How Travel Motivates Closet Cleaning

My husband and I are trying to downsize. I say “trying”, because I naively thought this would be an event, when it actually is a process. We are downsizing so we can spend our time traveling and exploring the world instead of doing house maintenance and yard work. Which leads to how travel motivates closet cleaning.

Downsizing is hard work, and involves a tremendous amount of closet cleaning. Closet cleaning is boring. I can tolerate a day or two, and feel quite cleansed and free when I haul a few bags and boxes into my car for a charity drop off. But, my best motivator for closet cleaning is packing for a trip.

Too many bags

Gather up those promotional giveaway tote bags and take them on your journey. They make great purses, backpacks, lunch bags, grocery bags, laundry bags and more. If they get lost, stolen or filthy dirty, you haven’t invested anything in them. If you want to leave them along the way, there will be more where those came from!

Why are closet cleaning and traveling so sympatico? Because I have discovered the joys of packing my old clothes for a trip, then leaving them along the journey. Coming home without dirty clothes means unpacking takes seconds instead of minutes, and there is very little laundry to do. There is no better way to ruin the buzz of a great adventure than to spend the first day back in the laundry room.

I have not been a good, consistent closet cleaner, which means I have underwear and socks in my drawers that are 25 years old. It doesn’t mean that I have been wearing them for 25 years, but that they have found a cozy, comfortable place in the back of a drawer or armoire somewhere. I like fresh T-shirts and casual tops. So, at the end of every season I head for the sale rack to pick up the basics.

Usually a fresh white, black and beige top in long or short sleeves, depending on the season. I humor myself with a few tops in fresh new colors. What do I do with the old ones? Until recently, nothing. I stop wearing them, but keep them “just in case” I might need an extra. Well, that “just in case” is now my suitcase.

Too many white shirts

How many white t shirts does one woman need? Packing old shirts for a trip, and leaving them along your journey is a great packing and closet cleaning strategy.

Most of the things I take on a trip to leave behind are items I am not wearing at home anyway. It is the dress that is still lovely, but has appeared at too many events for too many years. The people who see me in cities where I have never been won’t care that I have worn it many times before. It might still be a nice dress, but it is time for someone else to own it.

Then there is the blouse with the food stain. I care if my friend I am lunching with sees the spot on my blouse, but I really don’t care what the flight attendant who sees it thinks when I am sitting on an international flight and I will never see her again.

Here are a few tips for packing from the charity pile:

1.Don’t over pack. If you are new to this concept, you might do a big cleaning, then try to pack everything you want to get rid of. This defeats one of the objectives, which is to lighten your load. Try to stick to one color theme, and make sure you have several items you can mix and match. I always find more in my closet than I need on my trip. If I find items that I still think are travel worthy, I simply make a pile for the next trip.

2. Unmentionables. This is the time to mention the unmentionables. After 25 years of marriage, my husband and I love each other from the inside out. That means, that I don’t really care if he is wearing boxer shorts that are older than our children, and he is getting too blind to notice the condition of my grungies. Traveling this way is a sport to us, so we have fun with it.

The only thing worse than going home with your own dirty undies is sharing a suitcase with someone else’s! The old travel trick of turning your undies inside out for the second day still applies here, and tossing as you go does keep your suitcase fresh for the clean clothes. If you are jetting off for an affair with your new online soul mate, you can skip this step.

3.Shoes and Socks. I have thrown away shoes and socks along the way, but I have a higher criteria for what I am willing to pack in the first place. If you are doing lots of sightseeing and exploring, shoes can be worn looking, but must be well fitting and provide the support you need for your adventures. I have sewn up a hole in a sock, knowing I will wear them once or twice then toss them, but taking old socks that don’t prevent blisters or wearing a pair with no elastic that hover around your ankles is not worth it. Pitch those before you go.

4.Where and how you leave your clothes is important. During a trip to a beautiful full service resort in Mexico, I used this technique to throw away a few pairs of sandals that weren’t working for me, as well as some old free promotional t shirts we wore when working out or walking on the beach. They were in the trash can, but our room maid still asked if she could take them, and asked me to write a note for her supervisor so the supervisor would know she didn’t steal them. I was glad to comply.

I know someone who left a pile of clothes in their hotel room, only to arrive home to a package of the clothes, and the shipping bill charged to their credit card. The hotel believed they had provided a tremendous service.

If leaving clothes in your hotel room, let someone know that your action was intentional. You don’t want to get the staff in trouble, and you certainly don’t want to pay to have items shipped home that you don’t really want.

Leaving Clothes in Hotel

When leaving old clothes in your hotel room, write a note so the staff knows your actions are intentional.

5.Don’t replace what you tossed. If you go home and replace the items you tossed, you missed the point. If you were tossing them because they were so worn they needed a replacement, then you are one step ahead of me and my “just in case” pile. I have never missed an item I have tossed. I remember very few of the items specifically, because they are usually items I am not wearing at home anyway.

Bon Voyage, and enjoy coming home to a cleaner closet!

Victoria Hart
Victoria Hart

Victoria Hart travels the world looking for interesting life experiences. She loves to share her travel tips, bargains and strategies with her friends and family. Inspiring others to create their own adventures is her passion. Victoria’s desire to inspire a larger audience lead her to embark on a career in travel writing.

When Victoria unpacks her suitcase, she calls Dublin, Ohio home, where she lives with her husband John. Born in Los Angeles, California, Vicky’s family moved frequently, including stops in Wisconsin, England, Florida, Boston, Washington DC and Saudi Arabia. Vicky spent a summer term studying at St. Andrews University in Scotland.

She holds a B.S. in Communications from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.

Victoria welcomes your comments at [email protected]

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