In the last week or two before winter break ended and I was bound to go back to college, I did a massive cleaning of my room back at home. By massive cleaning I mean going through every cupboard, drawer and corner of my room, holding up every item I owned and asking myself whether I wanted to keep it or not. These things were mainly clothes, books, stuff, and a lot of sentimental items from my childhood. I put all the things that were still usable in donation boxes, and threw everything in the trash. I told myself that if I wanted to keep a piece of item, I had to bring it with me to college (aside from my collection of books built up since childhood). This reduced my chance of keeping things that I knew I wasn’t going use or wear in the near future. Of course, I ended up keeping a few things that I couldn’t bring with me to college anyway. I just couldn’t part with them yet.
Clothes was a relatively easy category to sort out. I would hold out a piece of clothing, wear it, and ask myself if I liked it. If I wasn’t sure, I would leave it in my drawer, come back to it a few days later, and make a final decision. It wasn’t too hard to discard the clothes that I did not like, as a lot of them no longer fit me nor gave me that happy feeling when I wore them. The clothes that I ended up keeping but am not taking to college are my childhood clothes, expensive pieces passed down to me from my family, or items that I wanted to keep but couldn’t bring with me to college at the moment.
Books were okay, I guess. I have a ton of physical books that kept me company in my childhood, stories that I will never forget. Jacqueline Wilson, Lauren Myracle, Nancy E. Krulik, Laurie Friedman are just some of the authors of the many book series that I lived for when I was younger – and this doesn’t even include the books that I borrowed from my school library. Needless to say, I kept all these books. I haven’t read them for years now, but whenever I look at them, my mind almost immediately travels back to the time that I read them. They evoke strong feelings both within the story and the context in which I read them too. I guess you could say that books are my most sentimental items. I also have some books that I bought during my later teenage years, some which I was able to discard, but others I kept for the pretty covers. Because, you know, I want to display them in my own library one day.
Then there’s all the stuff lying around in my room. There’s a lot of stationery, office materials, and decorations. It took me a few days to decide on all the items that I wanted to keep, but it was a relatively choice as I already have most of my most precious items in college.
Finally, there are the sentimental items. Items that I kept for years, because at some point in my younger self I decided that I wanted to keep them like treasure. Diaries, endless Hello Kitty collectibles, key chains, among others. Just like looking at book covers and being able to immediately travel back to when I read the book, these items also instigated an emotional reaction in me. With these things, it’s hard to let go because it feels like I’m abandoning a part of my identity if I discard them. They are things that I collected during the most formative years of my life, and a part of me fears that I will lose that part of me if I throw away the only physical evidence that I have.
All my life I have found it hard to let go. Letting go of people, belongings, my things. Funnily enough, my first word was “mine” (I actually said it in mandarin, which is “我的”). My parents say it was due to sibling rivalry; my brother would claim 我的 whenever my greedy hands would grab on to his things. But because I had an older sibling, I don’t think I grew up to be very greedy. I wasn’t and am not the most generous person either.
Even though I can place the things in my room into a few different categories, they all have in common one thing: sentimental items. Reading Marie Kondo’s book has been extremely helpful in helping me organize, but I still have a long way to go before I can call myself a minimalist, which is my ultimate goal (isn’t it everyone’s nowadays?). On the one hand, I want to reduce the things that I own so that I can reduce the burden that comes with moving and choosing the things I use. On the other hand, I am still too possessive of the things that I own. I can’t let go that easily yet. But at least I know I’m moving in the right direction.
Having moved places a few times in the last 2 years of being in college, I’ve realized that I cherish the moving to a new place. The change in my physical space hints at the dawn of new beginnings and new possibilities. It’s a wonderful feeling; but more than that, it’s an opportunity to let go of the things in the past that need to go, and to treasure the ones in the present that bring joy to my life.
I have now comfortably settled in my new room in a new apartment back in college. School and clubs have swamped me with more time commitment and responsibilities than I thought I would have; I actually wrote this post nearly a month ago and forgot to publish it. But even among the demands of my environment, I find that writing is one of those things that helps me put things into perspective. It nudges me to face my feelings word-for-word, and it has also become my way to mark my memories. The things I once had and cherished may not be physically by my side anymore, but the feelings that they instilled in me will continue to remain.