Decluttering clothes, beauty stuff, & books

One of my favorite things about our family’s trip around the world last year (besides, well, seeing the world)? Living out of a backpack.

I loved having just a few things to keep up with for an entire year. It was glorious. When we came home, I wanted to keep it up.

I had already decluttered quite a bit before leaving on our trip, but I donated another half of my clothes when we returned. I found I just didn’t need or love them anymore.

This past year I’ve been great with what I have, and I plan to keep it this way.

It’s been a years-long journey for me, actually, parting ways with only what I love, so be encouraged if your personal belongings feel overwhelming. (Remember the question to ask when decluttering: Is this beautiful or useful?)

Here’s what I worked on this week.

(Also, apologies in advance for the dark, yellowish, grainy photos. Our current bedroom has terrible natural light. It’s one of the things I miss most about our Oregon house.)

My clothes

When we moved in to our rental at the end of last summer, I applied the good ol’ standby method of gauging what clothes I wear: turning around the hangers.

Decluttering clothes, toiletries, and books

Almost a year later, several items still haven’t been turned around. I’m pretty sure I won’t flip them in the next few months, so—out they went.

Here’s my closet in its entirety. Nothing fancy, but there’s plenty of room:

Decluttering clothes, toiletries, and books

As I said last week, I don’t love everything KonMari prescribes, but I do like her folding method:

Decluttering clothes, toiletries, and books

Makes it much easier to find stuff.

Two things that have helped me over the years:

1. Better understanding my colors. I didn’t do a formal test, but I did start paying attention to which colors made my skin look better, what brought attention to my eyes, what made me feel better, and what colors I wore when I was complemented on my appearance.

The color eggplant: supposedly looks good on everyone!I’m an “autumn,” so rich, jewel tones work better on me than pastels—I avoid those now (though I do wonder if I’m becoming something else, now that I’m letting my hair go gray). And it turns out, navy blue is a better neutral for me than black, so I keep my eyes open for those pieces.

(Also, I’ve heard eggplant is the only color that looks good on every single skin tone. Would you say that’s true for you?)

2. Not going so baggy. Early in on our travels last year, I realized something: the clothes that made me feel frumpiest and sloppiest were also too big. I know, that’s kind of a “duh.” But it showed me that all this time, I thought I was a bigger size than I was.

I was going the loose route in order to hide what I felt were flaws, but instead it made me look unkempt. I started replacing items in a smaller size, and it’s made all the difference.

To smooth out bumps, I wear this under most tops. Miracle worker!

My toiletries

(First off, let me say for the record that I hate the word toiletries. But, it’s the best one-word to describe beauty products and things used to take care of my body. Moving on.)

Before—here’s my one drawer for everything:

Decluttering clothes, toiletries, and books

I’ve been going shampoo-free since 2009, with occasional bouts of return—namely, pregnancies and travel that’s longer than a weekend. (Yep, for me it’s more compact to just bring a decent bottle of shampoo than to bring a thing of baking soda and a container for mixing. Here’s more on how I travel.)

And after—just a sprucing up and a light tossing:

Decluttering clothes, toiletries, and books

Many of my other things are fairly basic as well: coconut oil for my moisturizer, hair butter for both my hair and body. I’ve also started using Moroccan argan oil on my face at night, and it has made a world of difference in keeping my face better moisturized and evenly colored. I also like using coconut + argan cleansing towelettes when I don’t feel like dealing with my usual oil-cleansing method.

I get most of my stuff through Grove Collaborative now—they’ve got great prices.

My books

Like the kids’, I keep my books out in the open. And? I don’t declutter much in this department.

family bookshelves

Oh, I did a few years ago—I got rid of anything I didn’t think I’d read again, I wouldn’t want to lend to a friend, or that I flat-out disagreed with. Now, I like everything on my shelves.

I also get most of my books on Kindle now, what with how much I travel. I prefer paper books, but you can’t beat an e-reader’s take-anywhere convenience.

One of the perks of my job is loads of free books, but I often accidentally get two (or more), and sometimes they’re unsolicited books I’d rather pass on to someone else.

