Lay it all out

I’ve been putting off getting rid of a bunch of my clothes for quite some time and I finally did something about it. My clothes used to reside in two different places in my home, a dresser in the laundry room and a closet in a completely different room. There was no need for two different storage spaces so I decided to lay out all of my clothes and take stock.

Once my clothes were all laid out I was amazed at how much clothing I actually had. I didn’t think I had that much, but to my surprise I had a lot of items I never wear anymore. I ended up cutting my clothing inventory by half right off the bat. Then, when I started to put all of my clothes back into the one closet I made a second pile of rejects. Overall, I think I cut my clothing inventory by about 60%.

Laying out all of your clothes is a great way to put things in perspective. Once everything is laid out you realize how much stuff you actually have. This obviously doesn’t have to be limited to your clothing. It also can be used for anything else you want to scale down. Try it with a closet that is in desperate need of cleaning or a junk drawer that no longer closes. You also may want to edit your collection of books, DVDs, CDs, or shoes. Laying them all out may enlighten you to the fact that you have much more junk than you first thought.


This post has been updated since its original publication in 2007.

14 Comments for “Lay it all out”

  1. posted by Walter on

    I am in the process of simplifying my life and I happened to have edited my closet this weekend too. I had not really done this for many years. Suits I never wore anymore, bad purchases, many pair of jeans etc.

    3 Things were holding me back:
    -This was a present
    -I paid good money for this
    -I might need it some day.

    Now in my living room there is a big pile of clothes that I paid lots of bucks for that I am not wearing anymore except sometimes, out of guilt.

    For some reason I cant commit myself to just give it away or throw it away.

    What is your advice?

  2. posted by Michael Clark on

    I am using one of the unclutterer’s hints: doing it in small steps: After yesterday’s laundry (socks, underwear and t-shirts) was done, after sorting and folding, but before actually putting them away I opened each drawer and looked through the clothing that hadn’t been worn since the last washing. I tossed a huge pile of holy socks, ancient underwear, and torn shirts. I also found two broken belts (but I might fix them some day – yeah right, sure I will).

    Last week while waiting for the oven to heat up, I tackled the kitchen junk drawer instead of sitting in front of the tube. I wish I had taken a before and after picture, I will on the next junk drawer. I found nearly 100 twisties from bread, 2 complete sets of measuring cups (we now have 4!), pencils and pens, half-burned birthday candles, expired coupons, etc…. You know, junk. I tossed a ton of stuff, moved other things to the place they belong, and now that drawer is 75% empty, it only has kitchen cooking stuff in it.

    Thanks unclutterer for your help!

  3. posted by Michael on

    I want to do this, because I have a silly amount of clothes (probably about 50 pairs of trousers). The reason? I used to be thin, then I gained a lot of weight (about 50lbs.) in a year. I’m in the process of losing that weight–lost about 20lbs.–but I think I need to weight to go through my clothes until I’m back at my target weight.

  4. posted by Evelynne on

    Walter, there are two things that help me get rid of things I’m holding onto for those reasons:

    1. I take a picture of myself wearing the item, so I can still look at it anytime I want.
    2. If it was expensive and still useful, I take it to the consignment shop or try to sell it on Ebay rather than donate it.

    It doesn’t always help, though. I have a box of basic clothes that fit well, I like them, and they are good quality, but are really out of fashion (too 80s) so I never wear them. I’m hoping I can wear them when the style comes back around. The 80s are beginning to return, after all. At least they’re in a box and out of the way.

  5. posted by SpiKe on

    I regularly do this with my clothes, DVDs, books etc. I have created a fine balance in my house when it comes to space (one shelf for DVDs, 2 shelves for books, etc). So when I buy – for instance – a new book, it’s a good incentive to pull out all the other books on my shelf and get rid of ones I don’t need to make space for the new ones.

    Organize IT

  6. posted by KM on

    strangely, going through my over-laden bookshelfs to list my favourite books on Facebook helped – the FB field is limited (i found out!) and listing everything i could fit & loved made me look at what i owned (or “was holding prisoner”) in a new light.

  7. posted by Jasi on

    wow. i just took inventory of my wardrobe as well today. i now have a reasonably stocked closet with plenty of room to keep the clothes hanging freely and one large tupperware for winter sweaters and such in the attic. seasonal attire is stored with seasonal decorations for corresponding holidays.

  8. posted by H20 on

    You may try by putting all the particular clothes that you do not wear anymore in a big plastic bag, and put it in the storeroom, in case you don’t have the storeroom, put it in extra warbrobe. Label the date of storage, and forget about it. By six months or if you prefer one year, according to the labelled pile, throw it all away, WITHOUT opening. If you’ve forgotten about them for six months or more, then the clothes are useless to you!!

  9. posted by Monica Ricci on

    One of the steps I teach my clients to do when simplifying and decluttering is to begin by GATHERING all the items in a particular family (clothing, books, CDs, etc) together so you can first take stock of just how much of it you own. Once you do this, you’re at a great place to begin culling out and paring down.

  10. posted by Richard Braakman on

    I’m doing a similar thing with my books by entering them all into LibraryThing. While my books are normally “laid out” simply by being visible in my bookshelves, the process of handling each of them to enter them into the system has allowed me to spot many books that I wouldn’t miss. I want to keep only my favorites. There are so many excellent books out there that I shouldn’t spend more time on the average ones.

    In addition, LibraryThing allows me to give each of them a rating and a little review, so that I don’t need to keep the physical book around as a reminder that I’ve read it.

    If I can’t make up my mind about a book, I give it a tag “reread”. I’ll come back to those later, and if I decide I don’t want to reread one after all, then out it goes 🙂 But if I reread one and remember how much I liked it, then I’ll keep it.

    The hardest part is deciding what to do about series that have only one or two good books.

  11. posted by Andamom on

    I had done this on my own and again with a stylist. It was amazing how this stylist woman poked and prodded my wardrobe. I was happy to get rid of it all (go more than barefoot) — but alas our society wasn’t ready for that.

    Personally, if I ever wake up in the morning and can’t stomach the thought of wearing a particular item, I eye it and generally take it to Salvation Army for donation soon thereafter. Make it easy for yourself — if you haven’t worn something and don’t know when/if you’ll use it, donate it! Someone almost always can use what you don’t need.

  12. posted by zkr on

    I have a hard time throwing out old or damaged clothes.. even if I don’t wear them. I keep thinking “one day I’ll learn to sew, and make something fabulous with this”.

  13. posted by Darrell on

    I had to go this route with my parent’s pantry, who were using it for more than just food and linens – also pots, pans and Tupperware. I spread everything out on the dining table and we determined that most were redundant and donated them.

    I think you don’t realize what you don’t need until you see it all spread out like this.

  14. posted by Rob Mclaughlin on

    Long time reader, love your blog. We rennovated a 1940s farm house with no closets this year and moved 2750 sqft into 1322. We were able to get rid of a lot of things to the barn and at the 6 month mark it all goes to goodwill.

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