As the weather turns warmer and the semester comes to an end, we get this itch to clean out our space. If you’re anything like me, a soon-to-be 21-year-old who hoards their entire life’s history in the comfort of an overflowing bookshelf, then it’s time to sort through our junk!
Every spring, I tell myself that I’m going to throw away everything and go full-force minimalistic. It never works. Why? Because I’m too emotionally attached to my junk. You get pretty used to it being there, so whether it’s a lot of stuff spread around your house or just one stuffed drawer, it can be hard to let it go when it’s been there awhile.
This will be the year.
I don’t expect you to throw out all of your things, but you can finally make a dent in your progress. With some sheer motivation and persistence, we will do this together.
First things first, you have to mentally prepare yourself, especially if you’ve attempted this before and failed miserably (like me). Take however long you need. Sometimes you just need 10 minutes of staring at your room. Other times, you might need several days of pondering from afar. Do what you gotta do friends, but make sure you tell yourself that you’re going to get it done.
This helps ease any emotional difficulty.
Before I touched my overflowing bookshelf, I sat on my bed and stared at it, eyeing the piles of purses, books, receipts, notebooks, binders, shoes, boxes, and random knick-knacks. I like my bookshelf. I like to pride myself on the things I own… but I have too much. It looks ugly. None of the individual pieces stood out because there were so many. So, if you’re going to keep a bunch of stuff in your room like I do, then you have to pick and choose. This allows you enough room to organize them in a way that is aesthetically pleasing.
Most importantly, you have to realize that you don’t need every single graded assignment from the eighth grade. You also don’t need every single study notebook from your high school exams. Sure, some of these things may be valuable but you’ll never look at most of them again (until spring cleaning of course). I know this because almost a decade later, I still haven’t needed any of those things. You might have other types of junk that you’ve been holding tight to, so you have to mentally prepare yourself to let them go. It’s time.
When you’ve mentally prepared yourself, gather the right supplies. Consider bringing up several garbage bags and recycling bags. Clear out your bed and floor so you have room to sort through your junk. Additionally, choose how you might organize your things. Maybe you want to use shoeboxes or random piles, or maybe you’re going all-out with a label maker. Whatever you decide, have your supplies ready. Don’t forget to grab a broom, vacuum, cleaning sprays, damp towels (to wipe the dust), and water because you’re probably going to be thirsty from all that cleaning.
I think this is the most important part. Music helps keep you motivated and turns a boring cleaning session into a party. If you despise cleaning or hate the thought of getting rid of your junk, then some upbeat tunes might make the experience more enjoyable. Plus, who says sorting through junk has to be a solid block of time? There’s room for dance breaks, so you can jam out to your favourite songs and have an all-around good time.
When I was cleaning my bookshelf, I closed my bedroom door, plugged my speakers in, and blasted music loud enough to drown out any sorrow I felt from throwing away my things. It made the ordeal so much easier.
Once you finally get down to sorting through your junk, be sure to take it slow. Go through your things one by one, piece by piece. If you’re like me, your first instinct will be to keep everything.
I’d think there’s a reason I kept this junk before, so the reason will probably stick now. Take a minute and ask yourself:
- Do I really need this?
- If I keep it, will I use it in the next year?
- Will it hold any value in 2-5 years?
- If I throw it away, will I forget it even existed?
- Do I have a specific memory attached to it that I think is important enough to keep?
- Am I only keeping this because I’m afraid of letting go?
I get attached to my junk for reasons that lose their validity over time. Keeping notebooks after middle school may have made sense because there was information I wanted to use in high school. Did I use it? Nope. So why do I have it in my third year of university? Dump it. Forbes has a great article on evaluating your junk titled: Sort Yourself Out With The Scale Of Usefulness.
There are some items you might be proud of, things that would be cool to show others later and feel nostalgic about. Be careful.
Otherwise, you might end up keeping everything. It’s okay to keep some junk. For example, I wrote a short story in seventh grade that was impressive for a writer of that age. I decided to keep that and throw out the ten pages of exercises that accompanied it.
Think of it this way:
The final product holds sentimental value. But the things I learned in seventh grade are basically useless now that I’ve learned so much more.
Take this approach with each of your items and be ruthless with yourself. It feels so good to fill up a garbage bag with old junk and witness the empty space left behind. It might still be full, but each piece fits into its own spot. You’ll feel relieved of a burden that’s been adding weight to your shoulders for years.
Yasmeen Alkoka is a University of Toronto student studying Communication and Professional Writing. She is a passionate photographer and writer, and seeks to share her experience of the world through her vision.