Attacking Clothing Clutter

It’s time.

Time to reclaim the master bedroom.

The biggest challenge? Clothing clutter.

Last week, it looked like this:

OK, let me explain part of my slob-problem here. You look at this picture and see chaos. I look at this picture and see a logical explanation.

  • Where we live, summers are hot.
  • When we packed to go to Colorado in July, fall/winter clothes had to be pulled out of storage.
  • It only made sense to leave them out until I was done packing.
  • It only made sense to leave them out until we got back from vacation.
  • It only made sense to leave them out until all the clothes were washed from the vacation.
  • It only made sense, once everything was washed, to leave them out until it was time to go through them to see which school uniform pieces still fit the boys.

But then, once all of the reasons that only made sense were over, so much time had passed that the mess had become part of my “normal” bedroom landscape, causing my Selective Vision to kick in, and rendering the mess invisible to me.

Ahhh, slob-logic’s fatal flaw.

Anyway, after stubbing my toes for weeks on end . . . I finally saw the mess and decided to conquer this problem.

It wasn’t just an overabundance-of-clothing-problem, it was a clutter problem. I have finally accepted that clothing can be clutter. Even cute clothing. Even perfectly good clothing. Anything that I have so much of that it overwhelms me . . . is clutter.

And yet somehow, I keep collecting more. Because there is so much, I can’t possibly know or remember what all is there. And when I don’t remember what is there, I keep collecting more out of a fear that I don’t have enough.

Somehow, that makes sense to me.

Anyway, at the beginning of the summer, I conducted an experiment. I packed away all but 8 outfits for each of my children. My goal was to see if we could survive, but I also wanted to change my own mindset.

To a great degree, the experiment worked. My kids learned that they can’t haphazardly change outfits three times a day, and that if you mindlessly put clean clothes in the laundry hamper (something I’m sure normal people’s children never do), you aren’t going to have anything to wear by the end of the week. I loved that limiting the amount of clothes naturally limited the amount of laundry there was to do on Laundry Day. And knowing that every piece of clothing was “needed” was great motivation for getting it all clean.

In a continuation of the experiment, and as a test of my new mindset, I decided to try to purge unneeded winter clothes before packing them all away. I knew that we had too many, but I’m not good at keeping a realistic list in my head of what we truly do have.

I pulled EVERY SINGLE ITEM out of the storage containers, and stacked them by category. I tried to divide them into as many categories as possible. For each child, I made piles of casual pants, dressy pants, casual shirts, dressy shirts, pajamas, jackets, etc. Then, I counted each pile and wrote down the numbers of items.

Now, before you start to think that I did this because I’m organized, remember that I’m a slob. I’m just compensating for how my slob-brain works. An organized person would be able to have a rough but realistic figure in her head, and know that she doesn’t need to buy 5 more long sleeve t-shirts . . . . because she already has 12 in that size at home.

Me? I’d buy the five, and keep looking for seven more.

I have to spell it out, see the numbers on paper. Y’know, so I can see that . . . hypothetically . . . my 4yo daughter has four winter coats.

OK OK! So it’s not hypothetical! She really does own four winter coats . . . and we have maybe 12 winter-coat-worthy-days per year where we live!

With most other things, I found that we weren’t quite as off track. My 8 year old did have 9 pairs of casual pants, even though he wears a uniform to school and so only has Spirit-Day-Fridays and then the weekends to even wear them. I don’t want to get rid of all-but-three since I’d like to have a few to pass down to his brother, but knowing how many we had gave me the freedom to get rid of the ones that fit strangely or are looking worn.

My perception of the volume of my clutter is rarely realistic. Either I don’t realize how much I have, and I end up adding to it, or I don’t have as much as I think I do, and end up not having what we need because I’ve been paralyzed by the fear of adding any more to it.

I just can’t win.

Laying it all out in stacks, getting out a pencil and paper, being methodical rather than emotional . . . gives me freedom. Freedom to let go of things because I don’t have to fear that we won’t have enough. It also gives me freedom to know what we do need, and to buy it without guilt.

Make sense?

There’s no guilt in getting rid of something, even something cute and totally usable and that children in Africa would be grateful to have . . . when you know, for a fact and on paper, that your family has what they need.

In the end, I was able to put the things I decided to keep back into two tubs and the large suitcase. Before I started, the suitcase, both tubs and a laundry basket were overflowing onto the floor.