Decluttering clothes, toiletries, and books

That’s what most of these are—I’ll share them with friends and family, then take the rest to a used bookstore where they can be loved.

Coming soon: my personal summer reading list (it’ll be based on my friend Anne’s upcoming guide), plus summer reading lists for my 11-year-old girl and 8-year-old boy. Get your libraries ready, my friends.

I hope you’ve got a little bit of decluttering fire under you (here you go, if you need more). If it’s almost the end of your kids’ school year, think of how nice it’ll be to get this crossed off before they’re home and you’re busy not being busy.

Don's make it complicated.

What personal areas are you going to tackle this week? I’d love to hear from you.

Reading Time:

4 minutes





  1. Margie

    I was so happy to see someone’s makeup displayed, not in an artfully lit, backed by white marble, with a macaron thrown in for color photo, but in a drawer like all of us who live in the real world have. Thanks for sparing us a peony bloom in this post.

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Ha! You’re welcome for the lack of peonies, and you’re welcome for the crappy, rental-esque drawer that sorely needs painting. 😉

      • Margie

        Somehow, I believe that if you ever found time to paint the drawer you store your makeup in, in a rental house, you would use that precious time to do something besides paint your makeup drawer.

    • Rachael


  2. HokieKate

    I’ve also embraced navy as my neutral. I’m getting rid of all my black and deliberately not buying new tops that need to be worn with black. It feels great.

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      I am too – and yet it’s so hard, isn’t it? I still do love black as a color. And black clothing options are everywhere…. Not so much navy.

  3. Chantel Klassen

    Simplifying my closet a few years ago was one of my best decisions. I have very few clothes but I love the ones I do have and I’ve found that sticking with black, grey and navy with a bit of white and cream works the best for me. It’s so much easier when everything matches.
    I purged my make up a week or two ago and got rid of handfuls of eye liner I’ve been keeping since my teenage years (why? I ask myself the same question!), it’s nice to have that space cleared out a bit.
    Books are definitely the hardest for me but I just got a tablet to use as an e-reader and I’m going to try to do ebooks as much as posible.
    Thanks so much for sharing your process, it’s great to see that it’s a lifelong journey for others as well.

  4. Kathy

    I had my colors done a few years back, and was told that periwinkle was the universal color which looks great on everyone. Had not heard of eggplant. I do not think that would look great on springs.

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Interesting! I’m not so sure periwinkle would look that good on me, but who knows? 😉

  5. Aimee Mulligan

    Love this Tsh. I was reading up on henna dye and contemplating once again [the horrific mess that was] henna dying my hair. Your glitter highlights look pretty dang spiffy to me. I love your tips about trying to size down in clothes and just owning my shape. I am going to give it a try!

  6. Aimee @ Whispers of Worth

    Tsh, I often think about you and your year of travel post when I need inspiration to pare things down further, especially the kids’ toys. As far as clothes and toiletries go, I have come to a very manageable number and arrangement. The only problem I have right now is finding coordinating pieces within my very limited wardrobe. I’m thinking I will have to invest in a few key pieces to pull everything together. This week, I will be tackling whatever Joshua Becker tells me to in his Uncluttered course:) Thanks for keeping it real, like another reader mentioned. It is so refreshing to see a normal bathroom drawer and closet.

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      I think creating that capsule-type wardrobe takes time and patience, and I’m right there with you. It’s definitely a process.

  7. Heather

    I have been trying so hard to get through the *stuff* in my house! I feel like every time I turn around there is one more thing to get rid of (or one more bag of things). I’m finally at the place where I am comfortable with what I have, but I have yet to accept what the other four members of my family bring into this space 🙂 I keep dreaming of that day when my family can live in a tiny house or an RV (not likely), and have no other option but to pare down to nothing!

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Thank you for sharing!

  8. Mackenzie

    I went through all of my books and really looked at them to see if they added value to my life. Am I really going to re-read certain books or are they really a favorite? Those are the questions I asked myself and I have gotten rid of quite a few books this way 🙂

  9. Kim

    Thanks for the great boost of encouragement to pare down. Also, I love that spell check gave you organ cleansing towelettes. So many fantastically hilarious visuals of cleaning large pipe instruments and spleens.

