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After I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, I began to declutter around the house category by category.
Clothes were first. I was instructed to pile all my clothes, by subcategory, on the floor and then one by one, pick it up, hold it, and wait to see if it “sparked joy” in me. Some of these items sparked horror instead. Skinny clothes that no longer fit. Fat clothes that no longer fit but I still wore. Why can’t I just stay the same weight? It really would help keep money in my wallet.
When I got to the pile of suits and jackets, a subtle emotional change came over me as I held each item waiting for the joy.
First came a memory about a dog show. I wore this lilac jacket to Chicago in 2016 when Linx won an award of merit at the National Specialty dog show.
The linen jacket held a treasured memory but also a stinky stain of salmon oil on the right pocket where I’d hidden his favorite treats, dried fish jerky, during competition. The lucky jacket was ruined but it still sparked joy. I was conflicted. I put it aside. Then I picked it up. Don’t be ridiculous, I said aloud, you smell like a canning factory in Alaska when you wear this. And the stain looks like someone left a piece of greasy salami on the pocket too long. I steeled myself and placed it in the trash bag.
Would the spark joy Gods be unhappy? Besides, I still had the suit I wore when Linx won a Specialty Best In Show hanging in my closet. And it was safe to wear because I’ve since switched to freeze-dried liver cubes as a treat. No oil, no stink, no mess.
Tops, check. Bottoms, check. Suits, check. The clothes that sparked joy were placed in their holding pen, awaiting their storage. Now on to outerwear.
I pulled all the coats out of the front closet and piled them in the middle of the living room floor where they were sure to pick up gray dog hairs with black tips. It was easy to discard my old winter sleeping bag parka with the broken zipper, but not before I fondled the rips at the bottom of the taupe coat where Adele had swiped her paws with too long toenails. Little white fluffs of synthetic material manufactured in China escaped onto the floor as I recalled Adele’s puppy antics.
Next up, my green tweed Joules jacket that resembles something worn on Downton Abbey to go hunt grouse or rabbit on the estate with the gamekeeper. Long deep pockets you might fit a small bird or rabbit into and outer shallow pockets for holding shotgun shells made this coat a utilitarian wonder. I neither hunt small game nor have I ever fired any gun or rifle. So instead I place poop bags into the smaller pockets, where they can easily be dispensed for the duty at hand. The silky lining of the jacket is a brilliant burst of color with scenes of fox hunting. Vibrant scarlet coats, lush green landscapes, muted brown horses all compete with a yellow squiggle, which I imagine represents the cunning fox as he takes the hounds on a wild chase. This jacket with its brown suede collar, when flipped up, not only keeps my cheeks free of frost, but reveals an enamel snap button, with a fox’s orange head and yellow piercing eyes. A jacket that tells a story. Sparks. Most. Joy.
I’ve dug through the pile and at the bottom, a long forgotten Chuck Roast fleece coat reveals itself. Bought in August 1999 on my way to the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick, to the Canadian National Specialty dog show. It was cold there in August. I had a puppy with me, Stasha, who was but 10-months-old and still needed training every day to be confident in the ring. Every morning we’d go outside and practice our show paces. Back then I baked a homemade treat of beef liver, boiled then baked covered in garlic salt. The resulting shoe leather made the dogs drool in anticipation. When I got home from my Canadian trip, I tossed the jacket on the living room chair. It eventually made it into the laundry and back into the closet.
As I held this coat, waiting for joy, I slid my hand into the right pocket looking for forgotten change. But my hand kept going and out a big hole in the bottom. My eyes teared up. This hole bore the ragged edges made by Roxanne’s teeth as she tore away at the fleece to find a piece of leftover liver. Her perfect nose drilled down into the inside of the jacket as it lay in the living room in 1999. She chewed out the treat without so much as a hint of her stealth. I knew the hole was there after the garment was laundered.
I never repaired the pocket, despite constant use, because Roxanne had passed away the following year and every time I put my hands in my pockets, and the right hand kept going, it reminded me of my first home-bred champion bitch with the vibrant personality and silly antics. As I looked for joy, I realized I hadn’t worn the jacket in close to ten years. It belonged to the fat clothes I had shunned. But this was my last tangible piece of evidence to remind me of Roxanne. I closed my eyes, slid my hand once more into the pocket. The fleece soft on my skin was almost as soft as Roxanne’s muzzle I used to kiss. I entered this memory into my banks and placed the coat into the trash bag.