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Column: A solution to the ‘Black Friday’ blues

  • Becky Sabky. Copyright (c) Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Shoppers walk past a Black Friday advertisement at Cherry Hill Mall in Cherry Hill, N.J., on Friday, Nov. 23, 2018. (Tim Tai/Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS)

For the Valley News
Published: 11/28/2019 10:10:20 PM
Modified: 11/28/2019 10:10:13 PM

I’ve never liked Black Friday. Growing up a few short miles from a major New Jersey mall, my long Thanksgiving weekend would revolve around shopping. My aunts would want to rise early on Friday, looking for the best deals on electronics. My friends would meet for lunch in the food court, comparing their new designer jeans. And my father would plan his weekend errands around how much traffic there would be near the mall exit.

I’m not, and never was, much of a shopper. I’ve always preferred one-stop holiday shopping at a brick-and-mortar store on any day of the year other than Black Friday. (My father insists Christmas Eve morning is the most tranquil time to shop.) So, when I became the mother of an infant three years ago, I was even less eager to compete with the crowds on Black Friday. I was exhausted and uninterested in elbowing my way through the masses to save a buck.

On that Black Friday, I had another idea in mind. Instead of filling my closet, I decided to make room in it. Three months postpartum, I was slowly shedding my maternity clothes. I was desperate to think about something other than diapers. And I had plenty of family babysitters interested in holding my son. I handed over my baby, excused myself from watching football, and headed upstairs to my bedroom closet. The purge was about to begin.

My wardrobe isn’t anything special. But over the years I’ve accumulated a lot of clothes. I have too many pajama bottoms and not enough matching pajama tops. (I’m never sure how this happens.) I have work clothes although I no longer work in a professional office, vacation clothes for vacations I’ll never take and cocktail wear for events I’ll never attend. I once bought an upscale satin green holiday dress, even though I’m only ever invited to ugly Christmas sweater parties. Simply put, I have too many T-shirts for one body.

I spent a few hours that morning sorting through my shelves, racks and piles. (Yes, I shamefully have a pile of clean clothing in the corner of my bedroom.) I’m not Marie Kondo, the organization expert, but I know what I like, what I don’t like and what doesn’t fit. I tried clothing on. I inspected for stains and rips. I figured out which clothes had never been worn. And at the end of the morning as I peered at a sizeable pile of personally unnecessary clothing, I felt invigorated.

While some folks sell their items online or host a clothing swap with friends, I had little interest. I donated most of the clothes to an Upper Valley charity. It felt great to know that the cranberry colored turtleneck would likely have second life. It was wonderful to imagine someone else enjoying my now-too-small purple raincoat. And it was freeing to rid my closet of clothes that caused me financial guilt, returning anything unworn that still had a tag.

I have continued this tradition — what I call “Donate Friday” — for the last few years. Last year, I poured myself a mimosa, turned up Bruno Mars and filled an entire bag with baby clothes. My second child was born that July and by Thanksgiving I had plenty of infant clothes in decent condition to donate. I piled up never-used clothing that others could treasure, like the palm-tree printed swimsuit cover up for a Charleston, S.C., trip I never took. I inspired my husband, whose pile of corduroys was becoming monstrous, to join in the fun.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I love that there’s no pressure to swap gifts. I cherish that sitting around, eating pie and being with family is the day’s priority. But Donate Friday has become a new and treasured personal holiday. In some ways, it’s the autumnal version of spring cleaning. It’s a chance to do inventory. Last year, I found the elusive gray sock with the polka dots stuck in the arm of a ski sweater. It’s a chance to be economical. I don’t need to buy a new winter vest if I have one. But most important, it’s the opportunity to give to the community. I highly encourage friends and family to consider Donate Friday as part of their Thanksgiving tradition.

I’ll still squeeze in my holiday shopping. This year, I plan on doing most of it locally on Small Business Saturday. But as I’ve learned, sometimes the best place to start shopping is my own closet. I might not save a buck on a Black Friday deal, but I will save money by using what I have and returning what I don’t need. My rush might not come from scoring a cheap television, but instead from donating an amazing green satin dress to someone who will rock it. My holiday happiness might not be defined by what’s coming under the tree, but what’s already in the closet.

Becky Sabky lives in Noriwch.

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