Breaking career ties

bspoffordAugust 1, 2008

I need some feedback on this issue...

I 'retired' three years ago after working in the dental field for 40 years. My last position was as the administrator of a large children's clinic. Prior to that, I held management positions in dental insurance companies.

Over the years, I have acquired a fairly large business wardrobe of classic styles in skirt suits, pant suits, blazers, lots of silk, lots of wool. Last year I pulled all the suits out of the closet in my office/den/plant room. I tried on everything I considered keeping, and stacked up the rest on my cedar chest at the foot of my bed. Yes, you are right, it's still there. Dress for Success has become very picky in what they will accept, which surprises me. I know they are focused on providing 'interview aparrel' for low-income women, but these women need a wardrobe for after the interview too. So that at this point means they accept no blazers, no skirts, no dress trousers.

I think in the back of my mind I must have this little voice that says to try consignment shop, e-bay, or just donate it! For sure I don't want to spend the rest of my life with it at the foot of my bed!!

The second part of this comes about as a result of joining the office purge from another thread. I had some pretty prime desk real estate taken up by some of the 'management' books I've acquired over the years. I haven't looked at them in three years.

I have absolutely no intention of being gainfully employed again. I do not want nor need a J.O.B. and don't foresee any change in that.

So why do I hang onto the books, the wardrobe? I never have identified myself through my career, it just happened to be what I did (and enjoyed). Am I ready to part with that part of me, or for some oddball reason do I need to keep it.

My daily uniform is usually a tee shirt and shorts or jeans, depending on the season. Haven't had on panty hose but once since I quit working. Haven't missed it and actively avoid activities such as some volunteer work I was doing for some dental clinics and the local symphony.

Okay, gang, I need a push to get rid of this stuff.


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I'm with you on the bewilderment over Dress for Success. I understand that they want good-quality work clothes.

But frankly, it is no longer a requirement that a women wear a suit to an interview. In fact, there are many fields in which wearing a suit just comes across a little stuffy. I suppose it doesn't HURT an applicant, but I know when I'm hiring, and someone wears a very corporate looking suit to the first interview, I wonder if they're going to fit in. (in fact, here in NYC, nobody wears pantyhose for ANYthing, not even a sales call)

And yes, those women need clothes after they GET the job! I wish they'd start a "dress for daily work" offshoot, or something.

But I don't think you need those books, or that wardrobe.

The wardrobe will really only be fresh for another 3 years, and that's short enough that you can be pretty accurate in predicting that you won't work at that type of job anytime soon.

So get that stuff out into the "clothing stream" while the fibers are still fresh, while any interfacing, shoulder pads, or elastic is still fresh and hasn't begun disintegrating.

Whatever method--and my vote now is whatever's fastest.

*IS* there a consignment shop you can get to? If so, then I challenge you to go before the end of next Saturday. Make this a priority.

As for the books--if you worked in the field that long, those books have nothing left to teach you. Get THEM out into the "book stream" while their authors are still well known enough that the book won't become a burden to whatever used bookstore or used book source is handling them.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2008 at 12:59AM
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Thank you so much for your input, Talley Sue. I knew I could depend on you.

I think tomorrow I'm going to

take the clothes to the Goodwill. I just don't want to mess with it anymore. And, the non-profit I worked for has a small corporate library, so I'll donate the books to them.


    Bookmark   August 1, 2008 at 3:36AM
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Barbara - Just this week I finally disposed of books, notebooks, and general records (other than tax records) relating to a business I closed in 2004! I never intended to resume this particular business or work in this field ever again, yet I could not seem to part with the piles of paper that represented more than a decade of my life. I told myself that I should keep it all *just in case* I needed to fall back on this kind of work. Finally, in desperate need of the space, I sorted through and tossed & shredded all but a few sheets of paper, wondering what I had thought was so valuable even if I had gone back to this work! Yes, I should have ridded myself of it much sooner.

In a related slow purge, I held on to my midlife-return to college wardrobe until it was no use to anyone. Foolish and wasteful. I have to admit I probably still have a couple of pieces in the back of my closet :( - clothes are such a difficult issue for me. Moving on wardrobe-wise is a slow process. I keep at it and it gets easier the more I do it. I don't know whether I will ever be completely rational when it comes to clothes!

It is helpful to know your give-a-ways are helping someone.
Too bad Dress for Success is not more flexible - I bet there are women who would love to have your clothes. Goodwill is easy, accepting most donations, and your clothes will at least have a chance to find a welcoming new home!

Enjoy your new found closet space and clean desk - you can *manage* better now ;).


    Bookmark   August 1, 2008 at 7:48AM
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Don't feel bad--it sounds like you were indeed adjusting to the transition, whether you realized it or not, and now you've readjusted your sense of yourself, you're ready to clear out. That's great.

