried. “Throw it out.”

“NO!” Renée said. “Of course not. It may come in useful, or I might want it. Just put it over here, on the bed.”

“And you say I will know, for sure?”

“No question about it.”

“Well, I better get started right away, then,” Mildred moved toward the closet again, quite excited about the new plan.

“STOP!”

“What now?”

“That was only part of the plan,” Renée explained. “The second part of the plan is to sort everything out in an organized way so you can see what you actually have and discover your classic items. Right now this place is such a mess, you’ll never find anything, and you’ll be discouraged before you start.”

“Is that the whole plan?” Mildred asked humbly.

“No. Later on, maybe tomorrow, after you come up with your basic items–and there won’t be very many, believe me, just a few key pieces–then you can begin to put together a decent wardrobe again, perhaps using some of the stuff you put on the bed, and maybe purchasing some new things. Only this time you’ll start from your basics and go from there. That’s the reasonable way. No more buying things on impulse.” She gave Mildred a severe look.

“Oh, it will be such a relief,” Mildred sighed. “I’ve been so muddled about what to wear.”

“Follow this plan,” Renée said grandly, “and you’ll never be confused again. But you have to follow it exactly. No getting lazy, no deviations, no sentimental favorites. Be ruthless. ”

When Renée returned several hours later, Mildred had made great progress. She had organized her clothing and accessories by season, style and type, and was now contemplating a corduroy jumper. She looked up at Renée excitedly.

“I did just what you said. So far, though, I haven’t discovered anything classic.” And she nodded over at the bed where she had placed rejected candidates in various piles. Renée gave her an approving smile.

“I can’t wait until I do,” Mildred continued. “I mean, this will really be a breakthrough!”

The minutes passed, until, finally, Mildred held up a navy wool blazer. The two women, who had been chatting animatedly, fell silent. Mildred looked over at Renée, a strange gleam in her eyes.

“This is it. I’ve found it. There’s just no question about it! This is a classic piece of clothing.” Mildred was triumphant.

Renée congratulated Mildred. She was very positive about Mildred’s accomplishment. “This will be your key to a whole new world of fashion. The modern woman, well-dressed for any occasion. It will mean a whole new you.”

Mildred looked happily at her blazer, but then voiced a new concern. “A whole new me. I hope you’re right. I just hope that when I come up with these three or four “classics,” it’ll all hang together in a total look, an ensemble. I don’t want to represent Ms. mix and match. You know what I mean–the kind of person who never gets beyond separates.”

But Renée never heard her. She had already left the room.

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