A Much Needed “Closet” Clean-Out

Athena ScalziTwo years ago, I posted this piece over going through my closet and cleaning out a decade worth of stuff. I talked about my hoarding tendencies, having too much stuff, being stressed out by it all, not being able to part with it, etc. While in the post I mentioned that I managed to actually throw away what felt like a lot of stuff, I also mentioned that I put most of the stuff into totes and put it away in a different place.

Turns out, that doesn’t solve your issues long term. Despite all the work I did two years ago in my venture to clean my room and be less depressed and stressed out, I managed to make it just as bad in no time at all. Things went right back to the way they were, with me not spending time in my room, not being able to think about the state of my room without being overwhelmed, things just collecting dust, you know how it is.

The issue is the same as always. Clothes.

Over the past two years, I’ve gained a considerable amount of weight, and most of the clothes I own don’t actually fit me anymore. For a while, I thought that I’d just keep them until I could fit them again, but six months turned into a year, and a year turned into two years, and those clothes were just taking up space the entire time.

When I posted my post two years ago lamenting about having too much stuff, I was still at the point where I couldn’t bear to get rid of all the things I actually liked. I wanted to keep the things that I liked, because that’s why I bought them in the first place! I still had the idea in my head that someday I would wear that one dress, someday I’d have an occasion for that scarf, and if I got rid of any of it, I’d regret it.

Two years was enough time to change that mindset. Last month, I finally hit a breaking point. I couldn’t stand to be drowning anymore. Drowning in all these stacks of clothes that didn’t fit, drowning in dust, drowning in all these thoughts of someday. Because the day never came, and I was tired of waiting for it.

So, I knew I had to do another “closet” clean-out. And I say “closet” because what that really meant was gathering up every tote from my room, the spare room, the basement, and my storage unit. Then, I had to go out and buy more totes and put even more stuff in those. It ended up looking like this:

About a dozen totes, plus several bags and boxes aside from those, all holding a bunch of my stuff.

So what to do with all this stuff? All these nice clothes I liked, all these brand new items with the tags still on, all these things that had never seen the light of day? My therapist gave me the answer. Give it to my friends! And make it fun.

So, I grabbed champagne and orange juice, whipped up some charcuterie, set everything out into a make-shift display, and had a “closet clean-out” party.

My friends came and perused my wares and trinkets:

Tons of clothes set out, all folded and stacked neatly into piles or arranged on tables and hangers.

A big table full of jewelry, set out all nice and orderly.

And had some snacks while they were at it:

A counter full of charcuterie type foods. There's nuts, cornichons, olives, crackers, a decked out charcuterie board with meats and cheese, and a platter of macarons, as well as a bowl of grapes.

(Peep the salami rose on the charcuterie board. I got mad skills.)

This isn’t even everything I set out for my friends to take, there was also a whole counter full of dishware/cookware, tons of shoes, purses, artwork, hair accessories, and more! It was so wild seeing all my stuff laid out like this. It made me realize how much I really had, and how badly I needed to get rid of it.

My friends ended up taking about half of everything. I was hoping they’d do more damage because half of everything is still a lot. But that’s okay, because the rest will be donated to a domestic violence shelter here in Ohio. I’m honestly so fortunate that I’m in a position to get rid of so much to others, and still have so much for myself.

I’m happy that the things I like and care about went to people I like and care about, and that I can help others and help myself at the same time.

I feel so relieved to be rid of this weight, and I hope I can keep myself from falling down the same path again. I’ll let you know in two years.


43 Comments on “A Much Needed “Closet” Clean-Out”

  1. It takes lots of courage to do something that radical. Brava!

    Also, kudos to you for making it so fun for you and your friends.

  2. A “closet clean-out party”, followed by donating to charity, is a great way to handle excess belongings. Good work, Athena!

    (Now if we all could just clean-out the Stupid Brain Tricks that keep getting in our way….)

  3. What a cool idea, to set up an “instant shop/party”! Love it. Also, what shelter are you donating the remainder to? I’m looking to do similar work on my piles, but yours sounded like a great suggestion. Congrats on continuing to work on this stuff – not easy, but hope you enjoy the result.

