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May 24, 2011

Spring cleaning

End-of-year cleaning helps us learn about ourselves and what's important to us

I ripped up the receipts before I threw them away, but I only ripped them two or three times and I think that anybody trying to piece together my address or the last four digits of my debit card number would have an easy time of it. There was one receipt from the Apple Store, from when my hard drive failed, and another from the Apple Store, from when I took my fixed computer home to find that the trackpad had broken during repairs. There were no more receipts from the Apple Store after that, but there were several from CVS, one from J. Crew, and another from a pierogi place in the Loop that I went to yesterday.

The ripped-up sprigs of paper garnished the trash can plate of second year’s discarded memories in a delightful confit. I don’t actually know what a confit is, but I am hoping that those who do will contain their anger and perhaps even swap it out for a laugh at my expense. Underneath the receipts lay a dirt-caked comb (???), a handful of broken mechanical pencils, and a mass of ill-fitting white undershirts that anyone could tell had been balled up and flung into the trash can with rage.

At the end of each year, everyone living in a dormitory must sort things into three piles. The first, the trash pile, is, unsurprisingly, composed of those things to which the resident can no longer assign any value. This is not to say that the items themselves are dumpster-grade; my House lounge, at the end of last year, was covered in “trash,” things that people couldn’t take with them on the flight home but weren’t willing to store. The purpose of the second pile, the storage pile, can be confusing, and most people don’t understand its intended function. It is commonly used as a way to postpone scrapping barely useful items. Backscratcher? Put it in storage! Book I’ll never get around to reading? Store that fellow in a cardboard box! No. This is wrong, and I would like to clear things up regarding the storage pile. It is for winter clothing and documents with sentimental value. That is it. The discussion is over. There is really nothing else to say about this, and if you have any questions or objections, I would be happy to fight you.

The third pile of stuff, the life pile, is by far the most important. It is comprised of the things that people use on a daily, weekly, or, at least, a monthly basis, the things that they will continue to use during the summer and beyond. The life pile is the pile that reminds a person who he is and what he loves. The books in my life pile aren’t by Simone de Beauvoir (though The Second Sex has stood on my shelf, untouched, since the beginning of the year); they are books about marketing and artsy comic books.

My favorite part about cleaning my room is that it strips away what I don’t really need. Nobody else can tell me what I do or don’t need; the decision is up to me. I’m not about to preach minimalism, since I certainly don’t practice it, but the only thing I’d ask is that you consider whether or not a given item in your possession might be better in someone else’s—even if that someone is a landfill. The purging process is deeply personal. It is about determining the material things that are important to you, why they are important to you, and how important to you they will continue to be. The question, when you are determining the contents of your life pile, is not only “Who am I?” but also “Who do I want to be?”

Chris Stavitsky is a second-year in the College majoring in English.

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