Packing for Summer: Thoughts from a Sentimental Girl

Once again it’s that time of the year when we bring out the boxes and start packing our stuff up for summer. While every year I try to strategize the best way to fit my bedding and books in the same suitcase and practice detaching myself from month-old receipts from birthday dinners and concert tickets, I’ve come to realize that packing--no matter how many times you do it--never gets easier.


I’ve always identified as a sentimental person who probably feels way too much to be functional (hey, what can I say, I’m a Pisces through and through!) but I’ve noticed that it only gets worse the older I get. (If you are interested in my sentimental side, check out my article about turning 21.) I’m an organizer (kinda), and I love nothing more than sorting through piles of clothes and going through drawers, deciding what to keep and what to give away. Oddly enough, I have never been good at the “giving away” part of packing, and I always overpack.


My roommate Sarah and I have been living together for two years now. We consider our room to be a safe space. It’s full of fairy lights, lavender scented oil, homemade granola, and we tend to break out in the occasional dance party from time to time. Our room is a box of memories. Pictures of friends fill the walls, and maps and posters of quotes and our favorite artists are hung up everywhere. When we pack it up, and we go through peeling every last picture and taking down the lights and the tapestry, it leaves it empty, almost as if we were never there. Is it sad? Yes. Is it shocking? Totally. But we always keep in mind that this is us making room for new memories. 


What I’ve learned is that the place is not the thing that holds the magic. It’s the memories and the people you share them with that are too big to fit into any storage unit, but that's okay. My advice to you during this time is to let your life take up space. There’s a place for all the big stuff, but we sometimes forget that we need to keep the sentimental stuff in a special spot, too. My space is an old shoebox in my desk drawer. That’s where all my pictures go, the receipt from my first official bar tab on my 21st birthday, and the birthday cards that came that week.


I keep that box to pack up the small stuff, the things that to any other person may seem like trash, but to me, are a snapshot of memories from the first day it rained freshman year and the secret message left to me under my desk by the last person who used it. Yes, I keep the birthday cards that flooded my mailbox, and even though I’ll never really look at them again, I have them and in five years I’ll remember my first birthday away from home, the love I felt on my 20th, and the excitement of my 21st.


Recognize that your life is big and messy and full of little things that make it yours. In my mind, I often think of how to limit my things, live a convenient and unattached lifestyle, so that I can pick up and go with ease. But in reality, college has given me some proper baggage, and hey, I’m proud of it!


My plan this year is to take my time packing. I feel the stress bubbling up in me as I write this very article: “where do I put all my books? What about my laundry hamper?” But I’m channeling that in a productive way this year. I’m going to take my time to remember, to go through my shoebox, sort out all the movie tickets, the notes Ginny leaves in my notebook from time to time, the letters my friends and I write to each other so that I can see how big and beautiful this year was. I’m thinking of it as a way to celebrate it all because it happened, not because it’s ending.


So rather than dreading the process of packing up and stumbling over memorabilia that puts me in a #sadgal mood, I’m excited to put on some music and sift through everything a full year of my life has brought me. I suggest doing the same if you are someone who needs a little extra bit of closure or time to reflect on all the things you have gained in a full year. Packing is a trial-and-error experience for me. I always come back the next year thinking, “this year I’m SO not using that storage company again!” This year is gonna be something like, “Next time I will start packing sooner,” but who am I kidding?


Packing should be fun! Even though it feels like a chore, you get to find the things that you lost under your bed back in October, and find out which things have sentimental value and which things don’t. This year, my goal is to pack efficiently knowing that it can’t all be vacuum sealed and stored, but that somethings belong in their own special place in my heart.