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Beginner’s Luck: The Magic of Having a “Tri Closet”

Outer order equals inner calm. Here’s a fool-proof organizational method that will have you on your way to feeling a tri calm.

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In a recent podcast interview with Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project and The Four Tendencies, we discussed the idea of “Outer Order, Inner Calm”—also coincidentally the title of her latest book. Her hypothesis is that keeping outer order in your life (in your house, surroundings, workspace) leads to a greater sense of inner calm (in the majority of people). This got me thinking about the mess that can be a triathlon life—especially when it comes to organization of tri gear.

Years ago, I decided that the only way to tackle the triathlon gear fiasco was head on, with some mad organization skills. As Rubin has now revealed, my inner self was not calm when the swim, bike, and run gear explosion was happening.

We have lived in several houses since beginning the sport of triathlon, and in each house, no matter the size or practicality, I designate a closet or a decent amount of square footage to the organization of triathlon gear. Here’s a fool-proof organizational method that will have you on your way to feeling a tri calm.

1. Find a space

Picking a space in the house requires a little work, especially if you are in close quarters. You don’t need much space, but it needs to be easily accessible. I have found that storing the triathlon gear near the bike trainer or treadmill (if you have either) is a good starting point. If not, then where do you typically keep your bike? Scout out a space near the bike. A coat closet is a great starting place. Well, where do you put your coats, then? In the pantry!

Okay, so it’s up to you to find the little corner of the world. But if you take a little decluttering mission, it’s fairly easy to find a little bit of space to start this project.

2. Get the storage bins

I like to start with six bins—plastic or your material of choosing is fine. Whatever works best in your space. I like them to be about 3 feet long and 2 feet wide—with a little height as well.

3. Label the bins

I have found that over the years, my bins have grown to about 10. But we are also a two-triathlete household, and that makes a difference. For the starter closet or space, take a gander at these:

In this bin, you have your goggles, spares, swim caps, ear plugs, swim buoy, and everything you need for this leg of the training.
Bike Maintenance
This is a greasy bin. Keep it separate from things you like. In this bin, you have your CO2 cartridges, spare levers, chain lube, extra parts and cleats, and other unknowns that go to the bike that your LBS gave you (that you may not need right now, but will be glad you have someday).
Bike Ride
Here you store the things you need for your bike ride: Helmet, sunglasses, perhaps some bottles, your bike shoes, and extra lube.
Extra laces, lube, visor, hydration systems, favorite hats, or visors
Cold Weather/Wetsuit
Keep your wetsuit in a separate bag, if possible. Here you can keep beanies, knee sleeves, toe covers, hand warmers. Anything you need for the cold weather.
Race Day
Race number belts, race laces, spare flip flops, extra goggles, and miscellaneous things needed for race day

Optional Bins

Warm Weather (a bin for arm coolers, cooling towels, sunscreen, and electrolytes), Sherpa (for signs, cowbells, ponchos for your people), Nutrition (this might be better served in the pantry, but a separate bin for your training and racing nutrition is helpful)

4. Be consistent with your organization

After each training session or workout, return things to their bins. Of course, during training a lot of your stuff stays in a car or the gym bag. But when items aren’t being used, return each to the bin it belongs to. You will really enjoy knowing where everything is—especially in the wee hours of the morning when you are heading out the door and realize you didn’t pack your spare tube the night before. The biggest benefit to this organizational system is when you are packing for a race—everything is right where you need it—to go over your checklist.

5. Clean out at the end of each season

At the end of each season, do a decluttering and get rid of things you don’t need, have become obsolete or are just plain gross. With this outer order in your life, you can find a little piece of triathlon calm.

Meredith Atwood (@SwimBikeMom) is a recovering attorney, motivational speaker and author of the best-selling book, Triathlon for the Every Woman: You Can Be a Triathlete. Yes. You. She is the host of the podcast, The Same 24 Hours, and writes at Her next book, The Year of No Nonsense, is available December 2019.