For the past eight years, I’ve moved at least once or twice a year to a new address. I lived in a perpetual state of boxing my belongings up and moving from apartment to apartment across different cities. One year, I moved from New York to Los Angeles and back again.
Since I can barely keep track of my last five addresses, you’d think I would have perfected the art of moving. That I would have reduced my worldly possessions to make this a less painless (and less expensive) process. If I figured out how to scout apartments on social media without getting scammed, surely I could figure out how to boil down my belongings to fit in 15 boxes.
Unfortunately, I’m still working on what it’s like to not live out of moving boxes and plastic bins. I crossed my two-year anniversary at my address and it’s been a slow process of bringing order to the chaos that was my room when I first moved in. I’ve read dozens of articles on organizing, spent hours looking at Amazon’s home storage offerings and halfheartedly tried to sell a few dresses with no success. For the most part, my situation stayed the same until I finally made a game plan to cut the clutter taking over my already tiny room.
I can’t, for the life of me, just Marie Kondo my life. The anti-clutter queen whose books set off a cleaning craze and made her name into a synonym for tidying up preached the gospel of throwing away items that don’t bring you joy. Unfortunately, I’m a sensitive soul who has a lot of feelings about my clothes. Most of my wardrobe comes from shopping trips with my mom, and I hate to throw away gifts, even if they’re starting to look a little threadbare.
This theme park t-shirt I’m too embarrassed to wear with friends still brings back good memories but I can still wear it in the comfort of my home. I bought these earrings for an event I can’t remember, but they’re too heavy for longtime wear. I better keep them just in case I have another fancy event in the future.
And that’s how a few suitcases full of stuff for my freshman year of college grew into an overwhelming pile of clothes, accessories and tchotchkes. I reexamined why I held onto to things “just in case,” and I realized I picked it up from my parents. Both of them came to this country with nothing, and it wasn’t our family’s practice to throw out good items that could still be used. That was seen as wasteful, but that sentiment is easier to deal with in a home with plenty of space versus a New York City-sized apartment where I’ve squeezed my desk and two-thirds of my closet under my loft bed.
I still feel like I’m fighting my instincts to hang on to things I don’t regularly – if ever – use. For instance, I have enough tote bags to donate half of them, stage an exhibit of “tote bags of the 2010s” and still have enough left over to go grocery shopping for a large family. I can and should part with most of these bags. Well, maybe just a few to start with.
I’m pushing aside my feelings of nostalgia and guilt for this process, but I’m determined to meet Kondo halfway. So, I started slowly, dividing and conquering one section of my room at a time. I bought an organizer for my desk supplies, pared down the mementos taking up space along the edges of my workspace and threw out old notes or creams that long outlasted their use. I hung up photos that had been haphazardly propped up and started a filing system for birthday cards, checks and important letters.
I used to keep a fair amount of clothes that hadn’t fit me since my lean “biking because I can’t afford the train” days just in case I ever get back into that shape. It wasn’t Kondo who convinced me to part with my two-sizes-too-small wardrobe, but Erin Rooney Doland, the author of “Unclutter Your Life In One Week.” In the chapter about organizing your closet, she explains it’s no good to hold onto stacks of clothes that don’t fit you “just in case,” and that fixating on what once was could make a person feel depressed. Eventually, it was less painful to remove the extra small sweater than be reminded that I don’t look like I did 10 years ago every time I went to pick out clothes.