Hoarding Issues

I heard a fascinating podcast which featured Nan Turner’s new book, Clothing Goes to War, discussing the shortage of fabric during the Second World War. Reducing, reusing & recycling was the norm. Fabric was expensive and clothes were usually sewn at home.  Not only was cloth in short supply, but so was rubber and metal which affected elastics, zippers and the always necessary, women’s girdle. We all know about the nylon shortage and the leg make-up, and eyebrow pencil back seams. 

During my childhood, Mom threw nothing out. Everything had a use. Snippets of elastic could hold up worn out knee highs, zippers were torn out of old sweaters and used in new sweaters. The new sweaters, of course, were made from the unraveled old sweater. I still have a clothespin bag made of a corduroy vest my mom wore back in 1950, with an ancient zipper torn out from a skirt.  (It’s no coincidence that the sub-title of Nan Turner’s new books is, “Creativity inspired by Scarcity in World War II.”)  

As that war generation dies, we’re now cleaning up their leftovers. Sometimes their closets, like their stories, are jammed full of stuff we want to ignore or throw out. Some of it truly is tired old junk. 

A friend of mine is currently dealing with her 98 year-old-mother’s hoarding. It can become a disease … a thriftiness that results in isolation and paranoia. But back when she lived in Schlesien or Silesia (now western Poland), during the war … during the formative years of her life … hoarding meant survival.  

Advertisers, in magazines like Life, always mentioned thrift and supporting the war effort. But they also offered hope for the future, when there would be new clothes. 


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