Clothes Gone and Organized!

Following up on my previous post about the book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I tackled my clothes today.  Kondo suggests gathering all the clothes from anywhere in the house.  Then handle each item to see if it sparks joy.  If it doesn’t, then it goes.  In my case, I needed to actually try on most of the clothes to find out which ones were too big.

The result was a closet where the top row is almost empty.  It is strange to realize that the closet I thought was too small is now almost too big.

Full Closet

I ended up with a bottom row of often worn clothes.  The top has some seasonal clothes in the back and one lone T shirt that is just a tiny bit too small for me.  Well, I also ended up with 2 full trash bags.

I discarded clothes for 3 basic reasons.  A lot of clothes were just too big for me.  I’ve lost 55 pounds over the past couple of years.  I’ve thrown out a lot of stuff over that time, but there were some things that still remained.  I wear a lot of T-shirts and I’ve always liked them loose.  The other day my hairdresser noticed my weight loss from a month ago when she really wasn’t noticing it before.  She noticed it because I wore a T-shirt that actually fit rather than one that was voluminous.

So, I got rid of almost everything that was too big for me.  The one exception was a few T-shirts that were in good shape (no holes, not worn looking) that were comfortable to be sleep shirts.  They will only be worn for sleeping. Other clothes were just worn out (most of those were also too big).

And, some clothes sparked no joy. They fit, but I just just didn’t feel the joy.  The flannel shirt that I bought where the pocket isn’t deep enough for my phone and it fits, but just doesn’t feel right.  The T-shirt where the embroidery on the front is too heavy and seems to weigh down the shirt.

The only clothes that were really hard to discard were the Ao Dais that I had custom made for me in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Purple Ao Dai

An Ao Dai is a traditional Vietnamese outfit.  There are pants and then a long, form fitting top over the pants.  I always loved my Ao Dais because I could wear them to dressy occasions and didn’t have to wear a dress.  This one I loved because it is purple with  beautiful flowers painted on it.

I also loved this black one because it has a dragon on it.  I mean, a dragon!  Who wouldn’t love it?

Black Ao Dai

Not only did I love these, but they also have a sentimental pull on me.  In 2000, we and our then 5 year old son, spent a few weeks in Vietnam where we adopted 2 siblings.  While we were in Hanoi, I had the Ao Dais made for me.  So, it was hard to get rid of them.  But…. I weighed almost 175 pounds when these were made.  They swim on me now.  I took the pictures above, and away they went.

Kondo recommends that clothes in drawers be stored vertically not horizontally.  I was a little uncertain about this.  Having now folded them as she suggests, I am now sold on this idea.  Here is a drawer that now holds underwear, sleep shirts, shorts, swimsuits, and a winter hat:

Drawer Clothing

Before, I basically had underwear in the drawer and nothing else.

And, I had a drawer that had only my socks in it.  The socks always ended up separated, so I was constantly having to forage through the drawer to try to find the other half of the pair of socks that I wanted to wear.  The drawer was full.  I did discard a few pairs of socks (no joy there!), but I kept most of them.  This is the result:

Sock Drawer

The 4 socks laying by themselves in the back are those that I couldn’t find the other half of.  If I don’t find them by the time I get the rest of the house done, they will go.  What amazes is how much less room it takes to store socks this way.  I have a lot of empty room in a drawer that was full earlier today.

One thing this exercise did show me is how much I need to buy clothes.  As I’ve been losing weight I’ve resisted buying much because I didn’t want to have to replace clothes as I lost more weight.  And, there were some things I discarded that I bought when I weighed 25 pounds more than I weigh now.  I needed them then (having lost 30 pounds), but they are too big for me now.  Still, they were there when I needed them and now I don’t need them any more.

Still I recognize that my wardrobe has some real holes in it.


The only clothes I now own other than the above and the ones in the drawers are one T-shirt that is a tiny bit small, seasonal clothes (winter sweatshirts and jackets mostly) and my wedding dress.  I actually tried on the wedding dress since I weigh only a few pounds more now than I weighed when I got married.  I didn’t expect it to fit since my waist is bigger now than it was back then when I was this weight (higher body fat percentage, alas) and I had to wear control undergarments to get into the dress back then.  The good news was that it is closer to it fitting me than I thought it would be.

Anyway, as you can see, I don’t have a lot of clothes.  I have 3 tank tops.  Two are black and OK, while one is multi-colored.  I don’t actually get much joy from the multi-color one and should have discarded it according to the precepts of the book.  On the other hand, I bought it fairly recently to tide me over until I get to a smaller size.  I was desperate to find something at the time and this was OK.  In another 5 pounds or so, it will be too big so I kept it just to get through that time.

