Wiggle Room

The last time I bought anything was six days ago. I don’t mean a bottle of Advil or a head of lettuce or a 24-pack of toilet paper. I mean clothing and fashion accessories, like earrings and scarves. And shoes.

I wish I’d counted the number of shoes I owned before the first purge began about an hour after a visit to a podiatrist in late September. What remains are 11 pairs of shoes and boots. Flip flops were not included in the count.

It’s embarrassing. I only have two feet yet I need a separate insurance rider to cover the replacement cost of my shoes. If my house went up in flames tomorrow, however, I’d buy different kinds of shoes. The foot doctor gave me a couple of brand names to look for and on average they cost $175 a pair. And they’re ugly as sin. Dear lord, I wouldn’t bury a corpse in those shoes. But since most of my other shoes were thrift store finds, their total value wouldn’t cover the cost to buy the podiatry recommended brands.

I’d brought a representative sampling of my footwear to the appointment and she deadpanned, “You have a problem with shoes.”

“I know that,” I said, though not in the sense she meant.

“You need rounded toes and double E width.” Eek. That’s a lot of wiggle room, I thought.

“These things,” she said, holding up my favourite bone coloured, patent leather sling-backs with a modest heal height and a gently pointed toe, “are torture devices. They’re pinching the nerve at the base of your second toe.”

Elaborating in painful detail, she described why that nerve was making my foot feel like I’d walked on glass, even while wearing sensible shoes for my daily constitutional.

Pain, her words, and a distant memory motivated me. At work, I took action immediately, and crawled under my desk tossing every pair of stilettoes into a bag which I dropped at Value Village on the way home.  The motivating memory was from 1983, when I worked with a conference planning consultant in her early 50’s. She hobbled everywhere on fashionable shoes, moving slowly and in obvious agony. I asked her if she was okay and she said “Oh, it’s nothing. Just my feet.”

I like shoes, obviously, but I like walking, cross-country skiing, and cycling more. They’re my happy pills. I concluded that I am prepared to give up pretty shoes to keep walking. My feet are more than “Just my feet.”

At home I purged more shoes and now I can see the closet floor. Inspired, I continued the expulsion with my clothes, trying to give everything some wiggle room. I filled another bag for Value Village with things I hadn’t worn in a year or more. I felt good. Daylight penetrated my closet for the first time in decades.

This sartorial shake-up might have been the start of a shift in thinking because the next morning, post-cleanse, I stood in front of my clothes – arranged by colour – and was unable to choose something to wear. “Ridiculous. You have enough here to wear something different to work every day for a month,” I muttered.

Those fucking yin/yang devils on my shoulders began a super-heated debate.

“No she doesn’t. Where’s the cream turtleneck she needs?”

“She has cream blouses. They’ll do just fine.”

“What about tan slacks? She’s been looking for years.”

“She’s got beige. Beige goes with everything.”

I took a sip of tongue burning coffee to distract the miserable creatures and decided to accept my own challenge. I would prove to myself I have plenty and need nothing more.

I delivered the latest bag of cast-offs to the recycler. But, like sending an alcoholic to the liquor store to buy a bottle of wine, I was tempted. “I’ll run in and take a quick look.”

I came out with a capelet, two sweaters and a men’s Harris Tweed blazer. “It’s not my fault!” I blamed the podiatrist. I blamed the shoes. That’s when I realized I had a problem.

“My name is Susanne and I’m a second hand clothes shopaholic.”

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39 thoughts on “Wiggle Room

  1. Goodness this tickled me. Not enough to go and face my own ridiculous closet of shame, but it made me feel so much better to know that I am not the only one to drop things off at VV only to “just pop in for a look,” and end up with MORE. And now I know why my second toe hurts so much. You have probably saved me one million dollars in podiatry bills.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You have such good taste! Love the outfits! The blazer’s to die for. 🙂 Hearing you about the shoes, as a former shoe queen myself. I must say there’s physical pain and then the emotional pain of being caught (alive) in ugly footwear. Sigh. Aging is such a drag. Bye bye stiletto heels, hello Clarks clogs. 🙄 (oops, no shoe emojis!).

