After much nagging from Mum, I have finally been driven to clear out my bursting wardrobe. I'd never noticed until she pointed it out that I only wear the clothes right at the front. The layers and layers of dresses at the back have not been touched since they were first put there. Now, it was time to sort them out into four categories: "wearable", "not wearable but keepable", "giftable" and "throwable".
I tried to use the Tom Sawyer approach to lure a friend, Jess, into helping me. In Mark Twain's classic, the young Tom is forced by his aunt to paint a fence. Cheerfully telling his friends that he has received the honour of painting a fence and how much fun he is having, he manages to have them pay him in apples, sweets and marbles to have a go at painting a section. After hours of careful planning, I had not anticipated Jess refusing my tempting "Guess what I'm doing this Friday. Clearing out my wardrobe!" proclamation, all wrapped up quite nicely with a meaningful look. Jess, with her inability to discern subtlety from sarcasm, laughed and said: "You have fun with that." I decided to be a bit more straightforward and wondered if she wouldn't like to give me a hand. Apparently, no, she wouldn't, but she'd keep me company and watch. So much for the fence-painting theory.
Once I had pulled everything out and laid it on the carpet (dumped, Jess remarked languidly, sprawled out contentedly on a bean bag), I picked up the shirt nearest to me and scrutinised it warily; it was baby pink and said "Barbie". All the tags were still attached. A face with a bleached blonde poker-straight mane was giving me a dazzling smile. Kicking Jess, who was miserably failing in her weak attempt to contain giggles, I dropped it carefully into the "giftable" pile.
I had gone through - and it takes a great deal of courage for me to admit this - a Barbie phase once in my life. It was when I was four. With a collection of dolls, ranging from a swimsuit-clad Barbie to a singing princess Barbie to bicycling Barbie, my every whim had been looked after by innumerable relatives. If only that held true today. About three-quarters of all the clothes I possessed, dumped there on the carpet, were presents from over-enthusiastic members of the family who like to envisage how adorable I would look in pleated skirts and shirts festooned with bows and ribbons.
Then there are the old school shirts bedecked with friends' signatures and comments of "I'll miss you. Huggies!" In the corner was the yellow dress that Gran had picked up from Egypt, with sparkly camels, pyramids and a Tutankhamen made of sequins adorning it. The kimono from Global Village, which had been such a success at International Day at school, now lay sad and unworn. Jess's idea that all these would make excellent wall decorations seemed like the perfect solution, so I suspended them from hangers on the curtain rods. Not my fault I get a faceful of silky kimono every time I walk past the balcony on a windy day.
Now that my younger cousins have discovered Manchester United, I can save on buying birthday gifts by simply sending them my old Manchester United Soccer Schools kit complete with water bottle, posters and hat. Dumping each of the clothing piles into separate recycled cartons, I had the distinctly uncomfortable feeling that the carton labelled "Giftable" was by far the fullest. That was when Mum decided to present herself, peek into a carton and exclaim: "What's in there?" I can visualise her only too clearly shaking her head and saying: "But you can't give that away, you've never worn this!" Since I was sure that nothing would induce me to wear those clothes, at least not in the near future, I did want to gift them. Inspiration struck. "I'm just doing my bit for the community," I said. "These are for charity."
Lavanya Malhotra is a 14-year-old student in Dubai.