parting with childhood junk
By Joy Molan
When you return home after uni, clearing out your old bedroom can be harder than anticipated.
Like most grads, the minute the graduation robes went back to the rental company, I returned to my childhood bedroom. While I’d slept there during uni holidays, I’d not truly lived in that room since I was 18 years old. In the time that had passed, I’d had relationships, made new friends, and completed a degree. In short, I returned to this room a different person to the girl who left three years ago. The room was a time capsule containing fragments of my childhood self. All around me were the trappings of someone I used to be. The “new me” was tightly packed into boxes in the boot of my parents’ car.
To readjust to my new, old surroundings, I decided to try clearing out all my childhood junk. To give you a sense of what I was up against, I still had GCSE textbooks and revision notes shoved under my bed from five years ago. I had tiny ornaments collected on school trips to local museums, a clay Pharaoh’s head I’d made in D.T. in year four, countless Sylvanian Families (complete with canal boat and tree house), an impressive (or embarrassing, you pick) collection of Now That’s What I Call Music cassette tapes and a mountain of Beanie Babies.
Clearing all this was a mammoth task. Each item I picked up took a good few moments to process. Some objects reminded me of happy memories I’d not thought about in years. Smiling photographs of people I was once close to, brought back memories of happy 13th birthday parties spent in village halls. Others reminded me of friendships I’d let slip away. Old pencil cases stuffed with notes, folded so small you’d almost need a magnifying glass to read them, contained gossip I’d not thought of since I was 12. I reread grid-lined workbooks, amazed at the things I used to know and slightly depressed by not knowing them anymore.
With every item I built a list of justifications for keeping things. “What if I’d want it someday?” “What if I regret throwing it out?” and “What if I want to show my children what I used to be like?"
Even parting with old Mizz magazines and questionable hair accessories from Claire’s was harder than anticipated. Obviously, I had no use for them, but I felt reluctant about the finality throwing them out. Throwing them out was a clear demarcation of this next chapter in my life as a graduate; an undeniable sign that childhood was really over and I could never go back.
The unexpected sentimental value of my possessions, not their quantity, was making this simple task so tricky. I was realising that clearing my room meant closing a chapter of my life. These childhood items reflected years spent happily unaware of the complexities of the world around me. The freckle-faced girl who wrote in her Bang on the Door diary about squabbles on a school history trip is not the same girl who wonders if she will have her own kids to show all this to. Letting go meant surrendering to the unknowns of adulthood. It meant accepting that, as any fan of the film 13 Going On 30 knows, life offers no “do-overs”.
The fear we all have, says tidying guru Marie Kondo, is that if we throw away these objects we will somehow be losing the treasured memories and history that goes with them. The possessions may go, but their history never really disappears. All the items I was revisiting had shaped my character in some indelible way. I came across notes from boys I’d spent countless hours obsessing over in my teens. These notes burned with the enthusiasm of emotions felt for the very first time and the excitement of not knowing what was to come. Experiencing them the second time around, I felt protective toward my younger self. If only I could have warned her that heartbreak was around the corner. But without experiencing the pain of first love, I wouldn’t have had my second...or third...or however many I am lucky enough to have in this life.
Kondo writes, “by handling each sentimental item and deciding what to discard, you process your past. If you just stow these things away in a drawer or cardboard box, before you realize it, your past will become a weight that holds you back and keeps you from living in the here and now. To put your things in order means to put your past in order, too. It’s like resetting your life and settling your accounts so that you can take the next step forward”. Placing the first item in the “for charity” pile, I realised that this was me, this is still part of me, but I’ll never be that girl again.
Image by Dana Trippe