Fall Cleaning

Photo credit: Rusty Clark, CC BY 2.0.

For the past week, every time I’ve put on a T-shirt I’ve thought “maybe this will be the last time I’ll have to wear this shirt.” Most of them are two or three summers old now, which is about the lifespan for a T-shirt, even a “nice” one with a gathered neckline that I bought at Ann Taylor Loft instead of Old Navy.

At the beginning of the summer I created this budget that included no new clothes; it was one of the rules I had to set for myself in order to pay for all the other stuff I wanted and needed to do. (I only broke the rule once, to buy a Fun Home T-shirt. It should last until 2019.)

I ended up overspending the budget anyway, although I made up some of the extra expenses with extra work. I should end the summer with $8,537.25 in savings and $2,450 in checking, and I planned on ending the summer with $8,423.22 in savings and a fully-refilled $3,000 checking account buffer, so… I’m fine with that.

But I also need a bunch of clothes. (Or want. Or… somewhere between need and want.)

I also want all of the other things I didn’t buy this summer: plants, new pillows, new bedsheets, that new sofa that I promised I’d buy before the end of the year.

The numbers tell me that I should have $1,450 in discretionary income in September, after putting 15 percent of my income towards savings and 25 percent towards taxes and spending the usual $2,000 on rent-bills-food.

Of that $1,450, $550 needs to go towards refilling my $3,000 checking account buffer. That leaves $900 for all business and personal spending, and I shouldn’t have many business expenses next month.

Which means I could set aside $500 just for clothes and household stuff. That’s not enough for new clothes and a sofa, but it’s probably enough for new clothes and new pillows and a plant. (The sofa might have to wait until October.)

As soon as I realized that I would be able to buy new stuff as soon as next Friday—because of course I’m going to put that $500 on my Alaska Airlines credit card and pay it off when my checks come in, and I’ve got that checking account buffer just in case one of my checks doesn’t arrive as expected—I immediately decided I wanted to go through all of my closets and drawers and donate every item of clothing I was sick of wearing.

Then I decided I wanted to clean out my refrigerator and cupboards, too. There’s, like, a half-finished tube of cake icing that should probably be tossed, and a mostly-empty bag of flour that’ll get a “does flour expire” Google search, and if I take everything out, I can wipe all the surfaces down.

Then I thought I could take all the boxes out from under my bed and go through them, too. I have a box where I put all the stuff that doesn’t really belong anywhere else, and I’m guessing some of the stuff in that box actually belongs in the trash. (Or maybe the donation pile.) I could put my mattress against the wall and move my bedframe and vacuum under the bed.

This is going to be a lot of work, but the more I want to get rid of old things—starting with T-shirts—the more I want to get rid of old everything. To clean this summer out of my apartment.

If you’ve been reading carefully over the past few weeks, you might have noticed my mentioning plane tickets bought on points, and a hotel. (Technically, it’s a Super 8.) There’s one more thing I need to do before this summer is over, and it’s… well… vacate.

I’ve gone to weddings this summer, and I’ve done book readings, and I’ve visited my family and helped my friends launch a new game and hung out in the Awl offices, but I haven’t taken any time just for myself. (I’ve barely even had weekends, this summer. I’ve been so busy I’ve stopped peeling my string cheeses.)

I’m so excited to go, for just a few days, and be somewhere else. I feel like I’m going to clean out my mind the same way I want to clean out my closets.

And then I’ll get back, and Labor Day Weekend will be over, and we’ll see what the fall brings.

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