The Unmentionables Drawer

The project I’m about to share will either inspire or inflame. I’ll rip the band-aid off right now: we’re an underwear folding family. I’m pretty sure it’s something that is passed down through the generations. I grew up in an underwear-folding family, and so did the Mister. We don’t fold the boys’ underwear. I tried once, but they ended up looking ridiculous, like Chunky Bars. Besides, the whole point of folding underwear, aside from keeping your drawer organized, is that it saves space. Chunky Bars don’t save space.

Wait, wait. What? That doesn’t look like the drawer belonging to someone who folds their underwear into tidy squares. It is, and here’s what happened. All that stuff, I didn’t really know what it was. I used to, and I remember the drawer being organized at some point, so at some point I knew what that stuff was and considered it important. Eventually that changed and things got jumbled. When I put away the laundry, I rested my tidy squares on the rolling waves of cotton and pushed everything down so I could close the drawer.

Oddly enough, I have a place to store undergarments. I have two drawers and the organizers I used as a tween sitting empty, for the most part, and the reason is telling. It’s the real reason for this post, much more important than folded underwear tucked into tidy boxes.

I had a friend who would buy herself new socks, new underwear, new t-shirts. Little things, big things, cheap things, expensive things. Then she put it all away neatly and used her old socks, underwear, and t-shirts because she didn’t want to ruin her new purchases. I never judged her because I did the same thing.

Then I stopped buying new things as regularly, because I wanted to wait until I lost weight.

And when I lost weight, I waited until my underwear drooped until I bought something new because I still wasn’t at my dream weight.

I kept the old underwear just in case.

When I regained the weight, I was glad I did.

I kept the smaller underwear because I knew I would one day lose weight again, this time for the last time.

I emptied out that drawer and stuffed to bursting a large gift bag Mikey received for his birthday. In the small bag went the few undergarments worth keeping. In that drawer were t-shirts from high school; socks from college; maternity bras and underwear; expensive underwear I never wore because they were uncomfortable; ill-fitting bathing suits I stopped wearing years ago; gloves I received as gifts; and a whole lot of stuff that was no longer important or organized. I tossed and donated all of it.

Then, I went to the store and bought myself underwear in a size I hate because no matter my size, I need underwear that fits. I deserve underwear that fits, feels comfortable, and wouldn’t embarrass me on a hospital gurney.

I won’t save it, or tuck it away, or spare it from being ruined while I wear frayed cotton and loose elastic. It occurred to me when I found a handful of black underwear–years old, barely worn–at the back of the drawer that by cherishing my purchases, even those as mundane as underwear, I placed their value above my own. I unwittingly made a scrap of $7 cotton you’re supposed to sit on naked more important that my body image, my self confidence, my ability to look in the mirror and say, “I’m not where I want to be, but I’m taking care of myself.”

That, to quotes my non U.S. friends, is bollocks. (Did I say that right, Londoners?)

The bras lay flat in that empty space.

Underwear! Socks! 50:50 ratio of new to old, but 100% earned.


This post was part of The William Morris Project, a weekly series that details the steps I am taking to create an intentional home. You can see more of my goals and completed projects here. To learn more about this project, start here.


Now it’s your turn! Feel free to share how you have lived according to the William Morris quote, “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” Made a plan? Cleaned a drawer? Bought a sofa? Tell us about it with a link or comment. A few guidelines:

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    • Definitely said it right πŸ™‚ I’m guilty of hoarding my underwear too so I try and have a purge every six months or so and have got much more ruthless about throwing out pairs that don’t fit or are old and worn. It’s surprising how much nice underwear makes a difference to your mood, right?!

  1. Best line is: “by cherishing those purchases, I placed their value above my own.” Why do we do this? I think we’d be hard pressed to find any woman who isn’t guilty of this. I have been struggling to break away from it for years – with makeup, perfume, lingerie, dresses, soap, and even shoes. Telling that these are all things to be used on the body, isn’t it?? I will remember that line for the rest of my life.

  2. Ah, the infamous underwear drawer–the stuff of dreams or nightmares, depending on the day. I’m a folder as well (it never occurred to me there might be another way . . . )–a folder + stacker. But I really like your organizers; seems like I would feel more guilty co-mingling the old with the new that way . . . .

  3. We’re folders in our family. Actually, until I read your post, I didn’t know people don’t fold their underwear. I fold everything in our house – panties, bras, boxers. I’ve yet to figure out how to fold a thong tho. πŸ˜‰
    And good for you for wearing your “good underwear.” πŸ™‚

  4. Oh, I do the same thing! I have underwear with tags still on them, not sexy or special (because I am pragmatic and prude) but just because they are new and I don’t want to ruin them. They are over a year old and I don’t know what awesome occasion I am waiting to break out white cotton panties for? I am going to start wearing them a.s.a.p Thanks friend for breaking me out of my unmentionable mania!

