I live in a small house built in 1941 — just 1,362 square feet, which suits me just fine.

One problem: Only about 12 square feet of my house is closet space.

People living in Fayetteville in 1941 must not have had many clothes. They also must have been quite skinny, because all my closet doors are so narrow that you have to turn sideways to get into them. I'm about two Bojangles biscuits away from not being able to reach my sweaters.

When I was house shopping about 10 years ago, one of the things that appealed to me about this particular home was that at some point in history, a forward-thinking (or clothing-obsessed) owner busted out a wall between the tiny master closet and the tinier hall closet, making it one long, narrow space. Luckily, I have long arms.

Still, over the years my closet has filled up. See, I'm the type of person who doesn't often get rid of things that 1) I no longer need, 2) I no longer fit into, or 3) some day I may have use for. I'm an optimist, and despite my love for Bojangles, I have always believed that one day I will be able to fit back into all my favorite shirts hanging in the darkest, farthest reaches of my little closet. Like a fashion archive of my 20s and 30s, there they've hung for years, untouched, except for when I have to push them all back to make room for something new.

Earlier this fall, my friend Jennifer asked me to participate in a yard sale she was planning at her place. I must not have been fully paying attention to the conversation, because apparently I agreed. It was a good thing, though. Now in the early throes of middle age, I think more rationally about the prospects of ever wearing those medium-size shirts again, or putting on a pair of 32-waist pants. Plus, I'll admit it — I didn't always hit home runs with my fashion choices in my youth.

I went through my closet and pulled out hangers by the handful. I also tore through storage bins, kitchen cabinets and the garage. It actually felt good to purge, and by the big day last Saturday, I was fully committed to getting rid of as much as possible.

I hauled over my car full of stuff to the home on Devane Street, where Jen and her boyfriend, Jim, had already staged an impressive display in their driveway. Each of Jen's items had price stickers, including a clothes rack where all her lovely things had little tags with descriptions. I took one side of the driveway and dumped out my stuff on an old sheet.

It wasn't long before shoppers were digging through my collection of medium shirts and size 32 pants. Even some old shoes. “Twenty-five cents each,″ I would tell them with a bit of pride between sips of my coffee, as if to convey just how great a deal that really was. 

“You like those lovely mercury glass votives? How about 50 cents for all of them!″

“That fondue set is All-Clad, you know. Never been used. Just five bucks!″

Jen was appalled. Her concept of yard-sale pricing was very different than mine, and she could not believe that I was selling nice things for change. She interrupted me when the words “10 cents” came out of my mouth, politely telling the nice lady that we weren't doing dimes at this sale.

As the morning wore on, and inventory noticeably thinned to things like copy paper, an air filter and a furry Easter basket purse (Jen's), the contents on the “free″ table increased in number. Maybe it was the mimosas that we had traded for our coffee mugs doing the talking, but dimes were no longer taboo. When a Porsche drove up, I whispered to Jim that our prices were suddenly going up; Jim thought it would be funny to repeat the joke to the man, who didn't seem to find it amusing. He left empty-handed.

Eventually, the air filter, a few of my unwanted shirts and other knickknacks went into the trash bin. I went home with enough cash to get my hair cut that afternoon, while Jen pocketed an impressive $160 or so.

Most important, I can now see the back of my closet, which — come to think of it — isn't really that small after all.

Time to go shopping.

 

Executive editor Matt Leclercq can be reached at mleclercq@fayobserver.com or 910-486-3551.