I have numerous black T-shirts (all with something on the front that I like) and a few T-shirts of other colors.  I wear T-shirts about 95% of the time. The ones I’ve kept fit me and are not as loose as what I’ve been wearing. I have exactly one short sleeved denim blouse that isn’t a T shirt.  I was conflicted a bit about it.  I love the front of it.  It has a bunch of embroidered cats on it.  But, it is short sleeved.  When I wear a T-shirt I also put a jacket or a long sleeved shirt over it.  I can’t do that with the denim shirt.  So, I’ve kept it and will see if I end up wearing it, now that I’m thinner (I’ve had the shirt for about 15 years, but only now can I wear it again).

I have only 5 pairs of pants – 2 pairs of knit pants that I wear mostly around the house, blue jeans (almost too big), black jeans, and black “nice” trousers.  That’s it.  Pants don’t last me as long size-wise, so I buy as few as I can get away as I’ve been going down the scale.

Finally, I have a few jackets and a Chambray shirt (I just bought it at the Gap last week), that I wear over T-shirts.  A couple of the jackets I don’t actually love, but they are like the multicolored tank — bought not too long away to tide me over.  In a few pounds, most of those will end up being replaced. I bought most of those a few months ago when I actually needed to go into my office and needed to wear something appropriate for the office, instead of jeans and a T-shirt.  My old office clothes were way too big for me and needed to be replaced. I usually work from home so I don’t need many office-type clothes any more.  When I used to work full-time in the office, suits were most of what I wore.

No, I own no skirts or dresses (except for the wedding dress).  I will soon own a dress since I am going to a family wedding in late May and will be getting a dress for that.  The area where my clothes are really deficient now are nicer casual clothes.  I plan to really work on this when I get into the 140s.

But, mission accomplished.  Kondo says to do books next.  I actually did books before I got this book.  I will look through the books again (to find any that don’t give me joy or that I really don’t think I will ever read) and then it is on to papers.

Decluttering — Japanese Style

This blog is not only about weight loss and fitness.  It is also about making a better me, in any way that I can.  One area that has been nagging at my lately is my feeling stressed by having so much stuff and wanting to find a way to pare it down.  I had this thought that if I could make my surroundings less cluttered, it would make weight loss, fitness, healthy eating and everything else much easier.  The less time I have to spend on managing stuff, the more time I can spend on other things.

Also, I really hate house cleaning.  I am allergic to a lot of stuffs and can’t really vacuum and dust (my husband does that part), but I don’t even like spending time on the part that I can do.  It strikes me that if I have less stuff, the upkeep will be much easier.

And, while I was pondering how to do this, Gwen at The Sunny Coconut posted about a book:


I went and read the article about the book in Gwen’s post.  I pondered whether to buy the book, but didn’t decide.  But, Saturday was my birthday and I used an Amazon gift card to buy the Kindle version of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo.

I had never heard of the book before reading Gwen’s post and, even when I bought it, I didn’t really realize it was a best seller in the US. Turns out it is at the top of the New York Times Advice/How to list.

The book is not all that long and I read it quickly.  I haven’t yet started on the project, but this definitely provides a framework for me.  The heart of Kondo’s method is to handle each item  and “[c]hoose those things that spark joy when you touch them.”

If not, then it goes.  Another interesting thing from the book was the idea of decluttering by category, not by room.  The rationale is that similar items may be in various rooms of the house, so it makes sense to collect them all and then decide what to keep.  Also, if you declutter by room, Kondo asserts that you tend to never get finished.  And, most importantly, Kondo explains:

One reason so many of us never succeed at tidying is because we have too much stuff.  This excess is caused by our own ignorance of how much we actually own.  When we disperse storage of a particular item throughout the house and tidy one place at a time, we can never grasp the overall volume and therefore can never finish.  To escape this negative spiral, tidy by category, not by place.

I have actually worked on decluttering before.  Every time we have moved, I’ve seen that as an opportunity to declutter.  Almost 10 years ago, when we moved, we got rid of a lot of stuff when we moved.  We moved into a home that was larger and had ample storage space.  It was almost 4500 square feet and had two detached double garages plus a guest house.  When we moved, there was a lot going on and we stored about 30 boxes of stuff in the second garage.  During the first 3 years we were in the house we would occasionally need something from there and would go find the box and fish it out.

It wasn’t until we had been there about three years, that I decided to really go through them.  I found that there was very little out of them that I wanted to keep.  Still, we built up more stuff while living in that house.  Eventually, we decided to downsize as kids were getting older and starting college.  We didn’t need a house of that size any more.

