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How Tidying Up Can Improve Your Final Grades: 9 Steps to Academic Nirvana

Disclaimer: I hate hyperboles. (And irony.)

Overstatements weaken words’ novelty and the experiences they’re describing, making it less interesting when you actually have literally the best waffle ever, or when you can’t even with slow WIFI.

But… Marie Kondo’s book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” has absolutely changed my life.

I have always been a very Type A person and was once described as ‘painfully organized’, so at first I didn’t think this book could teach me anything I didn’t know. But the beauty of life is that there is so much we don’t know that we don’t know! Kondo explains why your cleaning style isn’t working, the emotional strain of imbalanced work and living spaces, and how to change it all.

She describes living space as a mirror of your emotional space, and clutter as the physical representation of the stress you feel– whether from school, relationships, or family.

Here are some easy fixes you can implement and exactly how they will affect your grades:

Set criteria for the items you want to keep, don’t just go in willy-nilly:

-The effectiveness of your tidying is directly related to how well you prepare. There is no one answer to the best way to plan; it needs to be personalized to meet your goals and needs. For example, if your goal is to become more efficient in your time spent studying, frame your criteria around keeping only the necessary items in your study area. Think about where you want to end, then set your criteria as how you plan to get there.

Don’t think about if you can throw something away or if you need it, think of if it brings you joy:

-One of the biggest themes of the book is relying on your emotions when making decisions – you know, the opposite of every other decision. But when you keep only items that bring you joy, your living space becomes open and pure, allowing it to breath and you to think clearly. The lack of clutter allows you to focus without outside distractions creeping in. The average person spends 4.3 hours a week searching for papers, adding undue stress and wasting time. When you have only what is vital, you will naturally boost your productivity.

Start small:

-Whenever you’re faced with a formidable task, the easiest way to begin is with the smallest task, and gradually work towards the tougher tasks. Those small victories hone your decision making abilities, boosting your self-confidence. As in any test, attitude is half the battle.

Go in order of ITEM, not location:

-The official order is as follows: clothes, books, miscellaneous items, and pictures. Marie Kondo repeatedly enforces the importance of following this specific order to truly be effective. It makes sense: combine starting small and little victories. Clothes are the easiest to discard because they often hold the least sentimental value. Consider each item of clothing and whether or not it brings you joy. Repeat this for every section. Since we’re focusing on increasing test scores, the most important section is miscellaneous items, which ranges from papers to pens to technology. Consider each item in your desk and study area. Do you derive joy from it? If not, throw it away. It’s that simple. When you’re done, I promise you’ll be amazed, maybe even excited to study!

Do it all at once, not just passively over the course of a few days:

-Although it is recommended to begin with small victories, this isn’t something to be done over time. For maximum permanent effectiveness, tidy all in one day. Not only will you do everything in the same frame of mind, but you will feel capable, powerful, and in need of a well-deserved treat afterwards.

Do it yourself, don’t ask for advice or outside input:

-The most important consideration is your personal feelings towards the objects. The minute you ask someone else’s opinion, you have lost sight of your goal. We can all name a time when throwing away old clothes and our mother or friends have commented “no, you look so cute in that!” and we ended up keeping something we didn’t want. Continue on your own path and don’t allow others to cloud your judgment, and you will find peace of mind.

If others you are living with are the problem, make a big deal of your cleaning to inspire them:

If a lot of the clutter and extraneous items are others’ possessions, try to subconsciously convince them to clean up their items. Learn from Jennifer Lawrence and make it a big show, whether it’s announcing loudly every time you go to grab another trash bag, or commenting on how incredible you feel now that you’ve tidied up. They’ll notice the positive change in your life and want to copy it, leading to a positive shared living space and focused energy.

Discard then organize:

-SO IMPORTANT. Keep the tasks separated. Pull everything out. Consider each and whether or not it brings you joy. Throw away everything that doesn’t bring joy. THEN put everything back and reorganize it. It keeps you accountable and ensures proper and complete tidying.

Enjoy peace of mind:

-It’s important not to go overboard, thinking the more you throw away the clearer your mind will be, less isn’t always better. A full bookshelf or wall is fine, the importance is in how it makes you feel, not how it looks. If a collage of pictures makes you feel comforted and loved, then it should stay. But if it features your ex or friends you don’t talk to, it is no longer able to serve you.

What you keep reveals who you are, what you’re interested in and how you think. Not only will you become more effective in your studying and more confident in your decision making, but you’ll gain a deeper understanding of what you need and don’t need. With everything we do to prepare for finals, we often don’t think to consider if anything is actually hindering our studying. By removing everything that no longer serves you, your space is cleared to contain only what is relevant; you’re able to focus and better process the information you’re studying, and you’ll feel infinitely more assured in your decision-making, in and out of the classroom.

I can’t emphasize enough how clear your mind will become, and the incredible natural confidence boost you’ll feel. Your self-efficacy will skyrocket, and all of the sudden that pile of notes and those impending finals seem like just the next challenge for you to eviscerate, you tidying genius.

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