The complicated process of cleaning out my closet

In the past few weeks I’ve started to feel more like myself. Slowly, slowly my energy and motivation is returning. The change is subtle (I am, after all, still waking up with a baby 2-3 times a night) but this is the best way I can describe it:

A few days ago I noticed a thick coat of dust on my blinds. When I was pregnant, I would have thought, “Ugh. My house is gross and I’m exhausted I’m a complete failure as a wife and mother soooo…Oreos?”

Instead, I thought, “I need to dust.”

See what I mean? Subtle. It’s an attitude shift; I’m not quite moving mountains over here. (But I did dust my blinds.)

I’ve also started looking at my house with a more critical eye. I’ve purged toys and kitchen clutter. I’ve rotated the kids’ clothes and sorted through art supplies. Honestly, the results aren’t dramatic, but we have five people living in 1240 square feet, so any time I toss something in the donate bin it feels good.

In the midst of this fall-cleaning-reverse-nesting I got an email from Apartment Therapy to join their Closet Cure. I’ve done Apartment Therapy’s January Cure before, and I like their style. I figured I could read through the assignments and get rid of a few things.

The Closet Cure was great. It addresses every “type” of clothes (sweaters, outerwear, socks, etc.) and encourages you to ask a bunch of questions I’ve gotten used to from exercises like this. Do the clothes fit?Are they in good condition? Would you wear them on a date? Stuff like that.

I asked myself the “Closet Cure” questions, tried to be decisive, and put a few things in the giveaway pile. But the “Cure” wasn’t really curing anything.

The problem is those questions don’t work well for me. Lots of my clothes don’t fit, but it’s not because I’m a delusional hoarder. It’s because I’ve been pregnant and postpartum since 2009. (That’s also why I’m hesitant to try a capsule wardrobe.)

Plus, I really don’t have a lot of clothes. Honest. I’ve only owned one pair of jeans since 2007. That is a true fact. But because I don’t buy much every item feels Important. That sweater isn’t just a sweater, it’s The Sweater. Or, since I don’t shop a lot, I think, “Even though I don’t wear this beautiful cardigan, I can’t get rid of it because if I do I will literally have nothing to wear. Even though it’s not true. If I get rid of all my cardigans, I still have 10 years of Monument Ave. 10K race shirts I can wear.

Ultimately I hang on to things longer than I should; even when they’re out of style or in bad condition or I just don’t really like it anymore.

Right in the middle of all this, an ad for ThredUp popped up on my Facebook feed. This was either very fortuitous or a result of contextual advertising (Tom taught me the term “contextual advertising.” But when I asked him, “Is there a word for, like, when Gmail reads your emails and gives you ads based on the content?” He answered, “Yeah. Creepy.”)

ThredUp is basically an online consignment service. You send them your awesome clothes and if they’re as awesome as you think they are, ThredUp pays you for them.

Amazingly, I stumbled upon the “question” that worked for me. Would I rather sell this item, or keep it? I can’t tell you how refreshing it felts to discover my decluttering motivation. It was like finally pushing the right button. This was especially good for the clothes that I was hesitant to toss because they were expensive and high quality — even I don’t wear them.

I pulled out every piece of clothing and asked, “If I could sell this, would I?” Using that question, I filled my ThredUp bag with 29 articles of clothing and four pairs of shoes. Then I bagged 19 items for Goodwill.

I did not, however, give away my Umbros or Franklin County Track & Field t-shirt. I’ve been running in this getup since 1996 and that’s a streak I’m not willing to break.

closet clean out

Tom’s birthday is coming up, and I’m planning to use my ThredUp earnings to buy him a Tesla Model X. (He says the Model S is big enough for our family, but I disagree.)

Kidding. In fact, I’m trying to be really, really realistic about the resale value of my castoffs. My goal, I decided, is to make enough to cover the cost of a Java Chip Frappucino. It’s a win-win because even if I don’t make tons of money, I got a cleaner closet out of the deal. But a Frapp would be nice, too.

thredup 3

Once it’s all bagged up, all you have to do is plop it on your porch and the mail carrier picks it up.

I was amazed by this. I just put a giant bag on my stoop and the mail carrier knew what to do. Incredible. I read the directions several times, then kept checking to see if the bag was still on my porch.

thredup 2

This illustrates, perhaps, the hardest part of the whole process. Cleaning out, sorting, organizing — BEING PRODUCTIVE IN ANY WAY — with kids around.

thredup 1

I went outside to put the bag on the porch and instead of taking a quick picture and darting back inside, I spent the next 10 minutes saying, “Mary Virginia, get off the bag. David, put the bag down. Mary. Off the bag. GET OFF THE BAG STOP TOUCHING THE BAG.”

Then, and I honestly have no idea how this happened, fewer than five minutes after I took the photo above, our hose was on, David had yanked the extender off our down spout, Mary Virginia was in her underwear and rubbing mud on her legs. And we were still waiting on the mail carrier.

closet clean out (1)

But I do know that, because of my little chore — putting out the ThredUp bag — my kids played outside on a rainy day. Then I hosed them off and we had a picnic lunch on the porch. And after we went inside to warm up in a bath before nap time, the mail carrier came and whisked away that giant bag of clothes I should have gotten rid of a long time ago.


  1. Healing Mama October 7, 2015

    It’s hard for me to rid my house of stuff to. I just started giving our unused things to the Goodwill. It feel good to get rid of it. I also love Thred Up! I’ve only ordered from them once, but it was a great experience!

  2. DIYJUSTCUZ October 8, 2015

    Great Post! I actually JUST saw an ad for ThredUp too! And I already want to buy some of the clothes/sell some of mine!

  3. Kelly October 14, 2015

    I just sent my bag off today and requested a second. The bags of clothing I had been compiling for a year!, were so much easier to dispose of when I realized I could get money for them, and that if there was something that could not be resold it would still be donated to another worthy charity. Now to switch the closets for the fall wardrobe–and clean out again!


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