‘Clirty’ Clothing And What to Do With It

5 min read

Last Modified 19 May 2022 First Added 19 May 2022

By Nicholas Barber

So what is clirty clothing?

Washing dirty clothes started with Stone Age rocks and streams. But now in 2022 many of us are struggling with the much more modern issue of never-ending piles of ‘clirty’ clothes.

Clirty clothes are the ones you’ve worn once but can easily wear again. They’re certainly not dirty but aren’t completely clean. According to Living Order SA: “They don’t stink. They didn’t get stained. They were worn for maybe an hour or two. Like “gently used” means it’s not in bad shape and could be donated to someone else, clirty clothes are “gently worn.”

So these clothes end up in limbo – they don’t get thrown into the washing basket, but aren’t put back in the wardrobe either. Some people keep clirty clothes over unused running machines, or bedside tables, even more use chairs. We’ve surely all experienced it to various degrees at some point, and now the phenomenon has hit the national headlines!

The issue recently erupted after Rebekah Entralgo Fernández @rebekahentralgo tweeted, “Men love to keep a little pile of clothes next to their side of the bed.” The tweet went viral and led to a “wave of identification that would quickly ricochet around the world”, according to an article in The Times by James Brown.

What's the problem?

The ‘pile-of-clothes-next-to-the-bed’ issue is one that’s causing tension between bedroom-sharing couples around the world. Perhaps understandably, it makes the culprits less attractive to their partner whatever their sex. Because, let’s be honest, women can be just as guilty of clirty clothing piles too.

For example, Bridget Harrison, writing in The Times, says “OK, so I am untidy, but my clothes mound isn’t down to laziness. It’s down to a conundrum. What to do with clothes worn once or twice that don’t need to be washed yet, but that you don’t want to put back in a drawer or hang up with clothes that are all truly clean?

I do wonder if [my husband] would have married me had he known about my clothes habits 15 years ago. Possibly not. Now he just sleeps facing his side of the room, with his back to me. So if any bright interiors spark out there does have a better way to manage a clothes mound, I’d be very glad to hear it.”

On the other hand, Senior Editor of Mel Magazine, Isabelle Kohn, complains that the piles of clothes her male partner leaves around the house, “on the floor, on the bed, on every chair”, is the one thing that makes her genuinely unattracted to him:

Why are there piles of anything when there are places to put things called closets and hampers?” she asks. “It honestly makes me so depressed. Like I’m just living in this trash heap of chaos.”


What can you do about it?

Sounds familiar? If so, you’re one of many for whom clirty clothes piles are a common source of clutter; we all have the chair that never gets sat on but quickly devolves into a chairdrobe – a leaning tower of once-worn clothing.

According to Kammy Lee, Professional Organiser and Marie Kondo Certified Consultant, the solution is to give these items their own home, such as a basket, a special drawer, or even a hook, “Voila, no more “transitional” clothing piles!”

And Helen Segura at Living Order SA adds, “Keeping your clirty clothes together will allow you to see how many are gathering, so you can perhaps put a dent in that gathering by wearing them one more time and throwing them in the wash.

“If you don’t foresee yourself wearing the item again for a while, you can leave that item hanging in Clirtydom or just go ahead and wash it and put it away with the clean clothes.”

Handling ‘in-between’ clothes

It’s also worth considering this advice from Gretchen Ruben’s organising book, Outer Order, Inner Calm.

“Many people struggle to manage clothes that are neither fresh from washing nor ready to be laundered: the sweatpants you’ve worn a few times, the shirt you wore for an afternoon,” Ruben writes.

“When people feel uncomfortable mixing not-dirty clothes with clean ones, they tend to accumulate clothes in odd places. If you feel this way, find a method for handling those in-between clothes.”

Do achieve this you could:

Segura advises that if wall hooks or over-the-door hooks won’t hold your clirty clothes, you could clear out some shelf space specifically for clirty items. Alternatively, you could put your clirty clothes back in the section it belongs in, but with the hanger turned in the other direction.

Find the right balance

Hopefully, you’ll be able to avoid falling into the depths of clutter-induced despair by following all the advice provided by the experts above. Your relationship will improve without any squabbling over who’s responsible for the clutter and you’ll also be helping the environment by not wasting energy and water with unnecessary washes.

Ultimately, it’s about finding the right balance. “If you truly don’t want to see a mass of clirty clothes together, and you truly don’t want your clirty clothes touching your clean clothes, then perhaps you need to wear ’em and wash ’em to get them back in the land of clean clothes,” concludes Segura.

For more advice on the importance of uncluttering your bedroom, read our article here.

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