  4. That is a great idea and this kind of thing can be so hard to get moving on — congrats!

  5. “(Peep the salami rose on the charcuterie board. I got mad skills.)”
    — I did. And you do!

  6. Is that a room at the church? If so, lucky to have such a great space for such things.

    I’d love to hold a yard/garage sale type thing to get rid of stuff but the yard is all hill, which is suboptimal, and there’s no room indoors.

  7. Yay! Great work, Athena! And yay for putting The Old Church to work.

  8. I’m confused by the logic of buying more totes to hold stuff you’re getting rid of. Aren’t you then still stuck with extra stuff you don’t need once the clothes are gone?

    Great job following through with your clean out though. A party for your friends was a neat idea.

  9. Good job! Pre-pandemic, some friends and I would take turns hosting “new to you/me” parties, which were essentially this, but smaller scale. So fun!

  10. OMG what a great idea!

    Sadly I don’t think I have anyone who wants my out-grown clothing these days, but I really did enjoy getting hand-me-downs and hand-me-ups from richer or more stylish friends (and my more stylish and skinnier little sister) in my teens and 20s. I still have a really nice skirt that one of my friends gifted me when she lost a lot of weight and couldn’t keep it up anymore.

    The Domestic Violence shelter is also a really great idea. One other place that generally needs nice clothing is wherever your nearest immigrant/refugee welcoming non-profit is (there’s one in a city an hour and a half away from us and it was so nice being able to give away professional clothing I’d never worn to people who could fit in it before it went out of style).

  11. I’m proud of you for taking action, clearing out your stash, and finding good homes for the rest. I know how hard that is, as I had to do that with hobby stuff that I cannot physically build anymore. It was an emotional time for me, but now I’m at peace with it. 🫂 🤗

  12. Brilliant! The logic/reward circuits that accumulated the stuff will still need replacement, but honestly even if you just… do this… every two years, that’s maybe feasible and has benefits for other people!

  13. I just moved and am still, after over a month, unpacking the 180+ boxes that moved with me. I’m calling it My Huge Mountain of Krap ™, and I am standing up and applauding your great effort. Good job!

  14. Way to go! Congratulations on a great party and the relief that comes with a serious clear out. Having half of it go to friends is a way bigger percentage than I would have predicted. Well done!
    Now I guess it’s my turn to do the same…

  15. Wonderful post, plan and execution. Thank you for the satisfying read.

  16. Kudos on finishing such a big project! What a great idea to have a charcuterie/shopping party for your friends, and to donate the rest to the shelter. My husband and I are cleaning out our basement, and I’m also sorting through some clothes. It is kinda cathartic, and the basement will now be a safe space for our cat to roam unsupervised and for me to craft. We had so much stuff!

  17. Good For You, Athena!! That has got to be a huge relief to you. It is a familial thing for me. My father was a hoarder, my brother, my husband, and myself. I literally have gotten rid of tons of things, and I am still drowning in stuff. I used to be able to have rummage sales on a frequent basis, but since my move to California, I’ve been hindered in that respect by Association rules where I’ve lived. So, off it goes to charity! Keep up the good work!

  18. Fantastic idea!! Thank you for sharing this, I’m definitely going to do this.

  19. Well done!

    I tend towards the hoard myself and I know the conflict. “Drowning” is a word well chosen

  20. That is a seriously beautiful charcuterie board! It is always easier to get rid of things when you know they’re going to a good home.

  21. What a good idea for passing on items you no longer need to others who are interested in them!

    I too need to clean out my closet – I did get rid of the clothes in the plastic totes a while back, but I have a huge closet in the bedroom and most of the things that are in there don’t get worn. I keep thinking I’ll get around to it real soon now…

  22. What a great idea! And mad applause for you accomplishing this! Go you!

  23. Great taking action! And passing things forward to people who will really enjoy these items you no longer need.

    Beautiful charcuterie board. You have great skills!

    Thanks for including photos!

  24. Awesome!
    I would totally go to a party with 100% off shopping sale and yummy snacks.
    Did you have a “fashion show” with your friends?

