#387 When you think you’re out of clean underwear but then you find one more pair

Admit it.

You’ve done the sniff test.

Sure, while shuffling through a mish-mashed drawer of balled up sweatsocks and stained undershirts a few minutes ago you started panicking when you thought there was nothing left. Soon your mind started racing into Plan B’s and C’s:

1. Rock the commando. Should you just skip underwear altogether? After all, it seems to be what the fates are telling you. On the plus side, you can leave the house right away and avoid being late for work. On the down side, zippers.

2. Pull a dirty pair out of the basket. Maybe you’re scoffing now, but we know you been there, too. Hey, sometimes you can totally justify it to yourself: “It’s probably air-dried itself clean by now”, “I didn’t sweat the day I wore these”, or the classic, “I know, I’ll just wear them inside out. I am a genius.”

3. Borrower beware. Whoa, whoa, whoa, over the line. Move on.

4. Go buy some. Unless you’re living in the remote rocky outskirts of a distant mining town, camping up north at a lakeside cabin, or getting changed after hours, there are decent odds a local discount chain has a plastic-wrapped three-pack with your name on it.

Yeah, it’s a stressful scene when the clock’s clicking, the baby’s crying, and you’re running late for work while running around pantsless. But that’s why it’s sweet when you keep digging and digging and digging and digging and eventually unearth a terribly twisted, torn and tattered, mothball-smelling pair of ratty old underwear you haven’t worn in years.


My speech from TEDx Toronto is now online. Thanks to the organizers and volunteers for an amazing event.


Photos from: here and here

71 thoughts on “#387 When you think you’re out of clean underwear but then you find one more pair

    1. I’ve definetly done the bikini bottom thing once or twice!

      I’ve also once or twice picked up a cheap pack the day of my last pair, when I just knew I was going to be too tired to do laundry that night! Lazy, but oh so convenient!

      1. I’m glad I saw this, because I was DEFINITELY going to post.

        I LOVE the bikini bottom. It’s a last, last minute save. Although I haven’t used them in college.

        But before the bikini comes two others categories.

        1. The too small undies. The ones that cut off blood circulation at the thigh, but I keep “just in case.” I now wear an XL, but I have some mediums in my drawer.

        2. The “special times” undies. Need I say more…

        AFTER the bikinis comes the thong. I own them to prevent panty lines on special occasions, but I hate them. Quite honestly, I might as well go commando, as a thong is really nothing, but my mother would kill me.

  1. Happening to me on the trip I’m on right now… didn’t pack very well I guess!

    Love the Talk, by the way, especially the part about authenticity, and Roosevelt… absolutely priceless.

  2. Hahaha, this is pretty awesome. :)

    Neil, thank you so much for posting up that video. You’re right. We really need to start looking at the world with our three-year-old selves. There’s so much that we have to be grateful for.

  3. Lol, this really just made my day. I was about to go to bed depressed and sad, and then I read this and it made me smile. Thanks so much!

  4. What about #5 (the “grab your favorite pair, hand-wash it with detergent in the laundry room sink, ring it out tight and stick it in the drier for 25 minutes on high while you get ready with everything else but your pants” method)?

    Because I am so guilty of that one.

  5. I’m a solid “I didn’t sweat that much the day I wore these” kind of guy..

    And where’d you get a picture of my pirate underoos?

      1. My mom made me pull a number 3 when I was like 6. I remember it like it was yesterday…. at grandmas, got sick, had an accident. Mom made my brothers go to my cousin’s house across the road and get me a full change of clothes……Not cool, mom…not cool at all.

        1. No, not cool!

          I remember as kids we used to get bags of hand-me-down clothes from an older cousin.

          Yeah. Thanks but no thanks on the hand-me-down underwear. [shudder]

          1. Repressed memories. When I was 8 and my cousin was 6 and at my house, she had an accident, and my mom made me give her a full set of clothes…which she returned…”shivers”

  6. YESSSS!!!!
    As an exchange student living with a french family who does my laundry, I never know when I am going to get clean undies back. That one pair saves the day all the time!!!

  7. Ha, Freddo. Underoos! I want a pair of those, they look so badass! :P

    That speech was incredible Neil, well done! :)

  8. I always save my husband’s ratty shorts (and socks and undershirts) to send with him when he goes out of town. Then he just trashes them instead of bringing home a bunch of laundry.

  9. Oh this made me laugh! Especially #3!

    You’ve never been so happy to see that non-elastic, hole-filled, misshapen, messed up pair of old undies as you are on a panic-filled almost-no-undies morning. Sure, that pair gets on your nerves when it’s mingling with all the classier undies … that’s when your underwear drawer is in feast mode. But when it enters famine mode, that reserve pair is shining like a beacon in the night. It’s not really comfortable, but hey – it’s clean and you can avoid any zipper mishaps.

