Answer Angel

The urge to purge: When to toss makeup, clothes

From old makeup to new pantyhose, when to throw out, donate and re-use.

 

  (Illustration for the Tribune by Elaine Melko / February 10, 2011)

You want to throw out your stuff, find more stuff, recycle your stuff. Amid all these contradictory impulses, it's Answer Angel to the rescue.

Dear Answer Angel: I have a closet full of clothes in a number of sizes: thinner, heavier, out of style, you name it. When is it smart to hang onto things and when should I just pack them up and send them to charity?

—Cluttered and Confused

Dear C & C: Until recently, I followed the conventional wisdom: "If you haven't worn it in a year, get rid of it." Then, after a huge purge, I had a couple of major regrets. (Still wish I had those Frye boots!) So now I create two donation piles whenever I'm in a closet cleanout frenzy. One is "give away now" items I'm absolutely positive I won't wear again. The second is "let me think about it." I hold on to those clothes for three to six months before I donate, just to be sure. As for those too-tight clothes that haven't fit for years? Give them away. If you do lose weight, you'll be so happy you'll want to build a new wardrobe for the remodeled you.

Dear Answer Angel: Because I don't wear makeup very often, I have lots of barely touched cosmetics. How long is it safe to use cosmetics?

—Danielle

Dear Danielle: Pitch the mascara after three or four months. The tube can harbor bacteria, and you don't want to mess with that around your eyes. If you sharpen eye pencils each time before applying, you can use them worry-free for years. And, despite what you might have read elsewhere, I say use the other makeup as long as you want, but toss it if it's smelly, runny, gunky or discolored. It will all last longer if you keep it in a cool, dry place. And, while you're at it, wash those cosmetics brushes in dishwashing liquid or Woolite every few months to get the best makeup application from them.

Dear Answer Angel: What is the best way to get rid of sweater pills, those little balls that appear wherever there is friction, such as under the arms, at the waistband? I've heard that battery-operated sweater shavers weaken the fibers, but sweater "combs" don't seem to do much. Any recommendations for a good solution? The pilling seems to happen on my nicer sweaters as often as it does on my cute-but-cheap sweaters from Target.

—Laura A.

Dear Laura: I've never found a sweater shaver that did the job, but I've had fine results using a real shaver — a disposable safety razor — to get rid of the fuzz balls. Really sticky, wide mailing tape wrapped around your hand can work; ditto a high-quality lint roller. If all that fails, try the hook side of Velcro, but test a tiny spot first to make sure that it doesn't chew up your sweater.

Dear Answer Angel: Where do I go to find a good selection (classy clothing included please) for pants in tall sizes? I have been stuck wearing pants that look ridiculous even when I let the seam out. Are there any real stores out there for me since I much prefer that to shopping online?

—Lucy G.

Dear Lucy: I took your question to my friend Kristin, who is 6' 3" and shares your frustration. She tells me that she has great luck at Banana Republic stores, where the pants are often even too long for her long legs. Her other suggestions are going to have you sitting in front of your computer, but perhaps these are some options you haven't considered.

Kristin recommends longtallsally.com for its wide selection of tall fashions. She joined this social network that has lots of resources: thetallstreetjournal.com. Try tallwomen.org/clothes/usa for places to shop. Used tall women clothing is sold here: noheelsrequired.com. And, check into tallclothingmall.blogspot.com for more wardrobe help.

Dear Answer Angel: I've started wearing pants almost all the time so I don't need the dozen extra pairs of pantyhose (unopened) I have that are just sitting at the back of my closet. Before I give them to a charity, is there any other use for them I'm overlooking?

—Stocking'd Up

Dear Stocking'd: They're still in the packaging? Give them away for someone else to wear. As for old, holey ones, I can't possibly list all the uses for your pantyhose. There are dozens! Here's a few: rub white deodorant streaks off clothing; tie up tomato and other plants; stretch over broken compact powder, blush and eye shadow to keep chunks in but powder comes through mesh; buff shined shoes and put over the nozzle of a vacuum while searching for a small lost item on the floor.

Dear Answer Angel: Please help me. I am looking for pants for my 92-year-old mother that have elastic waists. Where can I find them?

—Carol B.

Dear Carol: I'll swallow my usual strong objections about elastic waist pants (unflattering, unfashionable). I know that for the elderly they can be a godsend. And, let me add that at 92, your mom has earned the right to wear any darn thing she wants! Fortunately, there's lots of places to buy pull-on pants in pretty fabrics. Look for them at Sears, sears.com and Target, target.com (Cherokee brand for under $20). Vermont Country Store has many versions, vermontcountrystore.com; also countrystorecatalog.com, appleseeds.com and orvis.com.

answerangel@tribune.com

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