My Empty Closet

I was anxious.  It was 3am on a Saturday morning.  I couldn’t sleep.  I know there’s still so much work to be done.

In addition to scrubbing the counter and the sinks in our master bathroom, I sorted through my closet, yet another time.  Found 14 pairs of pants to donate and 4 more to take or keep. *There’s still ½ of my husband’s closet with more dresses in there (Jack’s edit here: must clarify, those were Aye’s dresses, not mine…).  That is bloody madness!  What in the world?  Have I worn the 14 pairs of pants I found in the last year, last three years? The scary answer is NO.  Why were they still in my closet????

I have already donated 4 giant bags of clothes to the Burmese Refugees two weekends ago.  I have also given to my parents countless number of pieces of  clothes (still in very good shape and on hangers) so that my father can help me distribute them to the newest arrival of refugees through a clinic where they provide interpretation services.

LESSONS:

1. Waste of  Money: If I value each piece at say an extremely frugal amount of $5 retail (including my suits, jackets, formal dresses, socks, scarves, wraps, gloves, jackets, belts and even lingerie), I would under-estimate a rough and rusty figure of about $5000.  *Ladies:  You and I both know this is definitely an underestimated number.  That same $5000 sat in my closet for nearly 3 yrs (that’s how long it’s been since I worked full-time). I suspect there are many items sitting in there for a much longer period! So, well, I will let you do the math.  And let’s be honest, had that money been in a savings account instead of my closet…….. These numbers haunt me!  MODERATION is a good thing  – buy less.

 Note:  I still have some clothes from college, undergrad. I know, the horror, eh?

2. Waste of Space:  all those clothes I really did not need just sat in my closet, collecting dust, while another person could easily use them to gain a job on an interview or have proper attire to attend college or even start a new job.

3. Waste of Mental Energy: That closet gave me grief and mental anguish.  The clutter in my closet cluttered my emotions and trapped me. Seriously!  “How in the world am I going to get rid of all THIS” – that’s what I used to say to myself.  It can be overwhelming considering the closet is just one tiny portion of our house.  I’m a good procrastinator when I need to be.  After all,  I might end up having to face what I already know….. see #1 and #2.   It was  just easier not to deal with it.    Clutter is BAD for you and your mental health!  DE-CLUTTER, every chance  you can.

4. Effect on the Environment: The more “things” I consume without a care in the world, the more negative effect I will have on the environment.  It’s just not a green solution.

5. Effect on Our Travel, Service and Humanitarian Work: The money and time wasted could have been spent on more meaningful and purposeful projects, where we can give time and attention to others (and even to each other) that need our help.  The stuff we collected in our closet has been collecting dust and not collecting interest in a savings account.  It doesn’t allow us to live our motto: “LIVE SMALL.  LIVE GREEN.  GIVE LARGE.  TAKE LITTLE.”

6. My Closet DOES NOT bring me happiness. They may make me look good or feel good, but do I really need that much, or that many pieces?  Probably NOT.  Essentially it is as Empty as My Empty Lexus.

7. Effect on Our Daughter: This is the real kicker! It makes me weep when I think of the influence we have on our children and how I need to do a better job of intentionally living more through experiences that help her become a responsible citizen, a kind and humble human being.  That simply cannot be achieved by having more things, more clutter, more stuff.  I know she’s watching my every move, listening to my every word, soaking and absorbing all in.  What kind of mother will I be if all I am focusing in on is the clothes I wear, the hairstyle I have to pay for at least a minimum of $100 to look a certain way (been there done that, glad I don’t anymore), the type of brand names I like, the kind of make-up I put on, how that dress makes me look skinny, or the number of outfits I change into before I leave the house—and the list goes on and on and on. (after all,  the media and the commercials do have a way of convincing us that we’re  not good enough).


Message to my M: Always live life with meaning and purpose.

“Many things in life will catch your eye, few will catch your heart. Pursue those!”  Unknown

What lessons can you learn or have you learned from YOUR closet(s)?


We Say NO to Status Quo.

Live Small.  Live Green.  Give Large.  Take Little.

Take Notice.  Take Action.



  21 comments for “My Empty Closet

  1. May 9, 2010 at 6:12 am

    I relate. I know even now in Korea I have collected much more than I need or even want. It’s time for me to do some serious de-cluttering of my own, or my move to Chiang Mai next year will be much more stressful than it has to be.

    • drgotpassport
      May 12, 2010 at 9:30 pm

      Hi Nancie,
      I thing we learned was that we should have started MUCH earlier… Maybe as early as 1 year ago- that would give us time to go through things more methodically, like ripping our CDs, sorting photos, the little things that take time and that are actually enjoyable. No regrets, though, as we’re learning every step of the way… ~J

  2. May 9, 2010 at 8:46 am

    This is SUCH a powerful post. Every time I return from my travels I am disgusted with the amount of “things” I own. I feel like I let my stuff define me and that’s WRONG. A more simplistic and thoughtful life is what I want and I’m definitely trying to walk that path now. I do donate quite a bit, but I also sell a lot on Ebay.

