Cleaning out closets ~ By Linda Bailey

Here is a guest post from July 2013 by Linda Bailey from that I thought was worth repeating for the lessons it contains. Enjoy!

So I tend to bite off more than I can chew. A few months ago the opportunity to have everyone out of the house for a weekend seemed like the perfect time to do some major cleaning up. I had high hopes. I was going to tackle the worst room in the house. It was filled floor to ceiling with boxes from the move and just had enough floor space to walk a thin path around it. Since the move had taken place some five years before I had the brilliant idea that it would be no sweat to clear out that area.

But where to start? I mean of course you wanted to start near the door so you could make sure you had room to actually get things in and out but What then? Well, I started out at the door. To the right of the door was a large bookshelf filled with odds and ends and stacked on top of the shelf were old boxes. I managed to get a step ladder and started from the top. The boxes were very heavy and I barely made it safely to the floor with them. I imagined they were books or something equally as hefty. As I opened them I discovered they were VHS tapes. Boxes and boxes of VHS tapes.

The hoarder in me wanted to save them as I had invested a lot of money completing my collection but I was reminded of my vow to stop collecting things. Things are not important. People and memories are. If I really wanted to remember a particular video I could just take a photo of it and remind myself to look it up later. I did, however, go through the boxes and take out the recordings of my family. I did not want to toss out memories, just junk. That took me some time and I hauled the boxes down the stairs and out to the street.

Moving on, I went through the rest of the bookshelf. I had three boxes with me. One was marked Goodwill, one was Trash and the last, smallest box was Keep. I went through those shelves ruthlessly tossing almost all of the junk into the goodwill pile. Broken dishes, bits of paper and so on went into the trash. That went quickly and I was relieved. Beyond the bookshelf was a walk in closet. It wasn’t the biggest closet, about the size of a twin bed. However it was packed with old clothes and more boxes, big ones.

I got the boxes down one by one. The first few largest ones were filled with blankets. Twin, King, Queen, quilts and throws and everything in between. Some I recognized as belonging to my great-grandmother and I set them aside. Others were down and were perfect for winter. The rest I threw in the Goodwill box. Although it is good to have extra blankets on hand I though three large boxes full was going a bit overboard. Especially when we had not used them in five years. Throw pillows, stuffed animals and other small soft things were in the next box. Then I got to the hard part. Boxes of photos and papers.

The photos had to be kept, of course, although I was not going to volunteer to sort through them and create an album. The papers were old enough that they could be tossed safely and I tossed as quickly as I could. A box of my old things from college was next and I couldn’t help but hold on to a relic or two. A small box of old comics went into a pile for eBay along with a few collectable toys.

All the dust was really starting to make my eyes water and I dragged some things downstairs for a break. Gathering a mask and washing my hands I ventured back into the never ending closet. The clothes were next on my list. I brought up trash bags and just started to go through the clothes one by one. Easter dresses, graduation gowns, old sweaters, Halloween costumes and anything else you probably would not miss packed the closet. The packed bags filled the floor of the closet and I was forced to drag everything out to my car before continuing. Exhausted and only halfway through with the closet I called it a night.

The next day I started up again. I finished the clothing leaving only a few outfits to decorate the bare walls. Before I could move on however I had to address the growing pile of bags and boxes in my living room. Far more than could fit in the trunk of my car I had to figure out a way to get them to Goodwill. I finally got my neighbor to drive a load up in the back of his pickup and we managed to get the whole thing done in one go.

When I returned to finish up the room I felt defeated. I had barely scratched the surface in a day and a half of steady work. On top of that the break from the family had been cut short and they were due back any minute. I forced myself to straighten up and make sure the walking path was navigable again. Thoroughly disgusted I felt like I had wasted my time. But then I thought about how much I had gotten rid of. Hundreds of pounds of junk was no longer in my house. Even though it might not look like much, it was that much less I would have to deal with in the future.

The experience also inspired me to tackle my own closet. It was much smaller and less daunting then the one I had already done. With only an hour or two of work I was able to get my closet in great shape and feel like I had accomplished something.

Beyond just cleaning up that closet I also learned a valuable lesson. Even good stuff that is stored away becomes bad stuff eventually. There is no sense in keeping things you are not going to use. It only makes it that much harder on you later. Now I have started to just throw/give away things that do not have to be kept. I try to get at least one bag a week in my trunk and off to Goodwill. This helps me to keep the clutter from building up again. Hopefully one day I can get the clutter in my home under control, but until that point I will try my best to not add to it.

I have started to think of clutter like the chains in Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol. Every day we build a new link in the chains that bind us when we continue to let junk build up in our lives. The only way to break free is to stop building the chains and start working to undo them.

Author Bio:

This post is contributed by Linda Bailey from She is a Texas-based writer who loves to write on the topics of housekeeping, green living, home décor, and more. She welcomes your comments which can be sent to b.lindahousekeeping @

Today’s Mini Mission

Declutter an item of costume jewellery.