    1. “Classier undies”.. ha! love it..

      Reminds me of a favorite quote of mine from Modern Family.. the family patriarch is complaining that the cleaning lady keeps mixing up all of his “good underwear” with his young step-son.. and his wife comments: “The question is, why isn’t all your underwear good, Jay? You make a nice living!”

      And it was like a light bulb went off.. I had all of these old undies with an elastic that lost it’s stretch, or had holes or were generally terrible.. and I thought – “Hey! I at least make a good enough living to have all “good underwear”.. So that weekend, it was a trip to CostCo and I bought about 7 packs of underwear, giving me a supply that I can last at least 3 weeks without ever running out. I immediately got home and threw out ALL of my old underwear.

      Now every day is “classy undies” day for me! :)

      1. Once again, Freddo is living the dream!
        Fun story! I must have missed that episode of Modern Family. I can totally hear Gloria in my head delivering that line!

      2. I really SHOULD do that … it’s not like I can’t afford new ones, and it’s truly a mystery of why I continue to wash, dry, fold, and put away those loser undies. You’ve inspired me, Freddo. You win 1 internets today.

        1. Yay! This is my first awarded internets in months!

          *dramatic pause*

          *looks at cue cards*

          I want to thank the Academy, for recognizing my efforts. And to Laura for inspiring me to talk openly about my new supply of classy undies.

          You like me (and my underwear)… you really like me!

  10. I don’t recall every running out, or even think I’m running out. That is one of the things I always make sure I have plenty clean pairs of.
    Right after I had my daughter, and I was trying to get back in the groove of going back to work, trying to argue my way back into college (try and fail), dealing with having a new born by myself, living on my own for the first time…… there was one day I went out…..and forgot to put some undies on altogether. I didn’t mean to do it and I know I had plenty of clean pair, but that one day I was just a little too stressed out and a little too rushed.
    Its wasn’t until I dropped off the baby and went to work that I even noticed. Couldn’t clock out and go somewhere to buy some, so there I was, stuck for 8 hours. All day, in the back of my mind I was wondering if anyone knew….

  11. Or the vacation situation, where you are SURE you packed more undies, rifle through your suitcase again and again, and then FINALLY a pair slips out of its hiding place between 2 t-shirts. Ah…

    1. Ha! I don’t know if I’ve had some kind of now-suppressed-in-my-memory situation where I ran out of undies on a trip or if I am just being proactive, but anytime I’m going out of town, I pack far too many extras. Better safe than sorry, right?

      1. Totally! And somehow when you’re on vacation, you change clothes way more often, so you need more pairs!

  12. Yes, THANK-YOU!

    You’re so amazing at making sure no one feels left behind. I honestly thank you for calling out these things… from now on whenever i’m left standing pantsless in a panic, instead of asking myself “Does ANYONE else in the world do this, or am I just a huge freak?”, i’ll remember your blog and – all of these comments – and it will definitely put a smile on my face.

  13. Aww, well done on the video. It makes me want to go up there, and hug you!! Your really brave to talk about your friend and your wife to 1000 strangers like that. Keep it up!! And we’ll be cheering you on!

  14. This is a fantastic speech! I am going to forward this link to my work friends, my family, and my band. Neil, you are now on my top 5 inspiring people I would like to meet at some point. :-)

  15. Hi,

    Just wanted to say thank you for putting this site up and making everyone a little more aware and happy.

    When I stumbled upon the site I couldn’t have been happier to find someone who felt the same about life and it’s little intricacies. I’ve found that I like to travel because of this…seeing everything like new and for the first time in a new country. However, being able to enjoy it in your home country – right in front of your nose is even more important.

    Thanks so much.

  16. I’ve had this problem once in a trip around California, I had run out of underwears and the travel hadn’t finished yet!!!!

    I had to buy a pack of 2 in a shop at San Francisco with my friends (6 girls) asking me why I had bought underwears in San Francisco!

  17. ^just a couple blocks up I left a comment, all excited about underwear. But now i’ve returned and had the chance to watch the video you posted. So I just have to add one more thing:

    You’re my hero.

  18. Being in Canada, the best option is often long underwear, of which most of us have one pair.

    And then it’s quite nice, when you come home after being out in long underwear, taking off your pants and just lounging around in your long underwear.

  19. Hey Neil.. I just watched your Ted Talk, and I’ve just got one thing to say..


    Nah, nah.. I’m just playing.. You’re cool man.. good speech..

    But seriously – tuck in your shirt..

