To begin, I need to admit something I usually avoid mentioning. It’s something that always surprises people about me. Something I’m not proud of. Here it goes: I’m a huge fucking slob.
Or, well, I used to be. In years past, multiple people even commented that my bedroom was the messiest room they’d ever seen in their lives. I had lived that way my whole life, so I kind of just laughed it off. Yes, the clutter bothered me at times, but each time I cleaned up, I knew it was only a matter of time before my mess spiraled out of control again. (In my defense, though, I never left decaying food lying around—my personal chaos was all clothes, papers, craft supplies, empty water bottles, withered stacks of old Cosmo issues… you get the picture.)
But no more! I’m turning over a new leaf. I recently embarked on a “deep clean” of my bedroom, which was the most significant purge of my adult life.
Part of the reason I struggled to make a lasting change was that I never actually cleared out old stuff in order to create functional storage space for new stuff, so I’d inevitably end up with a ton of shit on the floor and feel overwhelmed all over again. This time, I was determined to make a real change. I took a cue from the well-known book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, which instructs readers to part with possessions that no longer bring us joy. With that lesson in mind, I began this purge with a serious mission: Clean out all spaces and toss or donate anything I no longer use or enjoy. In the process, I threw out (or donated) a mountain of old shit from every inch of my bedroom.
This ultimate quest took me to strange and dangerous places, full of odd discoveries that made me say, out loud, “Why the hell did I keep this?”
1) A movie ticket for Napoleon Dynamite
Really brings me back to senior year of high school and all the “Eat the food, Tina!” and “Liger” jokes. When I saw this movie in theaters, I was with my BFF and two dudes who thought we were on a double-date. We were not. Wow, good thing I hung on to that special memory! Oops, there it goes, into the TRASH.
2) Striped fingerless Hot Topic gloves
Aw, hell yeah! The only thing cooler than wearing these was pairing them with every Evanescence t-shirt in my closet, which was roughly a dozen shirts at age 17. I could hang onto these gloves for another decade or so and they’d probably be in style again—just in time to SAVE ME FROM THE NOTHING I’VE BECOME… in mid-life crisis!
3) A box full of magazines, all with the White Stripes on the cover
There was a certain phase of my life wherein I bought every single magazine The White Stripes were featured on. Rolling Stone. Spin. Nylon. Blender. UK publications I had to buy from Barnes and Noble for ridiculous prices. Those years of intense fangirling were immortalized in this dusty, forgotten box. Funeral bagpipes played in my mind as I deposited the box and all contents for recycling. I tend to fixate on my favorite things, and the Stripes were My Favorite Band for a good amount of teenagehood. But I’m never, ever going to want to re-read 20-something Jack White’s totally original opinion about why vinyl will always be the best and purest recording format, so buh-bye.
4) A rabbit foot keychain with pink fur that DISSOLVED INTO GROSS DUST WHEN I TOUCHED IT
Why did the claws feel so real? Do I even want to know? But, more important, HOW did the fur at first appear so normal and soft only to become a disgusting pink dust all over my hand? EWWW.
5) Dozens of folded-up notes from my high school BFF
These notes were stuffed deep inside drawers and cabinets and old notebooks— basically everywhere I looked. Naturally, I unfolded and read several of them and slowly came to the realization that my BFF’s early 2000s Buffy the Vampire Slayer obsession genuinely bordered on unhealthy. Every single one of her notes was either partially or completely about Buffy. Some of them were just straight-up episode summaries with her notes about Spike’s wardrobe and level of hotness in each scene and/or “jokes” about how much she wanted to bang James Marsters. Admittedly, my notes weren’t much better, since I seemed to mention my real-life crush (who, by some strange coincidence, was a dead-ringer for Elijah Wood) just as frequently. While I still treasure the fanfiction we cowrote (with gel pens in spiral notebooks, of course), those notes are best left in the past.