    Liked by 1 person

  3. haha what a wonderful read. So well written and love the tongue in cheek humor. I love shoes too especially boots. Ankle boots. However, after living in Sri Lanka for two years, all I ever wear here are my fit flops. Too hot and uncomfortable for anything else. On a recent trip in Europe I had to buy some shoes, some boots I mean. I bought a pair and of course they felt tight compared to sandals! But after six weeks of wearing them, I got my first bunion!!! And the culprit? The boots! Heels for me are long gone, I value comfort now more than anything and the feet are where its at!!! Our feet impact everything. But you have already discovered that!


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  4. I love that jacket and how you’re wearing it. And vintage doesn’t count as shopping, right? One year I said “No new clothes.” I came home with this great jumper and my husband says, what? I said “Vintage isn’t new.” 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m trying to curb my shopping habit. Seriously curb it, including “vintage”. My closet is small, and I’d like to cultivate a less is more approach. Walk at lunchtime instead of shop. Read a book, go to the library, dance the fandango. Anything but shop!


  5. I can relate to your love of shoes. . . I really love them, too. Part of why I have so many, though, is because I have trouble finding ones that fit really well if I’m doing a lot of walking. Sigh. As for the second hand clothes, I’m in awe. Most of my forays end with a few items that don’t make any sense with what I own, so I need to buy new stuff to make it work. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • I do that too! Buy stuff at the 2nd hand store because its such a steal, only to get home and find nothing goes with my bargain. Another reason to stop shopping.


  6. Oh, I hear you! I was seriously thing of wearing my well broken in hiking boots to my daughter’s wedding, but my dress didn’t keep them covered enough when I walked or danced. Dresses of any length are starting to find their way to Goodwill in my case, too. Maybe we’ve just gottta move to the seashore and go barefoot…

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  7. I feel for you. I am not a clotheshorse, nor do I own a woman’s version of too many shoes. (but god i love shoes!) HOWEVER, I have dealt with a few foot issues in my time, (former dancer, arches fell) and as I age, and see the foot issues other women are dealing with, I’ve got to say being a housewife for the better part of 15 years really saved my feet. I gave up high heels years ago, just on the basis of pain.
    Having been exposed to other womens’ foot issues, I have begun to take footwear more seriously from an orthopedic angle. I have small, narrow feet meaning I can wear any shoe, but I SHOULD NOT. So the last few years, I have been heavily into oxfords and booties with plenty of room at the front, plenty of space for the toes.
    I have the most adorable pair of gray terrycloth strappy wedges, but every time I wear them to work, I have toe spasms after dinner! And while I do move freely round the office, I sit a large majority of it.
    Last night I bought gray booties, almost flat, memory foam insoles — true love. I’d hoped to buy 3 pair, that was what was in my head, given particular outfits. When I got home, I told my husband, “They had nothing fun, nothing bright multicolored, and seriously, I need to find out where grannies buy the sneaker-bottomed mary janes that one can wear with socks.”
    Further, looking professional while being comfortable and warm is a problem. Period. I support your standoff, but you probably do need some heavyweight tan slacks and a cream turtleneck. For more versatility with your tweed blazer score. And with your coloring… well, that’s just pretty.

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    • As a fellow northerner, I know how hard it is in January to look professional and comfortable. There are some days I abandon the effort – those that are -30 C, for instance. I’d wear my Sorrels to the office if it was allowed. Those felt lined suckers are amazingly toasty and have huge toe space (as in lots of room, not huge toes).

      After this month’s challenge to prove to myself my wardrobe options are plentiful, I’m toying with the idea of chucking ALL my dresses thereby simplifying the shoe needs/wants. In her later years (ie my age and beyond), my mother NEVER wore a dress, not even to my wedding. Why not, I say?

      I did buy a new sensible pair of Podiatrist recommended shoes, though not the brands she espoused. Like I said, I’d rather be dead. They set me back $140 bucks which caused a near panic attack. But they are lovely and trimmed with some patent leather, have a strap across the top of the foot to hold me in place and look good with both trousers and dresses. There’s hope.

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      • Little details go a long way 🙂 I hope you get plenty of wear out of them.

