11/02/2012 08:01 EDT | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST

Confessions Of A Fashion Hoarder

In this March 31, 2012 photo, Sharon Brooks poses for photographs in front of a closet with clothes meant for a child she was planning to adopt in New York. Brooks, 56, waited three and a half years for the release of a little girl in Vietnam after the U.S. froze adoptions there in 2008 amid serious fraud concerns. Finally, in January, Brooks learned the child she had named Akira-Li would instead be adopted by a Vietnamese family. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

I can't claim to know the pasts of my fashion inclined friends, but I imagine their parents reminisce upon it fondly as a time of excessive dress-up and questionable ensembles; at least that's how mine tell it.

Apparently I changed dresses three times in one night, and after that inaugural dinner it became a trend. When you're a four-year-old it's adorable, and from what I understand little girl dresses -- save Baby Dior and co. -- are fairly affordable. Today at a fresh 23-years-old, I can't help but wonder what that time in my life, and during such a key developmental phase (I hear), has contributed to the predicament I find myself in.

I am a fashion hoarder.

Of course I don't think an imaginative childhood has led me here, I'm just being artistic, or hilarious, or whatever you found that first paragraph to be. In fact the day this problem started was when I discovered the personal style blog, Sea of Shoes. The blogger, Jane Aldridge, is just a regular teen, at a regular school, with regular problems -- only she has a wall of shoes! And that was the day something inside me went off. I devoured her blog, then a few more, and then I made my own blog, and an eBay account. My web-bender taught me something I still cite to this day when met with scoffs: fashion is art, people collect art, and that includes fashion, now let's buy some art.


Like any addict I started small, working my way up from shoes to sequins to vintage novelty anything. Then it began as a means to keep up with the competition: if a blogger was talking about it, I wanted it, or if I thought it would be an upcoming trend, I had to have it. It was at a point where I felt this compulsive need to constantly be checking what was new, and "in," and on the backs of my fashion icons.

The bright side to my downward spiral into consumerism is that it introduced me to a side of fashion that went beyond designers and models, which I felt might hold a future career for me. Unfortunately it also meant entrenching myself in an environment with other shoppers (or collectors) just like me.

At my school for fashion merchandising and marketing I found my group of enablers. We all shop too much, own too much, consume too much; everything is too much. But it was almost impossible not to feel the urge to keep up when we were constantly talking about trends or seeing them on the cooler students who were only cool because of their early sporting of the aforementioned trends. The building was one big support rally for those six printed leotards you just had to have...because they are art and you are a collector.

Now my closets are overflowing, but I have nothing to wear and that's not because I don't have anything to wear, it's because I can't find anything in this pile of fashion crap. Since I joined the cult in 2009, there have been very few cast-offs, which includes entries from before I got serious about my style.

At first I didn't want to get rid of anything even if it was old, outdated, and not being worn because what if it came back in style? Won't I be red in the face when jersey American Apparel pocket skirts make their return and I've discarded mine? Well, it kept my clothes safe for this long, and now the sheer years have created a new problem in being unable to part with all of them: memories.

When I recall an event in my past I always do so first by what I was wearing. I know it's completely egotistical, but so is fashion so no surprise there. When I kept a diary it was as a back-up to remember certain events I was afraid to forget, good or bad. I don't keep a diary anymore, but these pieces of clothing serve as my back-up. Days when I attempt to clear out my closets I get lost in my memories as I uncover dresses I had forgotten about. I've actually made it so far as to fill two bags of clothes, but as they sat near my front door I kept going back and saving them: the sweater I got in London, the shirt I wore at my first cast party.

The decision to de-clutter my apartment was an obvious one. I wanted to get over this frivolous shopping obsession, clear out my space as a fresh start, and finally organize my place the way it should be. I figured I would be grappling with issues of vanity, want, greed, and those were there, but I have been completely surprised by this emotional factor that is keeping my home packed.

I know logically that a memory will not automatically disappear because the outfit worn during is gone, but it's what I fear. When a dress in my closet triggers a buried memory, what will happen when the trigger is gone? Will the memory still come to from time to time as they randomly do, or will that be the last of it just like the dress? Either way I'll be starting a journal (grown-up diary) and hopefully my closets will breathe a bit easier soon.