Lost and Found This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category.

August 5, 2008
I liked being a mess. The desk that should have been clear so I could do my homework was always besieged with bowls of cereal and spoiled milk, old magazines, and Post-it notes I had forgotten to remember. My floor was a vacuum in itself, eating anything entering my room. It consumed sweaters, stuffed animals, socks, shoes. When I occasionally did laundry, I would dig up clothes I couldn't even recall purchasing. My shelves overflowed with containers of little odds and ends: hair bands, chapstick, matches, loose mints, coins, earring backings. I couldn't always see these things, but I knew that they were safe, nestled somewhere on a shelf. Like old friends in a phone book, I figured that someday I would find all the loose strings and tie them together.

One lonely day in August when all of my friends had yet to return from camp in Maine, visiting family in Florida, or some community-service trip in Mexico, something inside me began to itch. I tried taking a shower, scrubbing myself with every bodywash and bar of soap I could find. I brushed my hair and my teeth, but didn't feel any cleaner. I checked my e-mail, which was empty. I checked the DVR to see if any new shows had been recorded, but I had already seen everything.

I went downstairs and found my brother playing video games, my mom on the phone, and my dad in his office – everyone in their right place. I told my mom that something didn't feel right, and she suggested that for once I should clean my room. The thought itself made me nauseous. I went upstairs to sulk, feeling so overwhelmed that I might as well have been floundering without a boat in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

When I opened the door to my bedroom, everything was in its usual cluttered arrangement. A plate of half-eaten pancakes sat on my desk, soggy with syrup from the morning. My bikini hung lifelessly from my doorknob, dripping pool water. My heavy covers lay crumpled and cold across my bed, molded by the twists and turns of the previous night. Piles of dirty clothes sat unsorted, collecting dust.

I stood in the middle of the cluttered room, breathing in the filthy air that I had become so used to. In the silence of that moment, I began to hear the clock ticking. I became aware of the moldy smell. I noticed that a spider had spun a shimmering line from my lamp to the top of my mirror. I shivered in disgust. I remembered that winter how my stuffed animal, Vanilla, had fallen behind my dresser and I hadn't noticed until I caught the repulsive scent of her fur burning against the heater, until it was too late and she was permanently covered in brown spots.

I suddenly felt sympathy for everything in my room that I had buried, never to be seen again. Lost items I had blocked out for years made their way back into my consciousness: my favorite yellow tank top, the picture of my mom and me on that boat in Jamaica, my baseball card collection.

I had an urge to dive under my bed and uncover everything lurking in the murky depths of dust, and to climb up into the highest corners of my closet and rescue items that had been mingling with the spiders. The innocent piles were growing higher and higher until they were looming monsters before my eyes. They were threatening to swallow me whole. I had to get rid of them. And so I started to clean.

In a box buried under old textbooks, I found a letter that my Poppy had written me at camp. I hadn't thought of him since his funeral. I suddenly remembered the thrill of running naked through cold sprinklers with my cousins, the spicy smell of barbecue mixing with the salty air at his beach house, and the distinct feel of his soft sweater rubbing warmly against my cheek each time he enveloped me in a hug. I remembered my dad rocking me to sleep the night Poppy died, and how the tears wouldn't stop.

I sat with his picture, blocking out the rest of the mess around me. I was in the middle of a storm, but I sat there and studied him until I had memorized every line in his face. Tears began to roll down my cheeks again, and the relief was like the sound of heavy rain pounding on a roof at the end of a drought.

In the drawer next to my bed, I found a friendship bracelet my childhood best friend, Aubrey, had given to me before she moved to California. I traced the green and purple pattern with my thumb, realizing that I hadn't spoken to her in years. The next day I called her, and we talked all night, laughing about memories like dressing up as the Spice Girls for Halloween. She reminded me of the time we built a family of snowmen in my backyard and had a funeral for them when they'd melted. I had lost so many precious childhood memories over time, letting them slip away into the tide like grains of sand. It was the kind of conversation you never want to end because for each moment we talked, it felt like a bucket collecting droplets of water from a leak.

Under my bed I even found that picture of my mom and me in Jamaica. I had forgotten how turquoise the water had looked from our ship, but what really caught my attention, though, was my image. I had buck teeth, short hair, and pimples covering my face. I stared at that girl, barely able to recognize this person who had drowned in the mess of my room so many years before. I decided to completely re­organize and revamp my room so that all the books, belts, and baskets were in their right place. It was like finding the missing pieces of the puzzle.

