• Better Hangers For Fewer Clothes

    The cover for this month's O Magazine features Oprah posing with a few of her formerly favorite things. It's Oprah's annual guide for De-cluttering Your Life - 2014. Oprah shares with us her own personal purge of items that she selected for a charity auction to benefit her educational initiatives in Africa. To give you a sense of the exclusivity in both the inventory and the auction attendees, the event was held at the Santa Barbara Polo and Raquet Club.

    With Oprah, a broader message is translated directly through her own personal process, whether it's her struggle with weight or her enthusiasm for an underappreciated book. So accompanying the photo spread of exotic rugs, framed art, and electric scooters that can't climb the steep hills of Hawaii is an article about becoming more conscious, and more generous, about your own possessions.

    Oprah represents the American mainstream as purely as anyone in this century, so her message doesn't stray too far from the consumer imperative. Before the Declutter section on Page 107 is O's Spring Fashion Look Book and the O List, featuring new discoveries in the material world. Better replacements, perhaps, for whatever you are pained to part with.

    Yet the primary purpose of the issue is to encourage your own purge, even if none of the excess is suitable for auction. To that end, one article in O cites the statistic that we wear 20% of our clothes 80% of the time. Oprah's resource for this challenge is Project 333, which contends that even someone fascinated by clothes and committed to style can get by quite nicely on 33 items of apparel. 

    While Project 333 is geared toward women and their clothes, it's reasonable that numerical limits could be applied to every household category: from books to kitchen utensils. It's likely that for most middle-class individuals, a conscious process accounting for what is actually being used or what has outlived its usefulness would produce boxes of worthy items for Goodwill.

    But returning to clothes for a moment, one area where there's almost always a generous surplus is hangers. It's there that we can use an increase in material consciousness to address a noticeable decline in material quality. Wire hangers, especially those that are currently provided with dry-cleaning orders, are much thinner gauge than those produced commercially a half century ago. Cardboard inserts are often used now to convert a flimsy wire hanger to a suitcoat or a pants hanger.

    Wooden hangers, like yardsticks and calendars, were once commonly provided by local businesses for their steady customers or, like imprinted hotel towels, made available with every expectation that some would get pilfered. I have a number of these old wooden hangers for my heavy winterwear. In most every case, the quality of the hanger has outlived the business it advertised.

    So for my own annual purge in this department, I would ideally pass along every hanger with cardboard or made with wire thin enough to wrap around my hand. I would include in this release an assortment the wooden hangers I purchased on sale last year at Menards. Already on one, the wooden dowel rod designed to hold the pants has wriggled free.

    I would keep the small collection of sturdy wire hangers I received from my departed elderly neighbor as well as the half dozen wooden hangers that probably pre-date the founding of Menards. I figure if I settle on ,say, 33 hangers total, it will provide a good second check against creeping acquisition.

    I already have the only yardstick I'll ever need. The wood is 1/4" thick. The business advertised is Bloomfield Hardware, back when their phone number was two digits.