dirtbag fashion

How Do I Get Rid of My Sentimental T-Shirts?

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Dirtbag Fashion is a column dedicated to the art of doing very little and assuming you look good anyway.

Every three months or so, I systematically go through my apartment and donate an overwhelming majority of my stuff. I don’t feel any remorse about getting rid of these things, and in fact, a slight twinge of sadistic joy washes over me as the trash bags begin to pile up. I hardly remember what I’ve discarded until I stumble upon pictures of my apartments from years past and shrug. “Oh yeah, remember Fit Flops?” “Oh yeah, remember beige sheets?” “Oh yeah, remember those Dutch clogs I was bullied into buying?” Never thought about that stuff again.

But when I routinely purge my apartment, there is one drawer in my dresser that I dare not go near. This is the drawer completely full to the brim of sentimental T-shirts.

What makes a T-shirt sentimental? Well, let’s see. I have a T-shirt from the 35th anniversary party of my college radio station. I have several T-shirts that were hand screen-printed by friends in bands that don’t exist anymore and haven’t existed for over ten years. I have about seven random and ill-fitting T-shirts (you know the kind — specifically “women’s fit”) from sports teams whose colors do not and have never flattered my skin tone and whose failures are too embarrassing to count. I have a Breyer’s ice cream T-shirt that belonged to my friend’s dad when he was in college that is so worn and shredded that it is unwearable until nipple-censoring regulations drastically loosen.

I can’t get rid of these T-shirts because they remind me of poignant events and milestones in my life that I might otherwise forget. If I throw away the T-shirt I bought with my mom’s money at Warped Tour in 2003, did Warped Tour in 2003 even happen?

And in this one specific variety of hoarding, I am not alone.

Friends and family have admitted to having their own private store of oversized, overworn, ratty, old, stained T-shirts, ones they can’t part with because they reflect emotional and pivotal moments in their lives. A colleague described a T-shirt she has held onto from college that has an illustration of a beer drinking a beer while running and puking simultaneously. Another keeps bootleg concert T-shirts purchased from the perimeter of venues just in case their kids think these shirts are cool someday (current trends confirm this suspicion). Others have T-shirts from 5Ks and work events and random gift bags at conferences that they insist they are keeping because they wear them “to the gym.” Okay, sorry but I don’t believe you!

With the recent ubiquity of “athleisure” and the lifelong ubiquity of deciding what is an appropriate way to dress as an “adult,” I’ve found less and less need for a drawer full of T-shirts, let alone T-shirts that are uncool, disintegrating, or both. One woman only needs so many T-shirts, after all, and the plain, wordless kind tend to come in most handy. Logic should deem it time for me to throw these old T-shirts out.

There is hope. Though a number of people I talked to made the arrogant and unbelievable claim that they had stored multiple clear Tupperware containers full of T-shirts at their parents’ houses, others suggested more practical and also much kinder solutions to purging what feels unpurgeable. (I don’t need to be a parent to remind you that your parents’ house is not a damn storage facility.)

Some suggested using your T-shirts as rags, a nice way of keeping them around while also giving them a greater purpose. More than one friend said they had turned theirs into quilts, the kind of DIY project you might find lurking on Pinterest. Too ham-handed to handle a sewing machine? Others suggested framing T-shirts that are loaded with sentimental value. Hang them on the wall of your den, if that’s something you have. Or use them as half-assed pillowcases. Curtains? A tablecloth? Wrap Christmas ornaments with them. Use them to stuff cracks in your windows in the wintertime. Put your T-shirts to work.

But of course, the simplest solution of them all is to stop being a baby and get rid of them. When you’re doing your quarterly purge, round up all those T-shirts (save ONE, if you must, for when you “go to the gym”), throw them in a big bag, and donate them. A kind internet user even suggested taking a picture of each T-shirt before tossing it, so the memories never die. Once the initial shock and loss die down, you’ll hardly remember they existed anyway.

I’m going to do it this weekend. I promise.

How Do I Get Rid of My Sentimental T-Shirts?