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The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up… Your Athletic Gear

January 22, 2018

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up… Your Athletic Gear

Mid-2017, we started officially moving to our new condo. Now, I admit, I still keep a decent amount of stuff back in NJ, because I’m here pretty regularly. So moving to a small place wasn’t *too* painful. But at the same time as our move, I was also reading Marie Kondo’s “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.” (I am organization-book obsessed. Ask my mother what I was reading when I was 7. Answer: “Organize Your Life” and Family Circle magazine. Sigh.)

Naturally, Kondo’s book spoke to me. The concept was simple: organize by getting rid of possessions that don’t ‘spark joy,’ and ruthlessly organize what’s left. Applying that to my closet was hard (goodbye, third faux leather jacket that kind of fit), but applying it to my gear closet was eye-openingly brutal for a couple reasons. And man, the piles of stuff I’ve eliminated and re-organized were ridiculous. But my sticking points were valid…

  1. Cycling/running/adventuring gear is expensive, and getting rid of things that are still technically use-able, or barely used at all, is hard to deal with
  2. What if I need to replace something I rip, and now need to buy another? I should keep XY jerseys in stock. (<– True, of jerseys I love. Not true of jerseys that I never wear because I hate the fit)
  3. Wait, that gel expired WHEN? But maybe it’s still good. (As Peter pointed out, ‘Molly, that PowerBar has been traveling with you since we started dating.’)
  4. A lot of my cycling gear has memories attached to it, or is from a former team that I loved (looking at you, RUCX)

OK, so where to begin tidying gear?

Lay it out.

When I was a kid, my favorite thing was the week before back-to-school, I would take EVERYTHING out of my dresser, closet, bookshelf, etc. and make one massive pile. And then, I would put it all away. In the process, I would weed stuff out. I realized at a young age that it’s easier to be ruthless with your stuff when you need to either toss it in a bag, or actually put it back in its place. When you try to organize/weed out while leaving stuff where it is, you don’t end up as willing to get rid of crap.

Bonus: this organizes your stuff a lot better by the end of it.

Be honest.

If you haven’t worn that jersey yet, or only worn it once, it’s probably time to say goodbye. Even if it wasn’t cheap (see below for resale options). Odds are, if it isn’t in your normal rotation, it’s because it doesn’t fit right or look good. And as someone who once kept a pair of jeans for 8 years thinking ‘If I lose 2 pounds, these will look amazing,’ trust me when I say that THIS WILL NEVER HAPPEN. (The losing of the pounds, maybe. But the jeans magically looking good at 2 pounds lighter, no chance.)

Be especially honest about seasonal gear.

Really, do you need the third pair of fleece tights, or is that wishful thinking? If you do ride a ton in the winter, great. But if you get out once a month, maybe just keep one around.

Remember, laundry exists.

I feel like I have been SO guilty of this. Guys, you can wash your kits. Really, most of us only need a couple days worth of riding gear: most of the time, you need to do the laundry every 2-3 days, so don’t convince yourself you need 15 pairs of bib shorts. (Unless you don’t have a machine in-home, in which case, I get it…)

Seriously, check expiration dates.

Some stuff, I’ll argue, can be eaten after sell-by date. But if that gel expired in 2015, it might be time to let it gooooo.

Does it really *SPARK JOY*?

This is an interesting one for those of us with gear for a billion and one sports. It might be time to get honest with yourself. Does the mountain bike/kayak/road bike *actually* get used, or is it taking up space? (If you say it gets used once a year or something like that, could you rent instead?) I think especially with outdoor gear, we hang on to stuff because being active is part of our identity, and to get rid of the canoe feels like giving up a chunk of that. But think of the garage space that you’re regaining… and now you have room for that new wheelset 😉

Sentimental team stuff…

OK, this is a tough one. My general rule is to get rid of it unless the idea of parting with it actually makes you seriously sad. If you don’t wear it though, shift it to whatever ‘memory box’/space you have for sentimental stuff. I have a box in the attic that stores photos, high school newspapers I edited, letters from friends, and a couple of jerseys and band tshirts. But those sentimental skinsuits don’t belong in the same spot as your current gear.



The Organizing Part

The Kondo method is about de-cluttering, but it’s also about being organized with what you do have. So this is a great time to get systems in place.

Assess your needs

I don’t even want to start offering organizing advice because we’re all super different in our space needs (maybe I’ll do another post with my and Peter’s setup in the new few weeks, once we have our racks all up!). But think a little about each time you go out for a ride/run. What are you always forgetting? What do you need to go back for, i.e you get kitted up and head to the bike, only to realize you left your mini-pump inside and have to tromp back in. Maybe you need a different drawer setup.

Think about current blocks

What is NEVER ready to go?

  • Tire pressure? Put your pump RIGHT NEXT TO THE BIKE RACK
  • Dead Garmin/bike light? Put a charging station by your gear shelf/closet/dresser so you plug it in after every ride.
  • Bottles always gross/laundry EVERYWHERE? Set up a dump bin by the door (or closest bathroom if walking around in the buff is weird). After every ride, shed EVERYTHING off your body and your bike, go shower / eat your recovery meal / foam roll / check email… and then make sure that bin gets emptied by end of day. But this way, all your crap is in a pile together, so bottles don’t drip slowly onto the bike/floor after you hang the bike, Garmin gets re-attached to charger, and chamois ends up in the washer. (This also helps avoid the hanging out in your chamois issue… AHEM.)

Assess what’s left

Did you keep a vest that needs to be patched or taken in? What about a wheelset that’s out of true? Make a pile that needs to go to the bike shop or tailor (or you need to actually take the time to repair yourself) before you put that gear away. If you realize that you just want to put it away and you’re not going to actually fix it, then move it to the toss pile. Be brutal.

Make go-bags

Depending on what’s left, you may want to even consider digging into the pile of stuff you were going to toss, or if you weren’t able to pair down to capsule-wardrobe levels, use what you kept. But whatever you do, make a go-bag for biking, running or whatever your key activities are (I made one of each). This way, you can keep this stashed in the car/at the office/at your significant other’s place so you’re always action-ready. Need more guidance on what to pack? I wrote a piece on the emergency gear bag here.



What to do with your old gear:

  1. Donate. There are a bunch of places you can send stuff, but you can also keep it in the community. Reach out to local NICA branches and see what they need, and look into local junior teams that might need your gear. There’s a bike that’s been in rotation for Somerville Cycling for 15 years now (shoutout to Surly for their bombproof CrossCheck) that has gone through 30+ riders, myself included. That stuff is hella appreciated. If you don’t need the $$, donating is the way to go.
  2. Companies like ProTested Gear and ThredUp. I wrote this piece on getting rid of bike gear for Bicycling a couple years ago highlighting companies doing the resell thing for cycling and I personally LOVE ProTested for both selling and buying. (I use ThredUp, which just does standard clothing, for stuff like Lululemon and gently used run gear.)
  3. Organize a swap! When I lived in MA, we did a mini-clothing swap with a few ladies, and I walked away with some RAD stuff that I still use 8 years later.
  4. Ebay, Facebook, Craigslist: This isn’t my first choice, because it’s a lot of work and I genuinely think that even with the cut that they take, a place like ProTested can do better in terms of pricing and avoids you needing to ‘bro-deal’ stuff.


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