I have often had the experience of feeling like I just woke up and noticed stuff I didn't need, and get this energy surge to do something about it (often related to changes in ages of kids, closure of some hobby or even a work interest--this happens in the professional office, too, as you know, that you keep folders and reams of resources until one day, hmmm, don't need that, is outdated anyway, etc.), and for some moments (or longer) wonder why I didn't see that before or take any action before, but I've learned, that's just how it works--enjoy the fact that you're ready now.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2008 at 9:24AM
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I held on to my midlife-return to college wardrobe until it was no use to anyone. Foolish and wasteful.

This happened to me w/ shoes.

I try to remember it when I have stuff I can't quite bring myself to ditch.

We got a new computer at home, and this week i realized that DH put all the old stuff in the basement. If he gives it away NOW, it might still be current enough that someone could use it. If he waits 2 years, it'll be so out of date that NO ONE will be interested in making it work for them; it'll be too hard.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2008 at 9:35AM
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Bspof...I think you knew what you wanted to do, and needed a little reinforcement. And I think it's wonderful that you are going to donate it all. Somewhere out there, there is someone trying to survive the economic downturn by finding another job, and some of your clothes may help change a life.

Likewise, your books.

Good for you.

And as the always wise and on point Talley Sue says, do it now, while it has the most value to other people.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2008 at 9:37AM
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Glad you got the push you needed to just donate those clothes, Barbara. Since when are professional separates not interview wear, anyways? Odd...but I'm sure someone shopping for a bargain at Goodwill will really be thankful to find your wonderful clothing!

    Bookmark   August 1, 2008 at 11:02AM
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Barbara, I am EXACTLY where you are! I've been stressing over the same issues since I (and 5200 of my colleagues) was laid off 4 years ago from a very large NY based bank.

I have two strategies that, while slow moving, are helping me rid my closets of business attire: I used Freecycle to offer the business clothes. This assures that people picking up the items are in need or could use the items. I provide a very detailed post to help weed out responders. DON'T tell my DH!!-but I was particularly comfortable with one responder and let her come into my closet and shop for all that she was interested in. I keep a box in the closet and try to cull out a couple of items each week. Once the box is full I drop it off at Goodwill or like organizations.

Now, the office supplies, business books, and training materials are a bigger challenge...can't explain that.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2008 at 12:01PM
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Ah, the books. Interestingly enough, I have probably acquired more motivation and insight from this website than all the books. Makes me wonder about my reading comprehension.....LOL


    Bookmark   August 1, 2008 at 12:36PM
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Makes me wonder about my reading comprehension.....LOL

It *should* make you wonder about the efficacy of those BOOKS.

I work in publishing, and seriously, most books are blather. ESPECIALLY most management books.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2008 at 1:10PM
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How to get rich in America:
Write a book of recycled half-truths and nonsense about how to get rich in America.
It is blather, and it is producing a bunch of people who don't know how to do anything except have meetings and reinforce their blather.
Like teachers who only study education and not the subject they teach.
Don't get me started...
Oh, too late, I am already started...

    Bookmark   August 1, 2008 at 2:26PM
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I used to make frequent clothing donations to charities that solicited me. Then recently I "really" went through my masterbedroom walk-in closet (because I was getting new carpet I HAD to pull everything out.) I was really proud of the donation I got together. Then the charity that contacted me never came by on their assigned day to pick the stuff up. I was unaware at first, since my driveway is a mile long and it was at the end of the driveway.

Late that night it rained, no, it downpoured. And the next day I drove to the end of my driveway and saw all those boxes and bags just soaked! I also had books and artists sketch pads in there. I contacted the charity and they could not have been more detached from the situation. Stuff happens. We didn't get there. Who knew it was going to rain? From now on it all goes directly into the trash. Easier for me!

    Bookmark   August 1, 2008 at 10:08PM
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I retired from teaching in '04 - after 22 years of teaching kindergarten. I sold alot of stuff in a huge garage sale and my intern that year bought alot to help her get started. The rest filled a large closet -floor to ceiling up till now. I had originally over 100 listening stations with up to 5 books for a story. Got rid of all but 1 book and tape (some even had 45 rpm reocrds).

Anyway I am now going through all my curriculum files that I saved - still saving 1 sheet of each - not that I intend to go back to the classroom but in hopes my futher grandchildren will play school with me.

I still have 6 HUGE 15 gal plastic bins of childrens' books! Plus teaching manuals, manipulatives, etc. I won't get rid of those things but the files, manuals, etc can go. I don't know where yet - I would like to sell them or at least give them to someone.. I just can't bring myself to put them in the trashcan.

I have been working on this closet 2 weeks now - emptyied 2 boxes - that's all!

    Bookmark   August 5, 2008 at 9:01PM
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I highly recommend to find new homes for nearly anything. I have "re-homed" many, many books, furniture, linens, the artificial Christmas tree, toys and more toys, lots of clothes, dishes, pots and pans, closet doors, sports equipment, bins of fabric, old appliances, computer equipment, TVs . I've forgotten all the stuff that I've set free.

