Surprising Things I Learned from Cleaning out My Closet 

A woman contemplating for a change in life
Old clothes are time capsules that allow you to glimpse into the past and appreciate your growth over time. Plus, wisdom learned through selling to a second-hand store...

I recently cleaned out my stuffed closet, donated most of them, and sold a few to a used clothes store. The process took two weeks, at 30 minutes of dedicated work a day — first separating the items among a keep pile, a donate pile, and a sell pile, then packing the donate and sell piles into large bags, and hauling them to their respective destinations.


Old Clothes Are Time Capsules


As I went deeper into the cleaning process, I discovered so many outfits I used to love, and for whatever reason, I had forgotten them completely and moved on to the new and trendy pieces.


I tried those old clothes on and evaluated myself in the mirror. It felt like a time capsule through which I caught a glimpse of my old self, remembering all the things I had used to care about, and the emotions I had struggled with. How I had changed over the years, and how my clothing choices had evolved with me.


The realization shocked me. In my mind, I thought my life had stayed the same, except for a few milestone events along the way. But I was wrong. These old clothes revealed a different story, interwoven with quiet struggles, confusion, and incremental growth.


Give Old Clothes a New Life


When people talk about decluttering, they focus on the physical and mental space created by cleaning out the old. To me, it’s more about acknowledging the past and moving on with a much lighter load.


Sorting, packing, and delivering these old clothes to new places allowed me to reach closure, saying goodbye to the past, knowing that these items would live a new life in someone else’s home.



the image of a woman searching in a messy closet to illustrate the physical and mental benefits of decluttering
by stevecoleimages


Selling Old Clothes Taught Me About Expectations


I chose my most expensive clothes to sell to a used clothes store. They were almost all name brands in pristine condition. When I presented my collection to the tall, young man behind the counter, he shook his head.


“These work clothes don’t sell well at our store. What we look for are casual pieces that showcase a unique style and comfort.”


I dug through my curated selections, realizing I had nothing that matched his requirement.


“Wait, let me see this one!” He pointed at a purple corduroy blazer I’d only worn once. Bought on a whim after I had cut my waist-long hair so short that someone might mistake me for a man from the back.


“This is so cool. I love this piece. It can be easily repurposed for a brand new look,” he said. “If you have more pieces like this, bring them over.”


I nodded at his suggestion. That purple jacket, along with a silver zebra-patterned leather jacket, had belonged to the donate pile, but somehow was misplaced in the sell bag.


On my way home, I thought about my clothing choices. How often had I considered my coworkers’ opinions before buying? Many times. I’d always wanted to fit in, to look the way others expected me to look.


The stuffy work clothes that met expectations were less desired than those that expressed characters. If I had known this years ago, I could’ve been more authentic, rather than suppressing my true self.


How Change Starts in Life


Would my work life turn out differently if I had worn what felt right to me? Maybe. Nothing can be done about the past. All I can do is start now, one tiny change at a time, moving closer to my true self. Start with my clothing choice then spread it to other areas of my life.


We all want to change our lives, daydreaming about a life where everything lines up perfectly to lead us to our true north. When we think of change, we picture a ground-breaking, life-changing transformation that seems impossible to reach. We view change as a daunting task, an exhausting do-over requiring significant time, energy, and money.


But that is not true. All transformations result from achieving micro goals each day. This Chinese proverb says it well: dripping water can penetrate the stone. Instead of aiming for something so big that we give up after a single try, start with something ridiculously small to build our momentum and confidence.


And in my case, start with cleaning out my stuffed clothes closet for 30 minutes a day!

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Dr. Ivy Ge

Doctor of Pharmacy, author of The Art of Good Enough. She writes to inspire women to design their own fate. Her writings and interviews have been featured on MSNBC, Thrive Global, Working Mother magazine, Parentology, and The Times of India.

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