    • drgotpassport
      May 12, 2010 at 9:32 pm

      Hi Andi,
      Thanks for dropping by! That’s EXACTLY how we feel coming home from living out of suitcases: “We don’t need all this!” Yet it’s so hard to break the consumer habit.. I think we need to have door checks every time we come home, so we can either: recycle, trash, or keep the things we come home with…. =)

  3. May 9, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    You know it was easy to get rid of my clothes before my trip because I hate almost all of it. People thought I was crazy for giving it all away but I knew if I never saw them again it would be okay.

    Why did I have a closet full of clothes I did not like?

    Now that I’m on the road I would never carry even a t-shirt that I didn’t like.

    • drgotpassport
      May 12, 2010 at 9:36 pm

      Hey Ayngelina,
      I’m a guy, and using a sports analogy, I see my clothes as having an ‘active rotation,’ and an ‘injured reserve’ section.. the key for me is to not buy stuff I don’t need (difficult to do), and try to give away stuff more frequently… Easy to say, difficult to practice. At least with shoes, I’m true to my word. No new shoes in about 10 years roughly, only the occasion sandals from trips, and splurged on a nice pair of sports/waterproof sandals for our trip…

  4. May 20, 2010 at 11:36 pm

    Great article! You are dead right about so many things. There is such a freeing feeling to letting things go. I myself have move cross country 3 times with nothing but the items that would fit in my car and my pet rabbit. It was nice, only having what you really needed with you. However I have accumulated some things since my last move. I purged most in October when we moved out of our place but I still have some clothes I can’t seem to part with and yes, most of it hasn’t been worn in years. An example would be my awesome bell bottom glitter pants that I wore out in college. They don’t even look good on me anymore but they are one of a kind and so I just can’t let them go. At least I can rest easily knowing that they definitely wouldn’t help anyone get a job! hahaha! But I know what you mean and purging is really good for the soul. Congrats on getting a head start on it!

  5. May 21, 2010 at 7:24 am

    Been going through a lot of the same motions with my insane shoe collection lately. Such a waste of money.

  6. corina
    May 23, 2010 at 3:09 pm

    When we left for our extended trip last year we sold our house, had a yard sale, donated the rest but we kept some clothes and a couple of key furniture pieces. We got home a month ago and as we are living at my parents right now I am still basically living out of my backpack with a few extra pairs of underwear dug out of storage bins. I look at those storage bins and think…what the heck is in there that a year ago I felt I needed to keep! I’m sure once we get settled in our own place we’ll be bringing another load to our local shelter. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  7. mistyld
    September 23, 2010 at 10:39 pm

    I love this post! I also love to de-clutter, but my hubby and kids don’t share that love. My three girls have so many clothes, I hate doing laundry because it is so much. We have what seems like a million towels, making for three or four loads of towels alone. And shoes!?!? Our 20 month old and Chris have the least amount of shoes. I am a close third. Our other two daughter have way too many shoes, it is crazy!! I keep my clothes de-cluttered pretty well. The rest of the family have so much I don’t know where to start. I de-clutter the kids clothes twice a year, and still they have so much. My middle daughter especially. She gets lots of hand-me-downs from her sister and friends. Girls are very easy on clothes, which is nice, but makes for a very cramped closets. I think my first step needs to be to separate their favorite outfits, enough for two weeks. Then bag up the rest and store them. Then see how long we go before digging into the storage. If we go a few months without even thinking about the clothes in storage we can send them off to the resale shop! Thanks for the inspiration.

    • September 26, 2010 at 11:09 am

      Hey Misty, thanks for sharing, and visiting our site! It is a challenge to get everyone on board. To me, it’s basic psychology: we do things that give us the most reward, and for many of us, it’s buying stuff. When we learn to find rewards that are not related to ‘things’ then we’ll be less drawn to the urge to splurge. Even though I obsess over gadgets, I have enough things to do (volunteering, etc.) that is satisfying to where I don’t need needless ‘things’ that only give temporary pleasure. So, the Mr. doesn’t share the decluttering, eh? Okay, I’ll have to have a chat with him soon. :-)

  8. Cristine
    October 28, 2010 at 2:32 pm

    Great post!

    I only got to read this today, and it made me think of all the clutter I still have in the Philippines, heaps of clothes i don’t wear anymore, shoes that are just placed on the rack, waiting to be noticed… I look at the closet I have in Chiang Mai now, it IS empty but it has given me immense satisfaction! I’m at peace. Haha :D

    When I go back to Manila this December to spend the holidays, I’ll donate my clothes as a Christmas present to myself and to others, too!

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