We knew we would have to get rid of a lot of stuff since we would moving to a smaller place.  We aggressively went through and discarded stuff.  My husband said it seemed like I wanted to get rid of everything!  We also packed up some things and put them in storage while the house was on the market.  My idea was that I would carefully go over those things while moving into the new house and would only keep things I really wanted.

It didn’t actually end up working that way.  By the time we were moving into this house 3 years ago, I was exhausted and just wanted to get the boxes unpacked.  I did some culling out as we unpacked, but only things that were clearly obvious.  Then, a couple of years ago we went through books and DVDs and set aside those that were to go.  We actually bought on Kindle a lot of books we had in physical form and set aside the old books to go….somewhere.  Also, lots of movies are now available to be streamed so we didn’t need as many DVDs.  We set those aside as well.  We didn’t do anything with them, though, since we couldn’t decide what to do with them.  Should we try to sell them?  Donate them?  Trash them?

Finally a couple of weeks ago, my husband took them to Half Price Books.  We knew we would get hardly anything for them, but he was going to be near there so we decided that was the best plan.  Having done that, I was contemplating what to do next when I found The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

I had tried to work on my office unsuccessfully.  When we bought this house, I had bought this really nice office furniture from Pottery Barn that had all kinds of storage places. Kondo asserts that it is a mistake to focus on storage solutions — the better idea is to focus on limiting what you keep:

Putting things away creates the illusion that the clutter problem has been solved.  But sooner or later, all the storage units are full, the room once again overflows with things, and some new and “easy” storage method becomes necessary, creating a negative spiral.  This is why tidying must start with discarding.

I have a fairly good handle on how I want to handle paper.  Basically, I scan in anything that I don’t really have to keep in paper form.  Then I throw the paper way.  For receipts and stuff I want to keep for a limited time I have folders for each month of the year.  I put receipts, for example, in the folder for the month I bought the item.  Each year when I get to a particular month, I go throw the month and throw out old stuff from the prior year I don’t need any more.  I also have a few folders of things that I need to keep in paper form.

Still, my office decluttering efforts didn’t go very far.  First, I have a huge pile of paper that needs to be scanned in.  Also, the drawers are full of the dreaded items that I keep picking up and thinking I may need them some day.  At that point, I put them back, saying I will decide later.

To be clear, I am far more willing to get rid of that kind of stuff than my husband is (he has never seen a cable that he didn’t want to keep).  I seem to do OK on the big stuff, but get stymied by the little things.  The result is that I have drawers crammed with stuff and I can’t ever find anything that I’m really looking for.

Kondo suggests starting the discarding with clothes, then books, then papers, then komono (miscellany, divided into several sub-categories), and finally sentimental items.  I plan to follow this and start with clothes.

Clothes are for me a big problem right now.  I’ve actually gotten rid of a lot of clothes as I’ve been losing 56 pounds.  But, I know I still have quite a few that need to go.  I still have a lot of clothes in the closet that just swim on me now and I know I need to really go through them.  Some of that is difficult as I love T-shirts and love many of those that are too large for me.

Anyway, I’ll report back as I go through this.  I loved the book.  I thought at the time I read it that it was a little weak on how to handle the items that we “need” or “might use” which are utilitarian and don’t really spark joy in anyone.  Thinking about it, though, using the concepts from the book, I think it makes sense to focus on whether the item serves a function for you and how well it does so.  Something that succeeds doesn’t exactly spark “joy,” but does spark a sense of contentment at having something that perfectly meets your needs.


Unofficially Less Than 5 Pounds To Go

This morning on my home weigh in, I was at 150.9 pounds which puts me 4.9 pounds away from my goal weight.  That puts me within 5 pounds of getting to my Weight Watchers goal.  Of course, I would weigh in a little higher at Weight Watchers since I wear clothes there.  My current scale weighs “heavy” (about half a pound more than the scale it replaced) and usually I weigh in at Weight Watchers about .2 of a pound more that what I weigh in at home.

Still, I am down .8 pounds on my home scale from where I weighed on it Saturday morning.  Note that I ate out on Saturday (50 points – 1825 calories) and didn’t exercise that day so didn’t have a calorie deficit.  I did have one on Sunday.  Most of the lower weight between Saturday and this morning is part of last week’s should have been loss showing up this week.  I hope this continues for the rest of this week.

Cooking Note:  In my Weight Watchers meeting the other week, someone suggested a different way to “boil” eggs.  Put each egg in a cup in a muffin tin (no water).  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  I did this today (to make tuna salad) and it worked great.  The eggs came out great (none of that green between yolk and white) and were easy to peel.  Yes, it takes longer than boiling, but requires no babysitting.