        I don’t much wear skirts and dresses. They’re inconvenient to many of life’s more practical endeavors. That being said, many women with more grace than I manage.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I love your style!! You are rocking those recycled finds!

    I laughed out loud at your comment “Dear lord, I wouldn’t bury a corpse in those shoes”. When I got my first pair of Birkenstocks many, many years ago, my husband called them birth control 😏

    I had to give up my love affair with all things ‘shoes’ many years ago when I was putting in many hours of training for Ironman. My coach who was well acquainted with my feet issues finally read me the riot act one day and said “those shoes are for ‘sometimes’ not every day”. Now my closet is still full of shoes and boots, but definitely in the sensible category.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I can’t wear Birkenstocks because my 2nd toe is longer than the big toe and it bumps into that ridge at the end of Birks. No, I must wear shoes that give my toes room to move, contain the top of my foot to hold it in place, and have a back heel to stabilize movement. ie. no sandals, flip flops or cute strappy shoes. I’m trying to be positive, since I know I need good shoes in order to keep moving but I still haven’t thrown out all my “dress” shoes. Now that I think about it, maybe I should just throw out all my dresses thus ridding myself of the need for the shoes. Hmmm. Food for thought.

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  9. No one in their right mind would’ve left that Harris tweed behind–it’s fabulous! My mom loves thrift shopping so I take her pretty frequently. She does better than I do but I’m going to keep your tweed treasure in mind to motivate me!

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  10. Hope the pain has gotten better, Susanne! I am a hunt-and-kill shopper. I look for one thing, buy it, and leave. Shoes: I buy one pair of tennis shoes a year and a pair of hiking shoes every three years or so. I reluctantly keep one pair of “dress” shoes for weddings. Nonetheless, I have foot pain too, which is an awful thing to have because we must stay mobile! If shoes can solve your foot pain, then rejoice! Love this writing piece, especially the conflicting voices. How I understand that in other areas than shoe shopping. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • I have exercises, toe separater thingys, AND shoes to try and resolve the issue. I definitely have conflicting voices on this matter although I’m enjoying the closet purge. Now I just have to stay out of thrift stores.

      Liked by 2 people

  11. I took boxes and boxes of suites and work clothes to a charity after I retired. But I need to do it again. I’ve never shopped in 2nd hand stores….maybe I should. Or maybe I just need not to shop at all. My grandmother warned me about stylish shoes back when I was a teenager and I haven’t forgotten. I’ve mostly worn flats my career….and now days there’s no way I’d even get my feet into a pair of heels. Though I have a few I’ve been keeping for some unknown reason.

    I LOVE the jacket though….and your haircut…

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m with you. I’m working on not shopping which is, for me, hard since it serves as a method of self-soothing on a bad day at work.

      I’m not sure I would have listened to my grandmother’s advice about shoes – or anyone else’s for that matter. I’m kind of stubborn and have to learn things the hard way.

      Loving my jacket, too. So warm, as you’d expect from something made in the Hebrides.


  12. Oh, Susanne, I so pity you…on so many levels.
    Level One: Pretty has your same problem with acquisitions.
    Level Two: My mother taught elementary school for 25 years wearing high heels (in the last century, but still)
    Level Three: I can only tell you how much more aches when you age.
    Be careful, my dear.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. While we’re confessing: I am a catalog shopper (because I hate to shop) so often that means I pay to have clothing shipped to me, try it on, then pay to send it back. And I can’t even blame a podiatrist!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I used to be a catalogue shopper, too. Lands End was a favourite until the Canuck buck dropped dramatically and I was paying 30% more PLUS shipping, customs, etc. Thrift store shopping is a better bang for my dollar. But no shopping is better still for the bank account, right?


  14. I’ve given up the heels too, for the most part. Doc Martens, Birkenstocks and Blundstones are my new (old) favourites now. I used to love thrift store shopping but they’ve become too popular in my area. Hard to find anything good anymore. Maybe when I’m retired and have time for more frequent visits….

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ohh. Blundstones. I covet those. But I won’t succumb! Interesting how thrift store shopping has become popular. My youngest daughter and her friends frequent our local charity store regularly. Curious trend.

      Liked by 1 person

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