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Ha! Didn’t even notice that; you’re right.

      Thanks. Changed! 🙂

  10. Linda Sand

    I recently did bathroom cupboards and am now working on my walk-in closet. I did shoes and clothes but I can’t believe the stuff falling off the shelves above my hanging rods: travel and camping stuff as well as linens, etc. Ugh! Can’t wait to tackle that mess.

  11. Wells

    LOVE IT! Yes, yes, yes. A few years ago, we lived with friends in San Diego, all six of us (at the time) sleeping in one room, for six months, and each of us had a plastic bin of clothes, and that was IT. I admit, my personality gets bored easily and I like to see variety too, BUT it provided so much simplicity, and we had tons of time to go outside and enjoy the beaches and the weather. I don’t like hiding my books or getting rid of the ones I love either. =) HEY! I am a friend of Crystal Ellefsen’s, from back in the Santa Barbara days… I love that she is on here. Blessings!!!

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Shout out to Crystal! She’s one of my favorite people.

  12. Naomi

    I’ve wondered about your hair care on the road so thanks for covering that. I use no ‘poo myself, but it works much better at home than when traveling for the reasons you mention here.

  13. Beth

    I am so distracted by my love for your bookcase. Are those IKEA Billy Bookcases lined up together, or what? I’ve always struggled with a way to display the TV that it isn’t the only thing or the total focus on one wall, I love what you have done, I might have to copy your set-up.

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Thanks for sharing, Maryalene! And yes, I’ve always wanted shelves like this, too…. They were Kyle’s birthday gift to me last year. And they’re break-apartable, which means we get to take them with us wherever we live next! 🙂

  14. Jill Foley

    One thing that has really helped me hone my style and color choices in my wardrobe has been the Dressing Your Truth course and system. (I don’t work for them or get any sort of perks by mentioning them…just sharing my experience) Some of your comments like black not being your best neutral made me think about it.

    • Linda Sand

      I’m one of those Dressing Your Truth taught that black IS my best neutral. You know, one that got to celebrate being able to keep all my black clothes. Yay for being a Type 4! But all my faded blue jeans went away so there are trade offs. Now that my jeans are black instead of blue I do feel dressier, though, and black yoga pants are still part of my wardrobe. (No, I don’t work for DYT, either, I just feel better in my clothes now that I got rid of those that don’t suit me.)

      • Tsh Oxenreider

        I had never heard of this so I went searching, and OH MY GOODNESS, I am fascinated. Thank you for sharing it!

        Here it is, for anyone interested.

  15. Zurainny Ismail

    This reminds me to go over my wardrobe & the rest of the growing clutters at home. Thanks for sharing about colors – it seems that I’m winter! 😀

  16. Jules

    How refreshing to see book shelves covered in – books!!!! I’ve no problem with peony or macaroons in photos but I cannot deal isn’t how to style your bookshelves posts that don’t include mostly books or those with books turned spine in so not to disturb the ‘visual flow’ ? I read my books and love to have them around me. We stored everything for eight years and moved overseas, living in a remote area in a company rental and, for 18 months, a 19ft caravan (camper?) This did teach me what I could live without and what we ‘need’ to make a space our home. Books and pictures were always around us. When we returned and emptied the storage unit it was shocking how much of that stuff went to recycling, thrift shop and the dump! I have separate shelves for books I love and will forever reread and those I happily lend and once I’m done will pass on.

  17. jane

    Hey Tsh!
    Can you do “tour” of your workspace? Desk? Drawers of pens, clips, erasers, sticky notes, etc?

    Also, this is unrelated, but I was wondering if I can still get the Summer Short Stories ebook. I’ve been waiting for it since I got the Upstream course through the Bundle. I’d love to do that with my 8yr old daughter. Thanks.

  18. Fridah

    Love fashion and with such display can get to know where I go wrong with my closet. nice article

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