And then, when I was purging my crazy-side-of-the-bed-clutter-area a few days later, my daughter found this empty under-bed-storage-box that was perfect for my own winter pjs, which had been in the blue tub above.

So now, I have ONE tub and the suitcase to store.

And . . . I have peace of mind because I know . . . for a fact . . . that none of my children will have to run around naked for the winter.

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I’m linking this up at Works for Me Wednesday over at We are That Family.

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Some of my bloggy friends and I are all talking about different aspects of clothing management today. Go check them out!

Amy at Raising Arrows is talking about storing hand-me-downs, specifically for a large family.

Tara at Feels Like Home is making a quilt out of her daughter’s baby clothes, a great way to make something beautiful out of those things you can’t let go of.

Cheryl at Adventures of a Somewhat Crunchy Mama is talking about about organizing clothes before storage.

Lauren at Mama’s Laundry Talk is sharing tips on storing children’s outgrown clothes to be used for future babies.

Angie at Many Little Blessings is sharing advice on cleaning out your own closet.

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Comments

  1. Amy @ Raising Arrows says:

    You are so funny! I get such a kick out of reading your posts! I really should be doing this to our clothing stash. (and the coats…you just HAD to bring up the coats! lol)

  2. Okay, you've motivated me. I pretty much could've written this post. I've got a laundry basket and 2 bags full of stuff for my littlest that've been sitting on my bedroom floor for several weeks. I'm loving the clothes organizing/storing posts! :-)

    http://homewithpurpose.blogspot.com/2010/09/zone-cleaning-concept-for-kids-rooms.html

  3. It Feels Like Chaos says:

    I can totally relate to all of this! And I was nodding my head at all your explanations for the mess because I could understand your thinking and imagine myself doing something similar. And I have been trying to limit my children's clothing lately; it is such a great feeling to put away clothes in drawers that are not stuffed full or closets crammed to capacity!

  4. Caroline Mukisa says:

    Great Post! This has encouraged me to tackle my 11 yr old daughter's closet. I have the opposite problem; she seems to have lots of clothes but wears the same 4 outfits! She's very fussy about comfort, so it's time to give away or throw out those clothes she no longer wears. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Marcie Lovett says:

    Congratulations, Nony! You have proved what I tell my clients, although they rarely believe me: Most people have too much clothing and they usually end up wearing the same few things anyway. You know when you have just enough when your drawers/closet aren't overflowing and you're not constantly doing laundry. I look forward to reading more about your quest.

  6. Mama Laundry says:

    I love that you conducted a *purposeful* experiment in paring down to 8 outfits. Mine was not so…intentional.

    I just found a whole basketful of little girl dresses that I had put away to iron. I think. I'm not really sure what I was thinking at the time, since I apparently put them away right when I first got pregnant.

    I found them last week, and we obviously don't need any of them since they weren't worn ALL SUMMER! *sigh* I must find them a good home, it seems since we seem to have too many…

    -Lauren

  7. Angie @ Many Little Blessings says:

    Great job with your organizing! I know how it is to just leave some clothes sitting out and never get around to putting them away. You know, because, of course I have a friend who does it. (Yeah, a friend. LOL)

  8. Elizabeth says:

    I've read through all the other 'choices' if you will on how to go through seasonal clothes and yours is the only one that sounds doable for me. The others make sense, but I won't do them. lol Thank you SO much for sharing your process. As a fellow slob, I am learning a lot and getting tons of motivation. I even started my own blog!

  9. Okay, so this post was truly written from my mind. We have five children, one girl and four boys. Our girl is the oldest leaving all the boys to have “hand-me-downs-I-can’t-get-rid-of-them-because-it-would-be-wasteful-and-it’s-my-job-to-save-money-but-how-many-do-we-really-need” thinking. We home school our children so there aren’t uniforms and their home all day leaving me clueless on how to have an always clean home.. clueless! I need to go through my tubs and tubs of boy clothing and must come with a number per item to keep.. BUT HOW?!?

  10. Sadly my bedroom looks like that….lord help me….I have to get it cleaned out this weekend….and I am not looking forward to it.

  11. We could be sisters. ’nuff said.

  12. I so need this but I feel VERY overwhelmed. I wish I could say that my child only had 10 pairs of pants…..but the truth is my 2 year old had about 75 the last time I counted. And she had 3 more siblings. I tend to be a hoarded in teh clothing area. I don’t buy most of this stuff. We happen to have a lot of generous friends that pass a lot of things along…..they just don’t know I already have more than enough…….they offer…….I take…..so yeah – my 3 girls ages 6 and under have a couple hundred dresses. I’m the same way with my clothes. I had about 80 pairs of pants and shorts at last count and well over 100 shirts and sweaters…..