    Just wanted to make sure I knocked you down a peg or two before all the nice comments above go to your head.. which wouldn’t be good.. because I saw you in that video.. and dude, it’s already sort of big.. like a watermellon sitting atop a pile of sticks (with a baggy, untucked shirt)..

    (see what I did there.. I knocked you down another peg)..

    Btw: What does TED stand for? Totally Egg-headed Douce? ZING!

    But, keep it up man.. you make the world a better place.. (if a better place means a world with more big-headed hippies!)

    Ok.. that’s all I’ve got.

  20. Hey Neil,
    I’m sitting here watching your TED talk with goose bumps! Very captivating. Keep it up and thanks!

  21. Just wanted to say that I loved the talk. The blog makes my day all the time. Started sharing them with my 12 year old, and she laughs and says, he’s right, that is awesome.

    I have actually found myself saying “awesome” when great things happen that I used to take for granted.

    Thanks for opening up my eyes to the truly awesome life I have.

  22. Ditto on the undies. I keep my socks and undies in the same drawer and on these days it usually ends up in a frantic sock throwing fit to find that last pair.

    I loved your speech…very inspiring, and literally “authentic” Although probably not quite on the same level as your parents moving to Canada, I felt I could identify with a 20-something moving somewhere new and being acutely aware of the little intricacies in life as I am a 23 year old American and have been living in France for a year. Taking pleasure in the little things really can make the “big thing” of life great.

  23. Omg, dirty pair, neva… Yikes ! :P

    Go buy some seems good, but going commando is always the best option. Zippers aren’t that bad. Really :P

    And if you do find a clean pair, indeed it’s so good… But if it’s your worst pair, one that doesn’t fit you anymore or some other stuff not even grandma would wear… Then commando is really the only option. LOL

  24. uuuhhhh!!!!
    Just once in a while isn’t it nice to go commando, just a little secret that no one else knows, makes me smile at odd moments all day long…. and the no underwear left in the drawer thing, just a legal excuse for freedom! ;)

  25. “I know, I’ll just wear them inside out. I am a genius.”

    AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH what?! Other people do that too!? I guess I’m not the only dirty freak! And I guess I’m also not the only genius! ;)

    I swear that I only let myself do this once at the end of every cycle of underwear (it’s my signal to do laundry) :P

  26. Just found out about you from PostSecret and I love your message and what you’re doing on this blog! Such a simple concept but sometimes we all need a little encouragement to remind us that above all, life truly is beautiful, magical and inspiring.
    Congrats on the Ted talk too! Speaking at Ted is one of my biggest dreams:]

  27. Hey i saw your video and i admire the way you managed to come out of such a heavy situation and inspire people to look at the good in their lives. Whenever i feel a bit crap, i like to come here x

  28. I’m a 22 in the U.S Marines, I have been married, i have lost friends and some how with every big and little hurt i found my self trying to make sense of why even live to be 60. Then when i realize that i love life and its small but rewarding awesome day to day miracles. I watch you video and i agree with your method of the 3 As. Watching a video of something that opens your eyes and smile, that what happened today

  29. Wow. That was an amazing talk – straight from the heart. I am going through a very difficult time right now and hearing your words is extremely comforting and motivating. Love the blog and the book – you, are AWESOME. :)

  30. I am so happy for you. I discovered your website about a week ago, and am slowly making my way through all of your old posts. I was curious about you, and your story (even though it really isn’t any of my business); I couldn’t figure out if you were a guy or a gal, an adult or a teenager – frankly, even ‘prodigy child’ crossed my mind once or twice. I was intently curious because for years I’ve kept my own mental list of awesome things most people take for granted – and we have many overlaps!!

    I say I am so happy for you because I think you’ve really figured out the true keys to being awesome with your “3 A’s.” They succinctly put together the important characteristics that are often overlooked – though I might also add “appreciation!” But I believe that’s a real triumph to figure out in the face of personal hardships, and to hit the nail on the head so perfectly.

    Though you were behind a mask of anonymity (until I watched your TED Talk), I had – as I do for most people – respect for who you are and what you’re doing. I’m terribly sorry you lost your friend and that your marriage didn’t work out as intended. But I just wanted to say, from one Triple-A-persevering stranger to another, that I suddenly respected you even more when I heard you say your wife “had the courage” to have that difficult conversation with you. I’ve felt heartbreak before, and it simply spoke volumes to hear how you look at it now – that is a true mark of character. Thank you for sharing your story.

    My only remaining question is what will happen after you’ve posted the one thousandth “awesome??”

  31. When you land at emergency and the xray technician tells you to remove everything BUT your underware…and you’re commando, you morph into an undie hoarder instantly!

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