Birthday Weigh In

For the second year in a row, my birthday was on weigh in day.  I weighed in for a .2 pound loss to get back to 151.8 pounds. I was glad to have a loss but it was still a little frustrating because I had another stellar week. I ate really well and exercised 486 minutes (some of that was light exercise on the exercise bike while reading just to burn some extra calories).  Fitbit says my calorie deficit was an average of 612 calories a day, which would be 4286 calories for the week.  So, losing .2 to get back to where I was 2 weeks ago is annoying.  Fitbit calorie deficit would say that over those weeks I should lose 2.4 pounds.  I don’t expect to actually do that, but it should be better than simply staying the same over that 2 weeks.  As I said last week, some of my reading indicated that increasing aerobic exercise can cause water retention for 2 or 3 weeks.  So, I’ll give it another week to see what happens.

Anyway, on to the birthday celebration.

Kitty (4) cropped

No, I didn’t eat all this myself!


Just like last year, I chose to go to Carrabba’s for lunch.  I had a Quest bar (4 points, 160 calories) to eat at my Weight Watchers meeting and then had lunch at Carrabba’s. I decided this year (like last) that I would eat whatever I truly wanted today.  Yes, I had 1/3 of that dessert, but shared it with my husband. I calculated lunch at 35 39 points (1285 1445 calories)(forgot the Mozzarella Cheesestick I ate).  I will have something light to eat this evening and the day will end up fine.

Here are a few pictures we took after we went home after lunch. I don’t usually post pictures of me here.  This is because I usually hate pictures of me. I think these are the first I’ve posted since my last birthday.  I’ve lost 21.6 pounds since then so it’s time for an update pic anyway.

IMG_0051 cropped

Me! On my birthday.

Kitty Charles Fluffy

My husband and I and 2 of our cats

Kitty Family 2

Kitty, Charles and 2 of our kids

This was also the one year anniversary of my husband getting to goal.  He has done great and is 5.6 pounds below where he was one year ago.  I hope to soon join him at goal (5.8 pounds for me to go)!


Quick edit just to show my photo from my birthday last year to compare to this year’s photo:

Me, on my birthday 2014, 34 pounds thinner than my high weight.

Me, on my birthday 2014, 34 pounds thinner than my high weight.


IMG_0051 cropped

Me on my birthday, 2015. 21.6 pounds lighter than last birthday.


Not A Runner

I am not a runner, nor am I an intense exerciser.  I am all about the moderate intensity exercise — at most.  I do not, by the way, have anything against running as an activity.  It is just that I’ve been told by more than one orthopedic surgeon that I should not run, due to my knee cartilage (or the lack thereof).  So, I walk and use the exercise bike and basically usually am more doing moderate intensity exercise.

Why am I talking about all this?  Well, I read a lot of blogs.  I find them highly motivational and I get good ideas from them.  And, in the weight loss world, I’ve noticed that some blogs are written by runners (or high intensity exercisers) wanting to lose weight or who have done so and are maintaining, while other blogs are written by those who are not runners or intense exercisers. (So this doesn’t get tedious throughout I’ll just use the term runner from here on to mean either someone who actually runs or someone who engages in intense exercise of any type).

In fact, some of my most favorite blogs are those of runners.  Many of those blogs have been extremely motivational to me.  But, it also strikes me that there tend to be  some differences between the blogs of runners and those who, like me, are not runners.  And, I realized that there is risk to me as someone losing weight, if I don’t recognize those differences.

The big difference to recognize is that runners usually burn a lot more calories per day than I do.  Higher intensity exercise, such as running, simply burns more calories quicker than the moderate walking that I do.  As a result, many who engage in high intensity exercise, particularly for significant periods of time, can eat way more calories a day than I do and still lose weight.  In fact, a runner who restricts calories at a level anywhere close to the calories I eat often loses weight far more rapidly than I lose weight.  A pounds and a half or 2 pounds loss during a week isn’t uncommon at all.  Of course, engaging in high intensity exercise can, quite naturally, make you hungrier so some who are really active eat more calories than I can eat, but still lose weight.  I’ve seen those who can get eat at a level where I would gain weight, but they still lose weight due to the calories being burned.

The point is that if I – a non runner – were to eat like a runner I wouldn’t get the same results.  A runner who eats like I eat (I aim to average 1200 calories a day) and who burns routinely over 2000 calories a day could lose 2 pounds a week.  I am lucky to lose half a pound in a week and often it is less than that.  Even worse, some of those who engage in lots of high intensity exercise can eat 1700 or 2000 calories a day and still lose weight.  If I took that as a model for how I could eat, I would actually gain weight.