    • Miss B, your comment made me laugh out loud! I, too, am pragmatic & prude and “save” the new stuff, but you are totally right…WHY WAIT to break out the white cotton panties?

      Oh, and I USED to be a folder (because I was raised that way) and then, last year, in an attempt to break free of my perfectionist tendencies, I stopped…now they just get tossed in the drawer. Yours all look so pretty together in their little folded tidiness though… πŸ™‚

  5. Sigh…am I the only one of your readers who isn’t a folder? πŸ™‚ But as always, you hit that nail right on the head! What is up with old underwear? I do not deny myself much, in fact I probably over-indulge myself, but not with underwear. Finally last week I got rid of a bunch of it and bought all new (from Target, not expensive, but still new). I do hoard some things like make-up, and then when I want to use it it’s all dried up and useless, so I’ve been trying to use “the good stuff” whether it’s art supplies, dishes, or underwear.

    • I don’t fold! And I grew up in a folding family. It just never made much sense to me, because it doesn’t seem like it really saves space and I like to riffle through my underwear when I’m choosing what to wear. I do have drawer dividers, otherwise my underwear and my socks get all jumbled together.

      I use the VS semi annual sales as my reminder to buy a few pairs of replacement underwear once a year, and then I toss out any worn stuff when the new ones arrive.

      My big issue is that when I make a mistake and accidentally buy some that are uncomfortable I still can’t bring myself to throw them out because they’re “good”. So I walk around tugging on them all the time and hoping they wear out soon. I need to take a cue from you, Jules. The underwear are not worth more than my comfort.

      • Whew – glad I’m not the only one. πŸ™‚ Women’s underwear just seems too hard to fold – seems like it would just be too slippery.

  6. Not folders here – they are usually smushed in the drawer to get the drawer to close…but wearing it all! 99.5% of my undies are from Victoria’s Secret and they last a long, long time (if you don’t put them in the dryer). The other 0.5% – cotton whites (rarely worn – just when it’s too hot and humid that they are actually more comfortable).

  7. Excellent post! It took me years to get over my mindset of purchasing and saving but you said it absolutely right…you put more value on a piece of fabric than on your own body and self. Way to go! Feeling very proud for you!

  8. Oops! You did it again!
    Never fail. I stop by on Thursday and find yet another thing that I should really fix in my own home. You got me again.

  9. I don’t put off wearing new underpants (mostly) but I *cannot* get rid of old underpants. It’s a weird mindset thing, I think. Even ones that clearly do not sit correctly across my seat, I pass over them in the drawer until it’s getting close to laundry time and I’ve run out of correctly-fitting options. I should purge, I know.

    Is it weird to donate your underpants? It’s the one thing I can’t bring myself to take to Salvation Army, even though my husband points out that people need underpants. The problem is, as noted above, I do NOT get rid of them, so by the time things are desperate, we’re talking falling-apart-at-the-seams. Surely people don’t want terrible, droopy, worn out underpants. I cannot make myself do it! Ack!

    • I’ve debated this with people, but I’m pretty firm on never donating worn out underwear. My feeling is that underwear is relatively cheap and no one should have to wear my stretched out ones. Maybe we should start buying and donating fresh, unopened packs every once in a while instead?

  10. I don’t fold my underwear. I try to lay them flat, one upon the other in a basket in my drawer. The drawer is always a mess, though. In fact, I over-stuff all my drawers, so they are rarely tidy. I go through each drawer twice a year and organize and purge. I’ll admit to having a problem throwing away old underwear. I’m always afraid I’ll get behind on laundry and not have any to wear.

  11. Good for you! At an earlier point in my life, I realized I had pants in 5 different sizes. And that the problem wasn’t clothes. When I began dealing with the real issues I let go of the things that didn’t fit (even though it was hard to let go of perfectly good things I might need again some day). Told myself that I need to dress (and accept) the person I am right now, today–whatever size she is. And that’s what I try to do.

  12. Love those drawer organizers! They’re so sharp and posh! Looks like we are all getting our drawers in order. Now that we finally have our furniture set up, I have been an underwear-folding angel. Wonder how long I will be able to keep it up.

  13. I wore Old Navy maternity underwear for six years. Clearly I was not pregnant for six years. I finally threw them all away and bought new, non-maternity underwear. I secretly wish to go buy more maternity underwear, not because I am or want to be pregnant (the horror!), but because the low-cut ones were the perfect size under my c/s scar….but they are labeled MATERNITY on the damn tag, and I feel like that’s my line drawn in the sand. I may dress dowdy but I am not wearing maternity underwear.