6) A sad poem I wrote about the death of a Dragon Ball Z character
Was 8th grade even real? Also, don’t even ask, because I’m taking this shit to my grave. And by “my grave,” I mean the paper recycling pile. It may or may not have been typed up in a cursive font by my fellow DBZ-loving friend who called it “so beautiful.” I may have even likened the character’s fallen cartoon body to “a dead leaf on the ground.” OR maybe I just made all that up. You’ll never know any details of my whirlwind romance with a time-traveling half-alien warrior. So don’t @ me.
7) “Embellished” Pokemon cards
Not just Pokemon cards. But a whole stack of them I had “altered” with white-out and Sharpies to create newer, funnier, superior cards. This “crack deck” included the highly creative “Invisible Man” card with the image box literally cut out of the card, a “Chris” card meant to annoy a friend with the attack move “Squishy Butt” …and yes, an “Alicia” card, complete with a tiny photo of me in weird makeup and the attack move “Poem,” which apparently “causes opponent to become inspired.”
8) Talkgirl tape recorder
FLASHBACKS to the max, man! This thing was my buddy. Back in my day, if you wanted to record your voice and then listen to it again right away (whoa!), you had to use cassette tapes uphill both ways in the snow. This sweet little machine was an upgrade from one of these, which I used regularly at an even younger age to record “episodes” of a “radio show” that always began with “Hello, ladies and gentlemen,” and ended with, “Now, let’s listen to that!” A regular feature of my highly acclaimed show was me hitting record and improvising a song on the spot, including one called “Sing-Along Seagulls,” which featured a climax where I sing-yelled the word “SEAGULLS” using my best Alanis Morissette impersonation. Yes, I kept the tapes.
9) A drawing (by a close friend) of me marrying a Dragon Ball Z character
Again, 8th grade. The drawing had rose petals floating through the air. I treasured it. But again, no, I’m not saying which character! So just forget about it, okay? My friend was a great artist and drew both of us interacting with our respective cartoon crushes on the show, and that’s really all you need to know!
10) Tattoo choker necklace
You had one, too. Don’t lie. Mostly, you wore it on your neck, but you could also push it up over your head and wear it as a headband. Either way, it was foolproof junior high fashion that perfectly complimented my pink velvet top from Limited Too. I won’t lie, I tried this on before tossing it, and it was itchy as hell. I have no idea how I tolerated it back then.
11) A congratulatory card for high school graduation …with money still in it
Sadly, this isn’t a “cha-ching” moment, because the card was from a sweet older relative who had just taped four quarters inside. And there they were. Oops. In my defense, she definitely received a thank-you card at the time! (And, hey, my change bowl is now happily full thanks to this purge.)
12) A $20 bill (in the very bottom of a drawer of old papers)
13) A life-size scroll poster of Trunks from Dragon Ball Z
Weird, right?! I can’t even remember why I bought this or where I hung it… it may have materialized in the closet or, like, belonged to my brother or something! Definitely not from the anime store that opened near my house sometime around 8th grade, though! I’m pretty sure I’d remember if I had spent a significant amount of time staring at that lavender ponytail and strangely high-waisted pants at age 13! I mean, with a big purchase like that, I probably would have even taken it to my DBZ-loving friend’s house and hung it temporarily in her room so we could celebrate my magnificent find! But haha, nope! It’s just a complete mystery! And totally unrelated to anything else on this list, 100% for sure! What a strange and perplexing anomaly, if I say so myself!
I can’t even explain how freeing it is to get rid of so much junk! I feel like my life has more room for me in it—like my aura is 500 pounds lighter. Call me a reformed slob, because I refuse to ever go back to my old ways. My space looks better than ever, and I’m going to keep it that way. This is my gift to myself at age 30.
Of course, in addition to creating lots of functional space, the other key to maintaining my new zen is to nip future messes in the bud by actively using those spaces and putting things away rather than letting clutter collect. So far, so good. I like the new me. And hey, for anyone out there who wants to make a change? You can do it. Getting started is daunting, but once you really dive in, the process is honestly addictive.
All the stuff I found along the way is sort of an added bonus. It made me laugh, certainly, and it also starkly illustrated how long I had let myself coast on a half-ass cleaning job. No more dissolving animal feet (or resurrected anime boyfriends), thanks.