Eco Tip for the Day

Take a few lesson on sewing and/or simple handyman tasks. This way you can repair things rather than throwing them out and buying a new one. My local hardware store give free lessons or repairing and repurposing, maybe yours does too.

For a full list of my eco tips so far click here

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow

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About Colleen Madsen

Colleen is the founder of 365 Less Things and lives in Newcastle, Australia.


  1. This is really good because it shows how easily we could be defeated if we have lots of stuff to declutter. I haven’t reported on my friend, S, lately. She is doing well with her decluttering. Since I can no longer help her because of my allergies she has a couple of other friends who have been helping her. They are really making headway. Her house is in good shape except for her husband’s office. Right now they are working in the garage. She has a goal of being able to put her car in there. That will be a first in the 17 years they have lived in the house.

    • That is good news about S, Deb. I am so pleased she didn’t give up when you could no longer help her. It is also wonderful that she has such wonderful friends to help her with this and that she isn’t too embarrassed to seek help. She is doing wonderfully. Good for her.

    • Deb, this is wonderful to hear she is still going and has gotten her home in shape! I am one to get discouraged by a huge mess, but I am learning to remind myself it is getting done, and the end will come as long as I keep going bit by bit. Colleen, you have helped tremendously with that!

      • Angela, I am proud of S because like you say she didn’t get discouraged by the mess and the time it has taken. We all have to learn to put our personalities into the equation and figure out how to work it out.

  2. I think I stumbled across this article once upon a time and always wondered about Part B of the story, does anyone know? Did she eventually conquer it? (ok I know she did, but its kind of like hearing an adventure story cut short) Did she find anything else weird and wonderful? How long did it take to get it done, what is the room used for now?

    Does anyone know?

  3. I received this comment from Elaine via cell phone…
    Thanks… Good incentive… And I will. We’re in Cambodia now, on our way to Thailand tomorrow and then several countries after that. Seven weeks planned with just a carry-on.
    Thoroughly cleaned our main level home before we left, so my plan for April is to move one of our cars outside, put 2 or 3 folding tables in the garage, declutter our basement and load up the tables in preparation for a garage/ yard sale , and take what’s leftover to Salvation Army Thrift store or the one associated with our church. And during that month while I’m also exercising in the basement , I’ll work in my photo project. I want to get it done before yard work and gardening starts in Nay so we can enjoy pool season all June . July and August. Sounds like a plan!!! Goodnight.

  4. Nothing like the prospect of less people in the house to motivate me to get some cleaning/decluttering happening.
    My motivation seems to have stalled, but I remind myself that there is not so much to consider any more and most of the clutter is empty containers or items that are easily dealt with.
    I did get to re-home a ute and trailer load worth of pot plants recently 🙂
    I still have my exercise bike and a couple of amplifiers sitting in the lounge room, another pile of predecimal coins from my Dad and two doonas , all these items have been on the Sunday Contemplation List for far too long. I have borrowed a book from the library regarding the coins and intend to go to a coin fair which is on the third Sunday of the month in the neighbouring suburb of Wallsend. The doonas are a definite donation item, but this will leave me with no spares. I think I will handle making do, better than trying to store them where they will be forgotten about and never used. Cheers

  5. What a great experience to share. Thank you!

    I was so excited to have a holiday yesterday, and had so much planned myself. I got right to my major project first thing after getting kids on the road back to college. I pulled out my old computer and began the job of backing up the data to an external drive. The computer was the host for my website files, all of my client research files, and those fun files from our children’s high school days. A new computer, move, new job and such meant that the computer had been sitting around waiting for attention for awhile, so it’s old and slow. The first tries failed–it didn’t like the new external drive, so got out an old one and began the arduous process of transferring files. Fortunately I had plenty to do while I monitored the process. It took over twelve hours, so that was the end of that day.

    My hopes are to get my digital files organized and stored safely and put where they can be retrieved. I’ve also been scanning my in-laws photos and creating DVDs for them, so they can enjoy the great memories. There is still more to be done, but each DVD means that I’m closer to having the entire collection ready to be shared.

    Then today I returned back to work at a junior high library of a 74 year old school. This is my second year as the librarian and we have already donated 3 pallets of books that were more than 15 years old. Some much older. It’s amazing how many more books are now in circulation since the students can actually find books that they are interested in reading. Yes, it is hard to get rid of books, but it’s important to keep a school collection focused. That is why we donated the books, so they could go somewhere where they would do more than just collect dust.

    Now that the books have been weeded we’ve been weeding the VHS tapes. We have lovely digital video services, as well as DVDs that we use, so getting rid of the materials no longer in use is important. All of the memories are still there. As we prepare to celebrate 75 years, we have a lovely collection of yearbooks and other memorabilia ready to share with our community.

    So decluttering at both work and at home is keeping me busy, but thanks for the motivation! It’s great to actually put things to good use because there is room and order. I probably won’t get too much time around the pool since it will likely take me through the summer to get my project under control, but I’m making great progress.