The finishing touch was framing that photo and hanging it high up on my wall. After all, it was me I had been searching for.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category. This piece won the May 2009 Teen Ink Nonfiction Contest.

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This article has 299 comments. Post your own now!

forgottenpenname This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jun. 6, 2010 at 6:18 pm

That sounds so much like my room, it's crazy.

Unlike you, though, I'm yet to find the strength to get through the piles of old dishes, books, and dirty clothes. Your piece was incredibly powerful. Thank you for writing it.

charzard said...
May 20, 2010 at 11:51 am
wow. wow is all i can say. this is very powerful stuff. you should publish this! for the public. i really, really enjoyed reading this. i know how you feel, except it wasn't in my room; it was in my mind. it was cluttered with old, bad memories that i finally let go of and moved to uncover the good ones. excellent article! please keep writing!(:
EveMarie said...
May 15, 2010 at 3:46 pm
wow. very good discriptions, it was like my mind was producing a movie. this was very powerful, i almost cried
Michelle S. said...
May 15, 2010 at 11:37 am
:) This is so amazing, I feel like crying, because I know exactly what you mean.  I feel like I'm losing who I was, the memories and items that remind of who I was.
StarlightStormcloud said...
May 13, 2010 at 2:23 am
OH GOD I know EXACTLY what you are talking about!!  I had the same experience (and actually wrote about it as well)  Except it was with this insanely large bulletin board that hung in front of my desk.  I would tack, tack, tack, hang, and hang just about every piece of memorabilia I possessed on it.  One night, I got this suffocating, itching feeling of just the build up of memories and visual chaos and realized I had to take it down immediately.  Then I felt strangely M... (more »)
Kkrazy This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Apr. 23, 2010 at 7:50 pm
liked how you made cleaning your room into a life changing experience! lol. anyways, i think it was a great piece and you should keep writing because you're great!
iamnoelle said...
Apr. 23, 2010 at 2:21 pm
i really like it!
Mspi18 said...
Apr. 23, 2010 at 11:46 am
wonderful peice of work. i love how intensly you decribed everything
Ally25 said...
Apr. 1, 2010 at 3:56 pm

This was reeeaaalyy good...Keep writing.



Besani said...
Mar. 10, 2010 at 10:45 pm
This is a fantastic piece of writing! Keep the good work up. You definitely have a talent. You should also check out some of my work :)
Good luck with the writing!
awesomeaugust This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Mar. 10, 2010 at 8:38 pm
What an amazing piece of writing. I love how something so seemingly small such as cleaning a room was such a monumental event in your life. I also loved how you weren't afraid to show off your quirks and was a little suprised by the sudden sad feel it took when you wrote about your Poppy but I thought it was very nice. I esspecially liked the line "Post-it notes I had forgotten to remember" Great job and keep writing!
Laughternchoclate said...
Feb. 28, 2010 at 6:00 pm
I really love this <3 My favorite!!
yayitsJessica This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Feb. 18, 2010 at 7:27 pm
This is so well written and amazing. I love how you show your quirks in this(:
Hollywog. said...
Feb. 16, 2010 at 5:12 pm
One word: Wow!
This piece of writing is amazing :)
I guess I could relate to it because my room is pretty messy as well! Haha...
Anyway, this piece of writing is comfortingly powerful and extremely well-written - when I read the bit about your Poppy's letter, I got shivers up my spine.
You have real talent, congratulations!!
Love and Sunshine,
PaRaNoRmAl627 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Feb. 16, 2010 at 3:27 pm
This was soo sweet I literally almost cried. great job :)
lovevball said...
Feb. 16, 2010 at 1:57 pm
this is great!!! love it.
desi95 said...
Feb. 5, 2010 at 5:58 pm
OMG! this is so perfect. It makes me think of my lost childhood memories and how much i dont wanna grow up
good job
Lovestonedloser said...
Jan. 25, 2010 at 4:36 pm
This is really good :) keep up the good work.
SharpestSatire said...
Jan. 25, 2010 at 1:50 pm
awww, that's really sweet!
Flavia said...
Jan. 3, 2010 at 5:09 pm
I love how the story flows by itself! My room is a mess too and not long ago I did the same thing as you and put everything back in order, I then lost myself in childhood memories, looking at old pictures, stuffed animals and small objects which at that time were so important to me and now after forgetting about them I realized that they still are and will always be. I LOVED THE STORY!
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