How to Declutter Your Room/Life
Your guide to successfully living in one place with twice the shit.
By Samantha Gross, Concordia University
There are a lot of difficult factors involved in moving back home after a year at college.
The heartfelt summer-long goodbyes to college friends and potential love interests. The loss of certain freedoms with the return of curfews and Expected Family Outings. The awkward encounters with old high school acquaintances in the candy aisle at Vons. Having to share close quarters with someone other than your roommate, who you had just gotten used to living with again after winter break. The hunt for the perfect summer job that will provide funds but not make you hate your life. The sudden realization that you are more of an adult than you were when you left even if your parents don’t see it that way. That’s tough shit to deal with all at once.
But the most tedious and heart wrenching of all adjustments is not the goodbyes or awkward encounters, but coming to terms with how little space you now have to store two rooms’ worth of shit. You no longer have a dorm room to hold all your textbooks and myriad of kitchen and cleaning items that you used for nine months at school. You just have a bedroom that’s already full of the shit you left behind. And that’s just not going to cut it.
I know, I know—you’ve been avoiding looking at it since you got home; the pile of twin-size sheets, several slightly bent forks and that laundry basket you swear you’ll actually use next semester. But it’s time, friends. It’s nearly July, and you need to deal with this problem before next semester rolls around. Your parents are tired of wading through your dorm shit, because, let’s face it, it’s probably started to overflow into the living room by now. Sure, it makes it easier to prevent your sibling from borrowing (read: stealing) your clothes, but can you even find your closet anymore? Is that really what you want this to come to?
It’s time to face the facts. College means accumulating a lot of shit, whether it’s free t-shirts, receipts from the Yogurtland you visited too often or the steamer your roommate convinced you to buy. Finding a new and organized home for it all in your room is an impossible task, and the weight of it may drive you to occupying yourself in other ways, like emptying the dishwasher or actually doing laundry.
But fear not, for I have trekked the cleaning path, and things are brighter—and lemon scented—on the other side. Work and the beach (or pool, sorry non-coastal dwellers) can only take up so much of your time, so getting your shit together in time for a truly enjoyable and clean summer can happen.
Do not be alarmed college hoarders; with this handy guide, finding a place to store your stuff (and figuring out how much to throw away) will be a cinch. Just remember after you read this you actually have to do it.
Just follow my lead.
First, Do Not Attempt to Do It in One Sitting.
You will get distracted and spend several hours going through shit you forgot you had. So take the time to sift through old birthday cards and your middle school diary, the rest of your shit will remain where it sits for a few days.
Segment your room and tackle it one piece at a time. It’s easier to handle your clothes if you know your books and utensils can wait another day. Separating it up makes it easier to keep things organized too. Don’t be tempted to shuffle your shit around the various corners of your room, because then nothing will get done.
Make up a schedule if you have to, with days off in between cleaning for trips down “old room shit” memory lane.
Be warned, though, don’t let the nostalgia drag on for too long, because then it becomes procrastination and then you’ve completely invalidated the guide to cleaning your room. And I worked really hard on this, guys, because it was either write this or clean my room again (kidding—but seriously, don’t invalidate the system).
Next, Look Over the Things You Left Behind When You Went to College.
You left that shirt at home for a reason. Remember that reason and donate it, because if you didn’t wear it in any of the nine months you were somewhere else, you sure as fuck won’t wear it now. Those purple pants may have benefitted middle school you, but current you really needs to let go of the past.
I understand, some things are “just in case” items. Give those things a year. If twelve months roll by without the absolute necessity for that item, get rid of it.
Get rid of the things that don’t make you happy. I know that thrift-shop/farmer’s market/wherever the fuck you picked up that gross item on your desk holds some sentimental value, but if it isn’t advancing your life in any way, do you really need it? Think about those people who live in tiny houses. They’re probably crazy, because, really, who can downsize that drastically? But they somehow manage to fit their entire lives into a 200 square foot box.
I’m not asking you to do that, but hypothetically, if you had to, would you really keep all three copies of your Backstreet Boys “Millennium” CD? Would the boys really want it that way? Let them go.
Finally, Utilize Humanity’s Reliance on Instant Gratification and Motivate Yourself with Treats.
Spend the afternoon cleaning out your notebooks, textbooks and weirdly large array of graph paper, and then get your Tom and Donna on for a quick trip to do whatever makes you happy.
If you follow this guide—and there’s no reason you shouldn’t, please, your family is suffering—your room should turn from a hoarder cesspool of plastic plates and non-campus sanctioned cooking appliances into an at least partially functional living space.
Sure, your sibling can borrow your clothes again, but you can move more than three feet in any given direction (and you found that sick bathing suit you’ve been missing since you moved out—score!), and that makes it worth it.
So get out there and get to cleaning, friends, because it can only get better from here.