  25. Given that the internet is infested with arseholes who would use this as an excuse to jump on you, I think this was a brave thing to put out there. Bravo AMS!

    Also; is this the first time the church has been used in any significant manner?

  26. What a great idea! I hope this helps you move forward.

    On the “maybe I’ll lose weight and be able to fit into stuff again” thing … the thing that we as a culture will do anything to deny is that decades of intensive research has shown that you almost certainly won’t, if you do it will be temporary, and that “permanent damage to your health” is far more likely than “permanent weight loss.” Seriously, in a meta-analysis of weight loss studies, in studies that looked at negative effects of attempting weight loss, about 50% of people had some level of harm done to their bodies. Only about 3% were able to keep weight off permanently. Human bodies have a set point for what weight the metabolism will try to maintain (unique to every person). There are a number of things that can raise that (certain medications, for example) but nothing we currently know of that can lower that. If you dip below that, your body will decide you’re in a famine and to stay alive you need to do extreme things (like reducing the amount of energy your organs get, and slowing down your brain and immune system) to prevent yourself from losing the fat you will need to survive the famine.

    The way we tie belief about ‘health’ and morality to weight and fat is disfunctional, cruel, and not true. Health has very little to do with weight, and thin people are not better than fat people. They just have bodies with a lower weight set-point. And fat people, on average, live longer than thin people. Our society is so screwed up about weight.

  27. Wow, HUGE congratulations to you, Athena, on decluttering your life! And I adore the way you gifted some of your treasures to your friends, and the way you’ll help others in need with the rest. You are a pretty amazing person, you know.

    Entropy is very much A Thing for me, too. I’ve become a lot more ruthless about getting rid of clothing that I no longer use, and my dresser is no longer heaped with junk as it was for so long – but it has taken me decades to get to this point. I clean out cupboards and closets, and then a year or two later, I realize that they’ve gotten themselves stuffed all over again.

    One thing that I find helpful is to tackle one, finite, fairly small mess at a time, maybe one kitchen cabinet, or just two shelves in my closet. If I can bring myself to do one small task like that maybe once a month or so, then at least part of my surroundings are uncluttered, which I find supportive of serenity.

    I am super proud of you, Athena – your accomplishment is giving me energy to devote part of this weekend to another one of those small, focused cleanouts in my house. Thank you!!

  28. That is such a great idea, and excellently organised and catered as well!
    You can be really proud of yourself for doing this, and doing this so well.

    I’m sure the shelter will also be extremely happy to receive such good stuff. For the people who need that help, to not feel like you’re dressing in threadbare cast-offs but to be given such really nice things, that can give a person a real boost, when they need is most, too.

  29. This is an absolutely brilliant idea which would in no way work for me because I’ve got like maybe four people I want coming over to my house, and really, one at a time if I’m honest. I wonder if you know how much you should appreciate having lots of friends. But wait, you just SHOWED them some appreciation. :)

  30. Athena, I’m pretty much convinced that if anyone asked your friends who their coolest friend is, they’d all say it was you. What a brilliant and fun idea!

  31. There is something so wonderful about not living in “someday.” Someday I’ll fit this clothing, someday I’ll be the kind of person who feels comfortable in X.” Today is pretty damn awesome as it is. Now you can enjoy it. Congrats.

  32. As usual, your writing is interesting and relatable for so many people. In fact, I was in the middle of sorting through my excess clothing the day I read this post. I had just returned from studying abroad for a year, and I had gained enough weight that the pants I had left behind in America did not fit. The tops still fit okay but with a year’s distance I realized that I wasn’t really going to wear some of them. I bought about half a dozen pairs of pants that fit me now and donated three big bags of clothing. I’ll go through what’s left one more time and put away the items that are not seasonally appropriate, but I’m pretty much down to things I look forward to wearing.

    Your clothing give away party was a really fun idea. I feel okay about donating my unwanted clothing, but in a way letting friends pick the clothes they want is even better. Clothes are more likely to stay out of a landfill longer when they go to people who want those specific items. Realistically I don’t have the time and energy to organize a party like that right now, but maybe I can follow your good advice next time.

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