Go the website and find your local group. Join and post your offer. You can be selective about who you give things to or not. Some of the same people respond to every offer. People are mostly quite grateful. I've had friends find homes for some really hard to place things: railroad ties, an old organ, unsplit firewood, old mobile home windows. The point began as a way to reuse, repurpose and keep things out of landfills.


    Bookmark   August 5, 2008 at 10:11PM
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As Eileen suggested-Freecycle. One annoying thing is the "no-shows"; it seems to be excessive here. I now manage it by leaving a footnote at the end of the posting that "I will check responders against my NO-SHOW list; anyone on that list will not be considered".

I am really challenged with "breaking career ties" with shoes that were part of my business wardrobe. These are all business shoes and I love every one of them. They are expensive (for me) and beautiful. I know that they are out of style, too high for someone of my age, I don't wear suits and dresses anymore. That rational just leaves me when I try to get rid of them. I even put 5 pair of my favorites in the trunk with the intention of getting rid of the--some how them made it back to my closet.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2008 at 11:04PM
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Hello Imelda!

I firmly believe, as you must as well, that there is no such thing as too many pairs of black shoes. Very tidy display, I'm impressed!

    Bookmark   August 6, 2008 at 1:59AM
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Reminds me of what we found in my MILs house after she died. She had retired about ten years earlier, yet we found about 50 woman's business suits and at least as many pairs of shoes. About half of the suits had rips or stains and had to be thrown out, the rest were outdated, maybe purchased 20-30 years earlier. The shgoes we donated, but who would buy used shoes, even from Goodwill? Sad. She probably had some fantasy about wearing those clothes. She couldn't let go of them.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2008 at 10:25AM
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I used to buy used shoes from thrift shops for work before I could afford I do donate my shoes (as long as they're still in good condition - no scuffs or heel/sole damage).

    Bookmark   August 6, 2008 at 11:34AM
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Mustangs, my long lost Imelda sister/twin!!! I too still have the shoes, though not nearly as tidy as yours. I'm tempted to get up and go count the pairs, but to what purpose. Mnay of them came with me from California 10 years ago! And, I have purged some as I went along. I always loved shoes, had a pair to match the color of every outfit, and sometimes more than one pair. After all, there is more than one shade of blue and pink. Now I wear Finn Comfort sandals in the summer and black Merrill mocs in the winter, and always barefoot in the house.

I have been thinking what I could put that space to use for, so that is a motivator for me, as I really need it.

I never really thought Imelda was a bad person just because she had a lot of shoes. Other reasons, of course, but not the shoes.....


    Bookmark   August 6, 2008 at 12:02PM
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I have bought used shoes from Goodwill for the dress-up box.

But not ones that were particularly worn.

As I mentioned before, the glue in the linings of shoes wears out, which makes the shoes look unappetizing on the Goodwill shelf. So give them away sooner, rather than later.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2008 at 1:22PM
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I have a new one for you: I was a Stenomask court reporter 15 years ago. When I quit doing it to work full time in an office, I kept the equipment (three-track tape recorder, mask, even the cheap blank tapes I used), thinking that if I got desperate for work I could go back to it. Now I don't know what to do with that stuff -- who uses tape recorders anymore? Who wants a used Stenomask? It's probably all digital now. I did throw away the tapes.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2008 at 12:30AM
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Good point about the glue TS. I really need to work in this painful purge.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2008 at 9:46AM
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And, do you still have any of the 'business attire' from your court reporter days, or did that transition into the new career?

The equipment....What to do with it? If it isn't state of the art for today (and I doubt it) I would get it out of my house ASAP and use the space for something else, even if it is blank space.

So, my houseguest still has her college books (she is 67) and her mother's, also! I asked her why she kept them, and she feels they would be useful if someone wanted to learn Swedish, chemistry, english, etc. That's for the mother's books. She doesn't feel the information is outdated at all........yup, a 70 year old chemistry book is my idea of a great way to learn about atoms and molecules......and polymers too.

So, I've been driving around with all these clothes in the back of the van since the Goodwill store moved from downtown to a strip mall that is out of the way. I have a friend that does a lot of closeup photography and lost some of her backgrounds. Shazam, do we cut up this black silk skirt, or donate it and go buy some black silk? No brainer! Oh, look, there is some more in varying colors, double shazam!

Wonderful repurpose!!


    Bookmark   August 7, 2008 at 10:57AM
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I once purged my books, I found my ninth grade math test book. When am I ever going to repeat ninth grade? I graduated high school, thank you, and it's not something I plan to re-visit. So I threw out that book. One book I did keep was m complete works of Shakespeare. Not that I read Shakespeare, but if I hear a line from a play I may look it up. And I loved some of his poetry.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2008 at 11:48AM
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