Tuesday I had a great day for activity.  I had taken off from exercise on Monday.  As it turned out, I didn’t do much non-exercise activity either and my Fitbit says I burned 1420 calories.  That is actually not as low as I do on a totally sedentary day at home.  I went out on for awhile on Monday so I wasn’t totally sedentary. I actually have burned as little as just over 1300 calories on a very sedentary day.  Tuesday, though, I was away from home for most of the day and did some walking around in addition to my exercise walking.  I also did feel recharged from Monday and wanted to have a good day.  And, I did.

4-21-2015 Fitbit

For the first time ever, I had over 15,000 steps (not actual steps for part of it as I had my Fitbit on while on the exercise bike and some of the steps were earned there…but I was well over 10,000 steps of actual walking).  I burned over 2000 calories for the first time since April of last year — when I weighed almost 25 pounds more than I weigh now.

I was very happy to burn 2068 calories (yes, I know, it isn’t totally accurate but it was based upon heart rate from either the Charge HR or from my Polar chest strap).  But, let me explain what I had to do to do it.  First, as mentioned I was away from home part of the day and walked some going to and fro.  This was more walking than I would typically do if I was home all day at our one story home.

But, then, there was actual exercise I did.  I have found that I do best on exercise if I can break it up into blocks that aren’t too long.  I like to take a break and then continue.

So this is what I did on Tuesday:

  • 22 minutes walking at the mall – This was continuous walking with no stops.  I did some other steps while having lunch and doing some shopping, but that isn’t included in the exercise walking
  • 20 minutes on the treadmill – I then took a break for dinner
  • 20 minutes on the treadmill – I then took a break and read
  • 21 minutes on the treadmill – More reading
  • 40 minutes on the exercise bike – This was lower intensity than the treadmill, while I was reading
  • 20 minutes on the exercise bike – Reading while using the bike
  • 6 minutes on the treadmill – I could see I was close to getting to over 2000 calories burned and wanted to make sure I got there

Total: 149 minutes

So, basically 2 1/2 hours.  Fitbit tells me that 91 minutes were “fairly active”, while 58 minutes very “very active.” As best as I can tell, fairly active is meant to equate to something more moderate, while very active is more vigorous.  That is probably as vigorous as I’m going to get.

The point is that for me — with a basal metabolic rate under 1300 — it takes a lot for me to get to a calorie burn of over 2000 calories.  Today, I had the 2 1/2 hours that I could spend on doing this, but I did basically spend the entire evening exercising for awhile, then taking a break, then exercising. I don’t always have the time to do that.

Let me be clear here.  I know there are reasons having nothing to do with exercise that I burn fewer calories than some others.  Some of things that affect my basal metabolic rate:

  • Age – I am 60 years old.  Using the Mifflin-St. Jeor formula, my BMR is 1246 (the calculator says that on my birthday Saturday, that number will be 5 calories lower).  If I was 30, my BMR would be 1396
  • Weight – When I started this blog, I weighed 186.8 pounds.  My BMR was 1410.  As I lose weight, I burn fewer calories just existing and I burn fewer calories when I exercise.
  • Body Fat – The Mifflin – St. Jeor formula doesn’t use body fat.  Most people don’t know their body fat percentage.  But the Katch McArdle formula does use it.  So, using my body fat (from my scale), that formula says my BMR is 1280.  It would be more if my body fat was less.

So, a runner who is younger than me (same weight) would have a BMR higher than mine, as would a similar aged runner who weighs more.

Another factor is that I have a sedentary lifestyle.  I live in a one story house.  I work part-time from home doing sedentary work.  My hobbies are mostly sedentary (reading or computer related).  Someone who has a job that is more active will burn more calories.

Still, exercise activity matters.  I often see those who run or engage in high intensity exercise burning well over 2000 calories a day — and without spending 2 1/2 hours exercising (some do exercise that much, but then burn even more calories).  To take a more typical example for me, here are some calories burned on days where I exercised for roughly 40 minutes (usually walking or exercise bike): 1619, 1605, 1562, 1769, 1519.

What I have learned is that I get a lot of motivation and good ideas from reading blogs of runners. But, I have to be aware that I have to match my eating to my activity level, which is not as intense.  If I try to match it to someone who does exercise that burns many more calories at a much faster pace, then I will end up not losing.

And, if I want to burn over 2000 calories in day, then at the intensity of exercise that I can do, it will take a lot of exercising.