Well-being found in coming clean

Last weekend I came out of the closet -- with an armload that included an old Christmas sweater, two pairs of mom jeans and a maternity top from 1997.

Last weekend I came out of the closet -- with an armload that included an old Christmas sweater, two pairs of mom jeans and a maternity top from 1997.

I'd been aware of the need for an organize-the-closet day, but had been avoiding the task. Now I was (finally) coming clean, much to my own surprise.

I hadn't planned to spend the day sorting through my impressive collection of leg warmers and shoulder-pad-laden blouses, but I woke in the morning with an inexplicable desire to reinvent the bedroom closet. The task beckoned like an itch and I dove in with the confidence of a woman in possession of a back-scratcher. 

There is a certain amount of satisfaction that comes with restoring order to a closet. The action of downsizing creates an innate sense of peace and well-being -- in a revitalizing sort of way. Organizing is energizing -- and I was as pumped up as any drum-beating bunny.

While I didn't find any skeletons in my closet, there was a Spiderman costume from Halloween of 2004. Oh what a tangled web we weave, when our closets are stuffed and clothes won't leave. Spidey was just the beginning.


Long underwear worn long ago on a winter outing. Belts no longer capable of the full trip around my waist. Swimsuit cover-ups -- covered with the dust of abandonment. Exercise clothes left over from a 2002 fitness phase. Purses for fancy occasions, purses for casual occasions, purses from before my kids were born because whoever tosses a purse? (You never know when it will come back in style.)

How many black sweaters can one woman own? Believe me, you don't want to know. I don't even want to know and I am that woman.

In a flurry of faded denim and otherwise forgotten Zubaz pants, I purged and it felt good. I saw my life unfolding like a wrinkled T-shirt or maybe a bad cliché -- as less became more -- and I caught a glimpse of the closet wall, where old college sweatshirts had been piled, en masse, blocking the view.

As I pared away at the task, I came to a disheartening conclusion; my closet was literally stuffed with stuff. My entire house is stuffed with stuff. As I further destuffed, I realized the same could probably be said about life in general. So much stuff.

We accumulate without realizing what we are doing. We live in the midst of a blizzard, but aren't even aware it's snowing. If we do become cognizant of the flurries around us, we may find it is hard to breathe.

It hasn't always been this way.

Bedroom closets have not always been the norm, and the universality of walk-in closets is a recent development brought on by a culture enamored with stuff.

People haven't always enjoyed the luxury of molded plastic hangers. The first shoulder shaped wire clothes hanger was invented in 1869 -- nearly 100 years after our forefathers signed the Declaration of Independence. In colonial times women likely hung their clothes on hooks. There wasn't a need for hangers because even well-to-do people like George and Martha Washington only had a few changes of clothing, and probably just one pair of shoes (maybe two). Imagine that.


Times have changed. Our need for footwear has multiplied. At least we live like it has.

Last weekend, I walked into my closet laden with the weight of stuff. I came out a little lighter, and a bit less burdened by the chaotic excess that has become the bane of everyday life. I've still got a long way to go, but the bedroom closet is a start. Next weekend I think I'll tackle the kitchen junk drawer. Wish me luck.

Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, playwright and author of "The Do-It-Yourselfer's Guide to Self-Syndication" You can read more columns at the Slices of Life page on Facebook.

What To Read Next
Get Local