Sifting through four years’ worth of accumulated textbooks and school paraphernalia is a massive undertaking, but a little conscious organizing can go a long way. Here’s a simple guide to sorting your stuff after your graduate.
Get in the right frame of mind
As with any major cleaning and organizing project, it’s best to begin with an intention. Because recent graduates can become very wistful and emotional about the end of their college years, Sonya Joseph of Solutions by Sonya advises them not to start packing until they’ve “psyched themselves up for a serious purging.”
Joseph recommends steering clear of nostalgia lane, focusing instead on the future and how you want your life after college to look. “Enter into the process in the mood to let go and trust that you will know when you are still too attached to something to give it up.”
Sort through your piles of paper
Unless you organized your assortment of notebooks and papers every semester, chances are you’ll finish school with a hefty collection of past essays and assignments. Plus, you might also have old bill statements, student loan papers, copies of transcripts, receipts, and the like.
Sort everything into piles: things you don’t mind letting go (biology notes), personal papers that you no longer need (cable subscription agreement), important items you might need later (a transcript or rental agreement), and papers that have a special meaning or memory associated with them (a letter from a professor).
Before you dispose of anything, be sure to double-check your papers—you might find unpaid bills or contracts that offer a refund on your deposit. Recycle the items you don’t need and shred any papers that contain personal information like your address, credit card expiration date, or social security number. For everything else, create a file system and label your folders accordingly.
Joseph recommends saving any papers that contain positive feedback from a professor or mentor, since you can use these later on in a job search or graduate school application.
Tackle your book collection
Before you overhaul every book you’ve ever purchased, Lauren Williams, owner of Casual Uncluttering LLC, recommends asking yourself if you plan to attend graduate school. “If yes, it’s advisable to keep everything related to the anticipated degree, as a foundation for the upcoming work,” Williams says.
If you have a favorite textbook or novel from a literature class, keep it. For the books you’ll never use again, gift them to a younger classmate in your major or sell them. BookScouter uses a price comparison formula to help you get the best deal.
Reevaluate all your household goods
Whether you’re moving out of a dorm, shared house, or apartment, you’ll probably have a sizable collection of mismatched furniture, rusty desk fans, collapsible laundry hampers, or scratched plastic plates you have no idea what to do with. This is where it helps to have a vague idea of your plan after school. If you’re moving to another apartment in a nearby city, you may want to hold onto essentials like your bed or desk.
If you’re moving to another state or country, it may be more hassle than it’s worth to haul your stuff with you. If that’s the case, consider selling most of your belongings and using the money to invest in high-quality items for your new move.
If you’re heading back home while you search for a job, get rid of everything that’s not immediately useful. It may seem tempting to put your gray Craigslist couch or collection of cat mugs in storage for sentimental reasons, but, as Joseph notes, “most college level items tend to be inexpensive and functional and not worth the cost of moving.”
Donate your clothing
Before sorting through your piles of clothes, think about the plans you have for your immediate future and whether or not your current wardrobe aligns with those plans. If you’re heading to Mozambique for the Peace Corps, you probably won’t need the blazer you used for all your career fair interviews.
If you’re going straight into an accounting job, your stacks of lettered sorority sweatpants and jean shorts won’t be as useful.
Jamie Novak, author of Keep This Toss That, advises holding onto your favorite college t-shirt. “This is the one you can bounce around the house in or use at the gym.”
For everything else, Novak recommends using DonationTown.com to schedule a donation pickup with a local organization.
Be honest with yourself
Take a look at any miscellaneous items you’re left with and ask yourself whether or not you really need them. If you won’t use your leather penholder or get joy from flipping through the photo calendar your friend made you, consider letting these things go.
Joseph says, “When you start feeling nostalgic, think about the new things that will be coming into your life and this will give you the strength to let go.”