  13. Chele D says:

    It feels good to know that my room isn’t alone in its clothing clutter. I have to exercise machines that you can’t even see underneath the piles of clothes and baskets/buckets. And that is not an exaggeration in the slightest. I call it Mt. Clothesmore.

  14. Chele D says:

    OMG that should be TWO machines! I hate those grammatical errors! LOL

  15. Oh my… I do identify!! This puts in to words what I do all the time, but never sat down to try to explain to others!! THANK YOU for posting this! Good to know I’m not alone… and also good to have some ideas for how to control it! :)

  16. Once again I feel like you are living in my head (and my house)! Thank you for baring you slobiness to give hope to us all!

  17. Margaret B. Higgins says:

    I am actually making headway since I started reading your blog- so thank you! We are lucky enough to receive hand-me-downs from my best friend (two girls) and my cousin (four girls). They both have great taste, but are clothes horses, so we are positively drowning in outfits!

    I now only save two space bags per size, per season. So really, four jumbo space bags per size. I find that these take up much less space than bins, and keep the clothes fresher. That is important since my second daughter will be almost four years younger than her big sis! Anything that doesn’t make it into the bags goes to charity. I’d love to sell some of them, but I know they would just end up in a pile in my basement and cause even more clutter. Your blog helps me to be honest with myself about such things.

    Special heirloom dresses, from Easter/Christmas / Birthdays, go into another space bag. I am hoping to eventually divide these evenly between the two girls and have the dry cleaners preserve a bridal sized box for each of them. My dream is to give them their box when they start their families. Of course, If I do follow through with this crazy-long-range plan, I am ensuring that I will only have grandsons, lol! But it is a nice dream, and a good motivator for me!

  18. Okay Nony, I’m a new reader doing that whole start at the beginning and work your way forward reading and I’m still digesting the fact that I myself am a slob and not just living with clutter because I don’t have maid service. I’m obviously delusional. My master bedroom is no better than yours and for years now I’ve felt the only answer to that problem would be to go on that TLC show- What Not To Wear where they pitch all your stuff and then help you buy things that just look good on you right now in the exact size you wear today and that is all you end up with in your closet. Yep, delusional.
    But, the kids clothes thing- I got questions on that one sister friend- why the tubs? I know you live in the same area I do where they can need a T-shirt in January one day and fleece pants that it’s okay to play in the muddy ice we call snow the next. I guess because it never occurred to me to do it your way I’ve never packed up my kid’s clothes. I do take the shorts and swim suits out of the dresser around the end of October and put them up on a shelf in the closet, then I take the long sleeve shirts out of the drawers and hang them up behind all the “good” clothes in the closet around April at which time the shorts and swim suits move back into the dresser. But, I never do a full change of season thing and pack things away out of sight because we don’t have real seasons here except that it’s summer from the first of May until the End of October. I want it all out in plain sight where I can see what we have at all times. This works for me and so I just thought I’d share and see if maybe it would help you to try a different method to help with the clothing storage situation.

  19. I just want to say that I just found your blog today and you are so awesome! Its like I’ve found someone just like me! I’ve had a hard time actually being able to keep a clean house since I moved out on my own like 4 years ago. Sometimes I do great and then other times I’m just too attached to my computer or tv. I’ve moved 4 times in the past year and always just kept things boxed up until I absolutely had to have it. Reading your posts make me feel like I’m actually making progress now, and that’s a good thing even if it has been slow. Since I found pintrest and your blog, I’m completely inspired to make my house a home I can be proud of and finding new tips helps out a lot! Even though I had purged a ton of clothes (6 of those big tubs) when my family moved into our final (hopefully) home, I still had a lot of clothes that I held onto hoping I could fit them again one day. I also had a lot of clothes that my son has outgrown (he’s a slow growing baby and then whoops! growth spurt!) that I just didn’t want to get rid of. Seeing your transformation and the fact that you are airing your dirty laundry (figuratively and literally) gives me hope that I can do it too!! Keep on unslobbing and I’ll be sure to keep following your blog!

  20. I wondered if 8 items of clothing for children 2 years and younger is a too few. What would you recommend?

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