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Cleaning out my closet — and my mind

Destressing and disconnecting by spending quality time with my clothes

<p>Julianne Saunders is a Life Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at;</p>

Julianne Saunders is a Life Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at 

The arrival of spring means I have a reason to engage in one of my favorite hobbies — cleaning out my closet. This spring cleaning is my “me time” — it pulls me away, if only briefly, from the stresses of college life. When deadlines pile up and stressors mount, it is comforting to know that there is a space where everything is already all sorted out. But cleaning out my closet has become more than a seasonal comfort — it has also taught me not to rely on school or social media for fulfillment and peace.

I have been a high-stress person since I was a child, and college has definitely made it worse. Keeping track of deadlines, writing long essays and now trying to apply for jobs makes my mind a rather disorganized place. During particularly stressful weeks, my brain becomes a mush of names, dates and tidbits that I just can’t seem to organize. These are the times when the stress immobilizes me — I’m too stressed to think about anything other than my work, yet simultaneously too stressed to do it.

This immobilization became detrimental to my work ethic time and time again, and I came to learn that it is important to know my limits and give myself ample breaks. For me, these breaks turned into hours lying on the couch scrolling through Instagram. It was easy and fun, but it often left me feeling more disoriented. After scrolling, I not only had my mind filled with deadlines and schoolwork but memes, viral sounds and the latest craze in health misinformation. My attempt to feel more in control of my life ended up making me feel worse. 

One day, after far too many hours scrolling, I felt like I needed a break from my break. 

I had been watching closet cleanout reels on Instagram, and the pristine end results inspired me to get off the couch and take inventory of my own closet.

I started by taking out all of my clothes and piling them onto my bed. The mixture of styles, colors, patterns and textures was overwhelming at first, almost like a physical manifestation of the fog in my brain. But the amalgamation of my closet’s contents on my bed meant that I had started the organizational process, and I felt encouraged to continue. I sorted my clothes by style, color and the vibe that it gave off, and then I folded and hung up the fabrics. Watching the piles get smaller and my drawers fill up brought me a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. 

The process of organizing my closet took a couple of hours in total, and I spent the whole time totally engrossed in the work. It was so different from my typical school work, sitting in front of a laptop and typing out long essays. Cleaning my closet was tactile — I got to feel the different fabrics, do up the buttons on my tops and tie the bows on my dresses. It was also visual, full of colors and patterns that were refreshing after the drab black and white of Google Docs.

Since that day, I’ve used organizing my closet as a soothing spring pastime. As I clean out both my wardrobe and my mind, a peace settles over me — a peace that is far more gratifying than the endless, unsatisfying scroll of Instagram.

When I take a big mess and make it into something neat and organized, I feel fulfilled with a sense of clarity to take back to my more pressing work. Sure, sometimes your brain just needs the mindless break of a scroll through TikTok. But projects like closet clean outs — that are transformational and reflect true accomplishment — allow me to nurture my mind and take care of myself.

I know not everyone will love the idea of a closet clean out. Some might be more inclined to engage in some other productive activity — running, painting or reading, for instance. But for me, cleaning out my closet is the perfect outlet to let go of my stress, spend time away from schoolwork and do something I now love.

The urge to do nothing and sit on my phone whenever I need a break from school is strong. It is comfortable, entertaining and oh-so-easy. But getting off of my phone and doing something productive is far healthier. When I am cleaning out my closet, I am not thinking about the next deadline or the really cute — and really expensive — shoes that an influencer just bought. All I can do is focus on the task right in front of me and appreciate the beautiful things that I have.

For me, cleaning out my closet is a reminder that life is more than the duality of schoolwork on a laptop and leisure on a phone. Spending time with my clothes allows me to be present offline — in the real world, with real things — and take pride in tangible accomplishments, no matter how small.


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