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Yet Another Unsuccessful Spring Cleaning

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at SLU chapter.

TW: Mentions of sexual assault

It’s April, and it’s that spring cleaning time where you open your wardrobe and your past fashion life flashes back at you. Spring cleaning is more emotional labor than physical, especially if you are a shopaholic like me, and even more if you are also a hoarder on top of that, just like me. 

Any piece of clothing I have ever laid my eyes on, I’ve bought and held onto for longer than its life expectancy. That’s only because every piece of clothing I have has memories engraved into its fabric. My perfect black mini dress I’ve scoured the earth for and wear on every first date. The oversized Harley tee I acquired after the said date that is now raggedy after an excessive amount of wears, but I still won’t give up. The hoodie I wipe my tears and sniffly nose on after any minor inconvenience. My lucky pair of Converse that are covered with mysterious gunks from around the world. And the list goes on and on and on. 

Clothes are a living document, keeping record of everyday life. It witnesses our body and its interactions with the world. The moments captured on our clothes—a stain, a rip, sweat, tears, pulled thread—shows how the cloth keeps a record of our emotions and actions. Every time they are worn, a new entry is created, new smells, spots and stains are added. 

Various emotions linger in the fibers of my garments. And when I can’t separate these emotions from the garment, I tuck it away in the back of my closet. And that is no exception for one very specific article of clothing, including the underwear I was wearing the night I was raped. Luckily, the rest of the clothes I was wearing that night got lost in the process of moving, and I never got the chance to hoard them. But, that blue Aerie thong I’d just bought earlier that week hasn’t seen the light of day, well, since that day. I washed it with every load of laundry for the better part of the year, but refused to wear them. Now, two years later, they are sealed in a ziploc bag, sitting in the bottom of my underwear drawer. If I catch a glimpse of them, it serves as a reminder that it’s time to do laundry soon. 

During this year’s spring cleaning process, I kept asking myself, “Why do survivors hold on to the outfits that give human shape to the worst nights of their life?” To be completely honest, I don’t know. I’ve tried to rack my brain, pick at it and ask myself why I kept this piece of clothing that brings me nothing but painful memories. The only explanation I have come up with is how that garment is the only physical, tangible proof that I have as my witness. Even though the spin cycles got rid of the sweat and blood clinging onto my underwear from that night, it still holds the record from that day, even if it was painful and filled with fear. At the time, this piece of clothing was the proof I needed to show that I was actually raped. And so, I never got rid of it as a means of “preserving evidence” or “keeping record.”

When I do finally let go, I want it to be significant and symbolic. Oh so badly I want to take that pair of underwear and let it slowly burn in a bonfire. Let me make s’mores with the flames, as a way of showing I’ve won. But every time I gather the courage to get rid of the underwear, it always retreats back to its designated corner in my drawer. 

We collect pieces of clothing that we love. We hoard pieces we have unfinished business with. That piece of underwear isn’t simply a garment anymore—it is an artifact. And maybe, even a symbol of survival. So here’s to yet another unsuccessful spring cleaning. Maybe next April will come with the push and courage that I’ve been looking for to get rid of my dirty laundry. But, spring has still sprung, the flowers are blooming, the sun is out and I’ll enjoy that for the time being. 

Hey my name is Urvi and I am a junior at Saint Louis University!