How to organize dorm life

Get ahead of chaos by setting up your dorm room, and by extension, your college life so that you...
(SHNS illustration by Hollie Sehrt and Cindy Rodriguez)
Story by Sarah Welch and Alicia Rockmore
(getbuttonedup.com)
Fri, Jul 27, 2012
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Organization, or lack thereof, is something that plagues college students. Nowhere is this issue more apparent than in cramped, shared dorm rooms. Disorganization breeds distractibility, tension and even poor grades.

Do yourself a favor and get ahead of chaos by setting up your dorm room, and by extension, your college life so that you’re organized and in control from the start.

Here are seven tips for organizing a dorm room.

1. Dorm-room closets are small. But you can effectively double the size of yours by adding a double hanging rack. This simple device hooks onto the rack that is already in place. You can find them for less than $15 at most home-goods stores or on Amazon.com.

2. Set up an organizational system to minimize the mess on your desk. Maintain order by minimizing the number of desk accessories you bring to school. In addition, recycle useless advertisements gathered from campus clubs and local businesses along with unusable scrap paper once a day. Pack graded assignments away in an organized portfolio for the whole semester, just in case there is an error on the professor’s part — it happens more than we’d like to think. Finally, keep book clutter to a minimum by organizing yours alphabetically or by the class they are required for. For ease, color-code the binding of your books with a corresponding day in the week they need to be taken to class, such as “Blue Tuesdays.”

3. Set up a laundry station, set a laundry day and stick to it. Keep a lightweight, portable laundry bag in your closet. Before your head hits the pillow each night, toss all dirty laundry from the day in it. Pick the one day you will do laundry — you might want to avoid Sunday afternoons and Sunday evenings as laundry rooms are packed with procrastinators at that time — and fix that into your routine from the beginning of the school year. Make your weekly laundry appointment the time you catch up on your favorite shows or watch a movie.

4. Maximize “lost” space. Refrigerators can quickly turn into a moldy mess. Package leftovers in zip-type bags and wipe spills immediately. Throw out all items that are out of date, and make sure your roommates do the same if the fridge is shared. If your dorm room has a communal kitchen, establish a rule for cleaning.

5. Make your bed. When you live in a small space, the slightest visual mess can have an outsized impact on your overall sense of organization. Get in the habit of making your bed every day before you leave your room even if that means simply pulling up the duvet cover and arranging a pillow. Swap sheets weekly or, at the very least, every other week. Buy a short plastic drawer to hold the extra sheets and slide it under your bed for storage.

6. Think before you pack. Is your room going to be big enough for a guitar?

7. Go for a walk in the other person’s shoes. Remember, unless you’ve won the housing lottery, you aren’t going to be the only one living in your dorm room. Think about what it would be like having you as a roommate. What steps could you take to tame your chaos before you even step foot in your room? A future friendship might just depend on it.

The writers are co-founders of Buttoned Up, a company dedicated to helping stressed women get organized. For more columns, go to scrippsnews.com.

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