Whether you like it or not — OK, nobody likes it — it's time to do a little spring cleaning.
Let's start with the closet. There are things in there we haven't worn for ages. Or only wear when we're working in the yard or washing the car. Or shouldn't wear in public, ever.
Why can't we bring ourselves to get rid of this stuff? "For the vast majority of people who can't throw something away, it's that these things have some sort of special meaning," says psychology professor Stephen Franzoi of Milwaukee's Marquette University.
That's how Myra Antman thinks of her "beloved olive green down coat that will probably go with me to the grave." Although her sister and daughter implore her to throw it out, she won't. "It's just become a security issue for me," says the grandmother of six. "I can't walk around sucking my thumb any more so it's the next best thing."
Franzoi himself has a pair of patched jeans from college that he doesn't wear anymore but won't toss out because of "sentimental value."
"They reflect a time in my life that I look back on with nostalgia," he says.
On the other hand, Franzoi points out, "When you get into the realm of 'can't throw away a sock with holes in it,'" you might have some psychological issues you need to address.
What Franzoi didn't take into account are several other contributing factors revealed in interviews with the owners of the items show on this page, who did not wish to be identified for fear of appearing lazy, clueless or both.
TATTERED TALES(Click on the titles to see the clothes)
SOME PANTS: Bruce, who wore these to his office one recent day, had fair warning that his bases weren't covered. "My wife kind of told me about it and I just blew it off." Why didn't he throw them out then? "They're comfortable. They fit. Just being lazy." Was he embarrassed when he realized he'd been walking around with a hole in the seat of his pants all day? "I hate to shop, am busy and did not think they looked horrible." In other words: No. Not really.
A SHIRT: "I have actually hidden this shirt in one of my dresser drawers to keep my husband from throwing it out," confesses Jacquetta. It features the vampire Barnabas Collins from the "Dark Shadows" television soap opera (1966-71). She says the shirt — now in tatters — represents "a little bit of my childhood. You came home from school and you watched it. It was a big deal when I was a kid.
"I don't normally keep things like this, I'm not like a hoarder, but it had sentimental value to me," even though she acquired it as an adult in the '80s, long after the show was cancelled.
Similarly, since her mom passed away almost 20 years ago, Jacquetta, 49, always carries one of her mother's handkerchiefs in her purse. "I just want her with me every day."
A SWEATER: "It's just a nice sweater," says Dave, who wears this raggedy thing for all to see. There's more where this comes from: "A gray sweater with many holes in the sleeves, four or five French blue oxford cloth shirts with multiple holes in the collar, exceedingly old and thin. They're very comfortable," he says.
"It must be a combination of sentimental attachment and just stinginess probably. If I throw them out I'll have to acknowledge that I need to buy new ones." As for the shame factor? There is none: "I have delusions about what I look like."
A HAT: "It got so gross and disgusting and gnarly. It would leave a red strip across my forehead. It looked like I had electroshock therapy. I would get weird patches of sunburn on my head."
Then, and only then, did Chris, a Boston Red Sox fan, start wearing a new (identical) replacement he acquired at the very same souvenir shop on Lansdowne Street across from Fenway Park where he bought the old one and many, many predecessors. His family has had season Red Sox tickets since before he was born. (He's 39.)
Not surprisingly, "I really don't like wearing this new one." The old one fit his head perfectly. The replacement "makes my head appear bigger."
This relic was purchased early in the 2004 season — before the Red Sox won the World Series pennant ending the long drought since their 1918 victory. It is now retired to a peg in the front of his closet. "I'd be sad if I lost it — or it completely fell apart."
A JACKET: Ted bought this jacket in December, 1952, just after he was discharged from the Army. He wore it to Washington Square College (he bought it in New York City) and Hofstra and on to medical school at the University of Rochester and in Thailand where he lived for several years. It kept him "pleasantly warm" while ice skating and fishing, both deep sea and in rivers in the Cascade Mountains.
He probably wore it when he brought his daughter, Becky home from the hospital 47 years ago. "Mostly likely," he said, "She was born in January."
You can still read the label: "Tailored by McGregor 100% DuPont Nylon." Ted, 81, often still wears the coat while walking in cool weather "and it looks pretty nice."
About six years ago he got a new winter coat for Christmas. But the green one is still what he reaches for when shoveling snow or heading for the mailbox. "It's very much an emotional attachment," he says. "Certainly its destiny is to remain near me …It's always there. Always faithful."