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Closet Cleaning with Lois!

You know how people who don’t cook love to watch The Food Network? That’s how I am about organizing. I’m a Peter Walsh groupie, I’ve watched every episode of Clean Sweep and am now hooked on the OWN Network’s Enough Already. Yet my clothes closets look like something out of Hoarders. Okay, that is thankfully an exaggeration – they’re not dirty, just very, very full.

Because I am such a good packer (as my moving men told me when we made the cross-country trek 13 years ago), I have packed so much stuff into those closets that there is not one wasted inch of space. But try to find something or pull something out, and the house of cards comes crashing down – along with sweaters, t-shirts, jeans, handbags …

So when I got a press release about a book called Throw Out Fifty Things: Clear the Clutter, Find Your Life, I immediately requested a copy. I love lists and I love results that can be measured, so this seemed like the perfect way to finally get myself on track. I could easily throw out 50 pieces of clothing, and was so motivated that I actually did before I even received the book.

I started with my sock drawer which I had to practically pry open. What’s so ridiculous about this is that I live in Southern California — and live in flip flops. Why would I possibly need so many socks? I immediately threw out every sock that didn’t have a mate, anything with a hole in it or a stain on it. I threw out 27 socks without a thought – and I didn’t even count the pairs as 2 pieces because I was enjoying the process so much! Then I went through the ones that were in good condition and put those I knew I’d never wear again (bright colors, novelty patterns) in a bag to donate. There were 12 pairs of those.

The sock drawer was so easy – and it now closed smoothly, which was a great reward for my efforts – I decided to tackle my t-shirts next. I have a ton of white t-shirts and tank tops because I play tennis in them and wear them under sweaters and cardigans. When the good ones get too raggedy to be seen, I just keep them as “under” shirts. It was time to get rid of those – remember what your mother used to tell you about wearing clean underwear?

So I threw out 18 white t-shirts and tank tops. I knew I had done the right thing because the pile was indistinguishable from the pile of rags in my laundry room. In fact, that’s what I decided to turn them into.

Because I was on such a roll, I emptied all the rest of my clothes out of the closet and tossed them on the bed. That was too much. The sight was so nauseating and so overwhelming, I called a friend and went out to lunch with her to get myself psyched up for this sickening project.

When I got back and stared down the pile for a while, I learned a couple of things about myself. I apparently like to see lots of color in my closet — because I had bought a lot of colorful items that still had tags on them. I decided to put some colorful decorative items on the top shelf of my closet instead, and get rid of all the red, green, blue and purple clothes I knew I would never wear. There went a whopping 32 items. And here’s a tip that really helped me: if you’re not returning them, take the tags off your clothes. This will 1) prevent arguments with your husband, who will not know you’ve never worn them, and 2) remove your own guilt about never wearing them, making it easy for you to get rid of them.

While cleaning out, I realized – a little shockingly – that there were clothes I was really too old to wear any more. Out went the denim jackets and workshirts, the cutesy Nick & Nora pajamas with the rubber ducks on them (okay, full disclosure – I kept the bottoms to wear with a solid t-shirt) and the little, patterned shorts that had not been sexy in a long time. It was actually sort of liberating.

I know you’re not supposed to hold on to clothes that you haven’t worn in a year but I still have jeans in just about every size. I’m keeping the ones that I’m two sizes away from as motivation; they give me hope that I’ll fit into them again as soon as I lose the baby weight. (My baby is now 18 – ha ha ha ha!!) Seriously, wearing them again is a big goal of mine, and seeing them on my shelf reminds me of that.

With ten bags of clothes – 112 items – to give away, I already feel lighter. I can stop re-buying clothes that I couldn’t find before, and I don’t have to hold my breath when I try to open a drawer.

I still haven’t received the book but am already grateful to author Gail Blanke for a title that inspired me to un-clutter my closets – and, as a result, my mind. Just wait till the book comes and I get through my office …

Find more videos like this on Throw Out Fifty Things

This post originally appeared on my former blog, StyleSubstanceSoul.


  1. Dede Bliven says:

    What a relief to see that other people buy clothes and leave tags on them. I just donated some to Goodwill-tags still on them. I love the idea of starting on the spring cleaning in winter, so by the spring, I’ll have more time for the garden!

  2. Lois Skinner says:

    If Lois can do it so can this Lois! Nothing like seeing your name in the headlines saying you need to throw out 50 things. The sad thing is it is so true! Here I go happy throwing! From a fellow organized clean hoarder. 🙂

  3. Charan Rose says:

    The YWCA Women’s Shelters can use ANYTHING you can offer. The women that flee to safety there usually do so without a wardrobe or useful things to be self sustaining. They sometimes have kids with them as well, so any cast offs from the kids rooms are welcome as well!!! Love your blog, and Sami and Blake say hello!!!!

  4. Beverly Stone says:

    Everybody needs a favorite Consignment store. Mine is Sparkle Plenty. I have a revolving system of throw aways between my discards going to the resale shop or to thrift stores. my system worked well with ONE closet for him and ONE for me. But since my husband passed, the 2 walk-in closets are BOTH full now.
    My on-going revolving system is not going well since I drop off a few things at the Consignment store and end up buying garments at the resale store also.

    • Ha ha! After getting rid of more than 120 items, I was tempted to go shopping since the first rule of organizing seems to be throw one thing out for every one thing you bring in — I figured it should work the other way too!

  5. I’m on the same page… Purge, purge, purge!!! Old towels and blankets go to local Animal Shelter. In fact they even take shoe boxes to use as litter boxes. Gently used books and toys go to local preschools or family shelters. Large items can be posted on Freecycle.org. I had a couch picked up from my house and I can’t tell you how happy the family was… Love the theme here…

  6. Wendy Karp says:

    Last weekend I also tackled the sock drawer. I didn’t count how many pairs I threw out but they filled a tall kitchen trash bag. I actually found a pair of green knee-socks with my camp name tape sewed in! I last attended camp in 1969! Unfortunately I never made it to the rest of the drawers or, god forbid, the closets.

  7. just removed 400 strangers from my Facebook…i was always being sucked into spending time with people i didn’t know and probably never will. i feel lighter and less like the 8th grade girl who never was asked to dance.

  8. I’ve just finished my sock drawer, too! Now I am completely inspired to tackle the closet. Thanks.

  9. I’m inspired! I’m home from work today because of the snowstorm, so I’m going upstairs to tackle my own closet and drawers. Wish me luck! 🙂

  10. Kim Le Piane says:

    Love this Lois! I love Peter Walsh too! You are inspiring me! I think I’ll get cracking!

  11. THANK YOU-you have inspired me-but I woulda kept the duck pjs lol! The last time I did this I found stirrup pants…

  12. I laughed when I read your article as it didn’t apply to me. And then I remembered the boxes under my bed and I laughed again. I guess I can consider that “clutter” and I’m going to check what I’ve been storing there. Does the basement and garage count???? Thanks for the laugh, Lois.

  13. God I LOVE this post! It feels good just to read it. So good, in fact, that I might not have to clean out MY closet. Crap- that won’t work.

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