By Hannah Berman


Regardless of how frequently I buy clothes, I all too often wind up behind the eight ball. Being “behind the eight ball” indicates that one is in a bad situation or facing a challenging circumstance that is not easy to resolve. In short, it means being in trouble. That would be me! The question I find myself asking is: how is it that I am always shopping, in one venue or another, but, when I open my closet, I have nothing to wear? Even to my own ears, this is patently ridiculous. Nevertheless, that is how it goes.

At one time, all of my shopping was done by going into stores, but that is no longer the case. Currently, because physical limitations prevent me from being able to stand upright for extended periods of time, I have become an avid QVC fan. For those in need of an explanation, QVC is a television shopping network through which one can buy just about anything. The show’s host gives the description of each item as models parade back and forth across the stage wearing the featured clothing and shoes, or carrying whichever handbag is being offered for sale. Since hair products, makeup, perfume, jewelry, and housewares are also offered for sale, there is little that a determined consumer cannot buy, all while sitting glued to the television screen. And I have become a determined consumer. But my purchases are limited to apparel. Catalog shopping is my choice for the purchase of sleepwear or undergarments, and in order to buy handbags, shoes, makeup, or jewelry, I manage to stand upright and shop in a store, albeit for a limited period of time.

My trouble begins when I decide that I no longer want or need something that is in my closet. A friend once told me about something she calls a “one-year rule.” I chose to follow it but I made a small change and extended it to be a “two-year rule.” If there is an item of clothing or a pair of shoes that I have not worn, or a handbag I have not carried, in that period of time, I get rid of it. The woman who comes to clean my house for me is usually the recipient of my largesse. She is so often my beneficiary that I have considered revising my will. But thus far I have resisted that impulse.

Most of the time, parting with little-used items does not pose a problem. However, there have been a few exceptions because, on some occasions, I have given away items and then regretted it. The most notable time was back in the 1970s. It was when clogs became fashionable for both men and women. I owned two pairs, one in black and the other in dark blue. Despite the fact that I did not find them comfortable, being a typical female, I wore them often and ignored the foot pain for the sake of fashion. It took a few months for me to get fed up and to decide that my foot comfort was more important than wearing the fashionable clogs. I gave up on them and never again put them on my feet. But for some inexplicable reason, I kept them. Each time I opened my closet I would see them sitting neatly, side by side, on the shelf where all of my footwear is kept.

After two years, possibly even longer, I decided that it was ridiculous to hang on to them. As some 40+ years have passed since that time, I no longer recall how I disposed of them, but there is one fact that I clearly remember. I will never forget that exactly three days after I got rid of them, I wanted to wear the blue ones again. They would have looked perfect with my long denim skirt. At that moment I dismissed the negative, which was that they were decidedly uncomfortable. My only thought was that they would have looked great. It is difficult to describe how I felt. Astonishment is the only word that comes to mind, and it arrived in the form of a question. How was it that after the 24 months that they had sat, unworn, on the shoe shelf, it took only 72 hours before I regretted getting rid of them?

This scenario has repeated itself several times over the years. The most recent occasion was last week, when the woman who cleans my house walked in with a pretty bag slung over her shoulder. My first reaction was one of sincere admiration. That was before I recognized that the bag was one that I had given to her! I had done that more than a year earlier, when I realized that I could not even remember the last time I had used it. This caused me somewhat less consternation than when I divested myself of those blue clogs but, nevertheless, it stung. On occasion, I have had the same experience with clothing.

In spite of being a true shopaholic, with a closet filled to overflowing with clothes, that age-old phrase, common to women everywhere, is one that comes to mind on a regular basis: I have nothing to wear! It is odd but that’s just the way it is.

Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and gives private small-group lessons in mah-jongg and canasta. She can be reached at or 516-295-4435.


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