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Phelan: Sorting through lost tchotchkes

Published: Thursday, July 11, 2013 5:30 a.m. CST

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I have the remarkable ability to remember and recite most quotes I’ve heard. I can tell you a specific sentence from language arts class in middle school, or how exactly Tina Fey delivered her lines to the gym full of junior girls in “Mean Girls.” However, my mother will vehemently deny that I have the ability to remember what I hear because I don’t seem to ever remember her saying, “Courtney, clean your room.” 

I have the very stereotypical dirty teenage room. I have too many clothes, books and things I’ve picked up from garage sales, friends’ houses and church retreats. I have plenty of bookshelves and other organizational furniture, but after 18 years of collecting items, there’s too much stuff and not enough floor space, wall space and closet space. 

When I look at my schedule, I have a full summer of stuff left before I go off to school, and I know that I’ll barely have a minute to spare at the end of August. So, I’ve been spending my last couple of days cleaning up and cleaning out. 

I’m finally able to throw away or donate all of my cheap nail polish, brochures for schools I’m not going to and make-your-own jewelry kits. Plus, I’ve found plenty of permanently borrowed books and sweatshirts and a lot of great stuff for my grad party. 

But in addition to finding things to give back or display at my grad party, I’ve had to start sorting important things into “bringing to college” and “leaving at home.” Do I need to bring all of these scarves right away in August? Will people make fun of me for bringing a couple of my old stuffed animals? Are these gift cards still good? Should this picture get displayed in my dorm room or just stay here in a box labeled “memories”? 

I’ve started packing up some things such as sweaters and shoes that I don’t need right now. Preparing a box full of my few still relevant high school papers made me snap to the realization that I know very little about what new subjects I’m taking. After organizing my DVDs and some new books, the mental crisis of what books I’m bringing has reached a breaking point. 

I’ve never moved before, and I won’t even know my roommate or dorm until Monday. I can’t buy my bed sheets or any cute organizers yet; what if our stuff clashes? Or what if we both bring three laundry baskets or five lamps or eight posters? There isn’t enough room in a dorm for all the stuff I want to bring, and there aren’t enough pages in this newspaper for all the worries I have. 

Cleaning out my room has brought me more than anxiety, though. A few pictures of my friends and me from years ago and a nostalgic T-shirt I thought I lost have returned from the back of the closet.

I have a new bulletin board of tchotchkes and memories, and my grandma is nearly done with a quilt of old T-shirts for me. Going through and throwing out my old stuff is hard, but I need to clear a lot of junk out of my life before I go away. I guess that’s just part of growing up. 

• Courtney Phelan recently graduated from Geneva High School. She is an outgoing and energetic young writer who likes to swim, read and participate in general teenage activities. She can be contacted at editorial@kcchronicle.com.

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