Remember when you wanted to have your best friend over for a slumber party when you were in elementary school and your mom told you that she couldn't come over until your room was clean? And somehow, every single scrap of paper and article of clothing you had in your possession found its way into the closet or any drawer with more than an inch left of open space? It was almost magical how 'clean' everything would become.
And a fun bonus was that if you forgot about the threat that loomed behind the carefully closed closet doors, you could get buried under the various items that you had shoved oh-so-precariously at the very top shelf, held there only by sheer will and hope.
For some of us, that sort of 'cleaning' diminished over the years, but still remained the quickest fix when someone is coming over and you don't want them to have to wade through the mess that was trying to pick out an outfit for the past three days.
But besides clothes, it can be anything. Sixteen-year-old me gasped at the thought of throwing away a bright blue paperclip because I would totally need it sometime right? I wasn't a hoarder, but I just could not bring myself to throw away things that I didn't need. And so the piling up began.
After I came home from college, I stood in the middle of my room, surrounded by boxes of things to unpack, and realized that I had absolutely no place to put the things I brought home. This is where I began space cleaning.
I took the bins labeled "misc," at the top of my closet and dumped everything onto the bedroom floor. I found everything from used neon pipe-cleaners to little tchotchkes from the beach when I was little. I had stared at the piles I had made of things that were just straight up trash and what could possibly be salvaged and dubbed as a treasure to my little sisters, and then dumped in their rooms. The amount of trash that I could just not let go of for some reason was almost funny, and I sat there on the ground wondering why I had been so attached to each little item when it was more of a fire hazard than anything useful sitting up in those bins. All those little plastic gift shop toys were my life at one point, but now I stared at the glow in the dark jellyfish trapped in glass and wondered just why I had been so obsessed with material things.
After three days of straight cleaning, I had gotten rid of three trash bags worth of 'things' and given two more to the grappling hands of my sisters. I felt like I was on such a roll, I started on my closet and drawers — filled with things I hadn't touched in months or years, but still held onto despite knowing they would go unworn. Some things were way too small, way too young, or just not at all what I still call comfortable. My little sisters went to town when they saw the growing mountain of clothes outside of my room, and I was even surprised to see my older sister sifting through the pile as well.
First of all, it felt awesome for someone to think the stuff you wore at one point was cute, especially your siblings, whose job it is to flame you on any occasion possible. But more than that, I felt amazing just getting it out of my room. Everything felt bigger, and I used the empty bins to now store college items in a much more organized way. When I was finally done cleaning spaces, I felt like an invisible monster had left the room. The monster was what was hiding at the top of my closet, in every stuffed up drawer, and under my bed especially — unironically — and it was the anxiety of procrastination of actually getting rid of the material things that no longer served a purpose for me.
And let me tell you, kicking that monster out (but not before I thanked it for all the little memories and lessons it taught me) felt great. It may have strolled right into my youngest sister's room, who now was shoving all the tchotchkes she had snagged on every visible flat surface she could find in her already tornado-torn space, but it'd be a good lesson for her to learn in a few years.
But then, sitting in my room was even more enjoyable than it had ever previously been, and I loved my room before that too. The clogging up of any space in your life is the clogging up of your flow in general. If you choose to hold onto those little scraps of paper, you're choosing to hold onto something that no longer serves you a purpose, and where your focus and attention is fixed, all of your energy flows there and not to where you want it to — even if you don't do this consciously! Closed doors won't protect you from it, because you cannot ignore what you know to be true and existing, and if you do, you're in denial.
My biggest piece of advice to you is that if that monster of untouched clothes or gift shop items or anything is sitting in your space — your space, where you choose to relax — go respectfully kick it out. All of those things served you at one point in your life, and it is so good to have gratitude to them, but don't keep something around when it no longer serves you in the ways that you need.