Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Epic Clothing Purge

Found this image here; I was too busy sorting to take pictures!

Today was the day.

I must have gone up and down the stairs ten times, each time carrying an empty basket up, and a full basket down. I dumped each load on the living room floor, and by the time I'd visited the kids' rooms, the attic, and the hallway, I'd created two walls as high as my hip, that ran from one side of my living room to the other. Two walls. Built of clothes. Just children's clothes!

I always knew I'd gathered more than I needed, but seeing it like this, realising how much space it has taken up in our house (albeit neatly, in under-bed storage bins and boxes), how much time and energy it's taken to wash, fold, put away, pick up off the floor, dig through for something specific really drove home the fact that things had gotten out of hand. 

Figuring out what each of my children would wear each day put me at risk of developing decision fatigue, especially when the clothes I laid out each evening were met with rejection or disdain because of the weather, the itchiness of the fabric, the style of the skirt...whew. More often than not, my daughters' shared bedroom looked as if the drawers had barfed their contents all over the floor, with no rhyme or reason. Dirty socks mingled with formerly folded clean t-shirts, the status of underwear was questionable, and every item had to be individually inspected to ensure that it hadn't been sullied through the day.

One of the problems of keeping clothes in order in Canada is that we have four distinct seasons. They don't end and begin on specific days, and they often overlap so that one day your child needs shorts and sunscreen, and the next is chilly enough for tights and a sweater. The shift from season to season is met with futile attempts to dress your child appropriately for school, so that they often go out the door in rubber boots only to have the temperature soar to 30 degrees Celsius by afternoon. Still, I was going to do my best.

1. First, I carried every article of clothing down into one room. 
2. Then I sorted all the clothes into baskets, one per child, while also creating a discard pile for clothes that were stained, faded, torn, too small, or out of season.
3. Next, I scrutinized the contents of each basket carefully, using this guide to help me decide what to keep and what to give away.

I managed to reduce the mountain of clothes into one laundry basket per child! That is a tremendous reduction in clothes (time, energy, clutter)! I carried these three baskets back up the stairs, sorted everything into their dressers, and marveled at the fact that the under-bed storage bins were now completely empty! If you are a mother of many as I am, you'll know the compulsion to set clothes aside for when your children are older. I decided today to let those "too big" clothes go, and am choosing to trust that more wonderful hand-me-downs will find their way to us when the time is right.

I didn't have the stamina or time to tackle the second wall-mountain, consisting of baby clothes up to size 3. But I am bolstered and energized by the growing pile of "donation" garbage bags that are being carried over to the potting shed for storage each day. I filled five bags today, effortlessly. I let go of items I've held onto because I love them (but my children don't). 

This task had taken on gigantic proportions in my mind. I felt overwhelmed just thinking about it. But now that I've done it, I am planning other epic purges: of toys, of yarn and fabric, of kitchen glassware and appliances. I am already breathing more easily. 

All it took was a plan, and one day.

Special thanks to this blogger for inspiring me with this post, way back when.


  1. You are so incredible and inspiring me to keep with it over here. It is so liberating. We keep it pretty simple with the amounts of clothes for our one girl but even then it seems like things get out of control. I'm holding on to the things we love most since we plan on having more children, but love getting rid of the ones we aren't big fans of or are more than we need. I mean, with kids you are doing laundry all of the time anyway so why do we need so much? We have all four seasons here as well and tend to keep most of our clothes out all year round for those random hot or cold days that come along unexpectedly, even more reason to keep the total amount smaller.

    Long comment, but I am so glad you are posting about this process you are going through. As much as I am committed to doing similarly, it is a good boost to read about other people doing the same.

  2. I read somewhere that someone we love may be under all those piles of stuff. Good reason to tear them down!

  3. Yippie! Well done. Once you start you can't stop.

  4. YAY! So exciting, even to hear about. I know exactly how you are feeling. It really is shocking seeing those bags upon bags upon bags being sent off for donation, isn't it? I recently did a purge at my work office and even that was exciting, reclaiming some office space. It got me itching to get going on my home again...Do you need more baby clothing? ;P

  5. We did the same thing last week. Two huge boxes went to goodwill and still there were some sacs for friends. We have a wonderful system of hand-me-downs here, to the extent that I spend almost nothing on my kids clothes. I'm finding myself saying 'no' to people wanting to give me stuff now as I'm thinking do my kids really need 8 pairs of jeans each? The house seems so much lighter now that we've got things down to a 'minimum' (for the time being at least, I'm sure things will get out of hand again soon). We also have 4 distinct seasons here in the french alps, it means a lot of sorting of seasonal clothes, but I do love the coming and going of each one (usually glad to see the going of winter - it's our longest season and sort of hangs on with spring a bit too long).

  6. OH Congratulations!!! I do understand as a fellow mom of many, the clothes are so overwhelming! We've managed after years of very careful selection (and quietly purging...) to be rid of all but the most beloved, well used toys. However the clothes~ I feel like I need a second house just for them! With the upcoming change in seasons, I've been talking to my husband about doing this exact thing, but at 7 months pregnant with baby #6 my energy levels aren't quite matching my mental enthusiasm at this point. I keep hoping they'll just get sorted and disappear by themselves, yeah, I know that's not gonna happen.

  7. You are doing such a wonderful job! Sorting is the hardest part. Give it a week and you will truly be reveling in the freedom that comes from having less clothing. Kids clothing multiplies. I swear I have watched it happen :o). Be sure to get those donation bags donated, they will multiply and have cousins in no time. You are awesome!

  8. Well done :) I'm attempting to purge my house of unwanted stuff, but just getting it clean enough to start has proven to be a challenge. I've had a fourteen-year-old home sick this week, and he's a bit of a tornado all to himself (I found EIGHTEEN freezie wrappers on the livingroom floor when I got home last night... I thought I had hidden the freezies deep in the chest freezer, but apparently not deep enough).

  9. Have you read the Zero Wast Home blog? Lots of great ideas for de-cluttering. They are lofty, but you're on your way. I'm not even close, but I aspire. Keep it up.


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