    Although they were really comfortable.

    Perhaps this is my computer, but I don’t see any pictures with the linkups?

    • Hah. I secretly yearn for my maternity jeans. That stretchy band around the top is so darn comfy and smooths out the bit of stretched out belly flab from the pregnancies so nicely. Alas, I too have drawn the line at not wearing maternity clothing when not expecting. Sigh.

  14. I don’t do this with underwear, but I do it with lots of other clothes – save things that I want to fit into.

    I finally told myself that if I lost weight, I would for sure deserve some new clothes anyways, so hanging onto the ones that will be dated is just silly. I’m sure everyone differs, but I find digging through clothes that don’t fit to be discouraging, not motivating at all. (Note – exceptions have always been made for pieces of clothing that I am so obsessed with that I can’t give them up even if I can’t wear them – that probably isn’t healthy either.)

  15. This is a wonderful post. I think I need to purge my underwear. I do fold; I have tried not to fold and I can hear my mother’s voice every time.

  16. I used to be a folder, since that’s how I was raised, but I guess I’ve gradually become lazy. Bikinis may get folded in half, thongs get wadded into a ball, and everything gets tossed haphazardly into the drawer. I only just started washing them in a lingerie bag and air drying them to prolong their lives (I swear I’m an adult! Why did I never think to do this before?), so now I just scoop everything off the drying rack and don’t bother to fold a piece. I really ought to implement a new system.

    I also can’t seem to toss old underwear. They do get separated from my “good” ones and stashed in a spare dresser in another room though, along with clothes I don’t really like but that still fit. It’s like I feel the need to hoard all these backup clothes in case I run out of the good ones, or something? If we can’t do laundry for a month, at least I’ll still have ill-fitting underwear and out-of-style clothes to wear!

    The worst is that I have a few pairs of “memory” panties. I should explain. πŸ˜› I studied abroad for a month in college (back in ’04) and the 4th of July fell at the beginning of the trip. We were warned not to wear patriotic clothes because… terrorists? I don’t even know. So my friend/roommate/travel buddy and I bought some cheap patriotic panties (mine were from Old Navy) and wore them to privately show our support for our country. Those things are now stretched out and floppy and threadbare, and I haven’t worn them in years, but still I hold on to them. What am I going to do with worn out panties? It’s not like I’m going to put them in a shadowbox! Future grandchildren won’t want to look at grandma’s old underpants when she tells them about her trip to Spain at the turn of the century! Ridiculous. But I still can’t seem to toss them.

  17. Hallelujah, you have been freed! I have been guilty of the same thing, mostly in the past. (There’s still one drawer that’s not completely up to par, yet.) It’s so ridiculous, isn’t it? Of course, in my case, I actually bought stuff in sort of the wrong size — which turned out to be REALLY the wrong size, according to a later fitting — because it was cute and on clearance. Yeah. It was still cute when I cleared it out of the drawer, even with the tags still on it….

    Good for you! Always love seeing what you’ve tackled each week!

  18. Oddly, I fold my mister’s underwear but not my own which may say something about my self-worth vs. my care for him but I’ll leave that for another day.

    On a daily basis, I stare in disgust at the state of my underwear drawer. (This is so gross, brace yourself) We had a dog with a hobby of plucking socks and underwear from the laundry so I’m the proud owner of countless pairs of undies full o’ holes. And I still wear them. I need to just toss 90% of the drawer and start fresh. I also once heard that you should replace your bras yearly, but every morning I stare at ones that I’ve owned for well over a decade and consider that it’s probably time to stop living with underwires poking my armpits, yet they remain in that drawer, haunting me.

    A certain larger lady store regularly has 5 for $25 underwear sales and I need to just hop on that deal next time it comes around.

  19. Nice drawers! Har-de-har-har.

    I fold my husband’s underwear, but me and the girlies each have a basket for unfolded panties to be thrown into. I finally got over my various clothing issues (all of which you mentioned) and now only have things that currently fit that I will actually wear on a daily basis. Somehow not saving the “thin” clothes and only having options that fit now has made me more motivated to eat well and workout. Makes no sense to me at all, but I’m going with it!

  20. One of the most satisfying things about an underwear drawer clean-up is that you know no one else in the house is going to muss it up. πŸ™‚

  21. my unmentionables drawer is a testament to not putting my self first or even last πŸ™
    I finally got back down to my pre first kid size (9 years later) you would think i could celebrate with a least 1 pack of undies that fit. pitiful. i am still hanging on to those mesh underwear they give you after childbirth still in the wrapper… just in case LMAO (you know maybe Let’s Make a Deal will show up in my bedroom and I’ll win some sort of cash prize for the most pathetic pair of panties)

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