Week 3 | 52 Weeks to Downsize and Minimalize | Clear the Skeletons

“Skeletons in the closet” is a colloquial phrase and idiom used to describe a hidden shame or a secret someone does not want revealed out of fear that it would have a negative impact on the perception of them by others. It can also mean not being ready to emotionally let go of something.

Whether you are holding onto a deep, dark secret or simply stuffing your mess in the closet when company arrives, it’s time to clear out, clean up, and get things organized.

What kind of skeletons do we hide in the closet? Here are examples:

  • The mess that has no home and gets scooped up and stuffed into a closet, the bedroom, or the garage when company comes over.
  • The old diaries and journals that tell stories no one else should know.
  • Crutches, splints, and braces held onto for years, leftover from old injuries, in anticipation of injuries to come.
  • Bad memories or a broken heart for which steps have not been taken to purge, heal, and move on.
  • Old pictures, journals, and love letters that only make you sad to see and read.
  • The belongings of the children – now grown adults off to college or married with their own family – which remain boxed and stored in your house, and prevent you from making better use of the space it fills.
  • The belongings of deceased relatives you’ve inherited and procrastinated on dealing with.
  • The bills gone unpaid, and the resulting bad credit score that’s been holding you back from financing a car or purchasing a house.

What kinds of skeletons are in your closet?

Clear_skeletons_closet_bella_organizing_professional_organizerStep One

Write out a list of skeletons you have been holding onto and are ready to clear out of the (figurative or literal) closet.

Step Two

Prioritize the list, and write out how you’re going to clear one or more of them out of the house and your life this week.

Step Three

Get it done. Actively join me for Week 3 – Clear the Skeletons – 52 Weeks to Downsize & Minimalize, and clear them out for good.

An example from my personal list:

A skeleton in my closet is an old journal I’ve held onto for 7 years in which I wrote about things going on in my life during the years 2009-2010, which were not the best of times. Although it makes me sad to read the entries, I hold onto the journal because it is a hand-made gift from the ex about which many of the entries are written.

What am I going to do about it?

It’s time to purge the negative past for good and have a journal-burning party.

Here are examples shared by clients (who agreed to have them post anonymously):

Skeletons in my closet are the tons of old kids toys, books, clothing, and art projects I’ve held onto for years that are stuffed into boxes in the garage. The kids are grown and no longer play with or wear them. I’ve done nothing about sorting through the art, half of which I know is junk. But I’m afraid to let go. I love my kids and have such great memories of when they were little. They are adults now and don’t want any of the stuff for their own kids. The stuff has claimed my life and my garage, which is now completely cluttered with all their old stuff to the point where I can’t park my car, and wouldn’t dare let anyone into it.

What am I going to do about it?

I’m going to sort through each box, one by one. It will take me a while, but one box at a time is manageable. I will sort through at least one this week. I’ll probably cry a lot, but it will be over the good memories. I will take photos to preserve the memories, and donate the rest to families in need. I’ll only keep 25% at the most. ~ Anonymous


I own over 200 pairs of shoes. Very expensive shoes that range from $200-$2000 each. For a long time I took care and had them professionally organized into clear shoes boxes, each with a photo of the shoes taped on the front of the box so that I can easily see what they are. The boxes have been neatly stacked for years in the closet. I haven’t worn any of them.

I’ve since collected more shoes, and lost interest in putting them into neat little boxes with pictures, so now they are in the boxes they originally came in. It works fine because it protects them from dust and dirt, but again, they are out of sight and out of mind, and I hardly wear any of them.

I’m getting old, no longer can wear high heels, and can no longer afford to splurge so wildly. The thought of donating them scares me. I paid so much for them! But I have to get real, and need to get rid of them.

What am I going to do about it? 

I’m going to consign them. Whatever is not accepted for consignment, I’m simply going to donate to charity. They will not come back home with me! It will be hard, but they would only stay stored in my closet and bedroom forever. It’s time to just let them go. ~ Anonymous

What skeletons are YOU clearing out of your closet and life this week?

Join me for Week 3 – Clear the Skeletons – 52 Weeks to Downsize & Minimalize, and clear them out for good.



Isabella Guajardo, founder and owner of Bella Organizing, is a San Francisco Bay Area professional organizer offering home organizing, interior redesign, and residential move management services throughout the Greater San Francisco Bay Area. Call (510) 229-7321 or email info@bellaorganizing.com for more information. Gift certificates are available.

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