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I’ve always been a messy person. Not completely by choice, just because keeping things organized has never been a priority. In my mind, there are a thousand more interesting things to be doing instead of cleaning up. And because I was so busy with other things, my parents never harped on me for having a messy room; we were all rarely home.

But now, in college, it has become a real issue. 

In college, my bedroom is my only living space. I don’t have a living room or kitchen to relax in and to decompress, just my bedroom, which also houses all my belongings. And if your one and only space to “decompress” is messy, is it really a place where you can relax? Your living space CAN be enjoyable. It just isn’t for me, and chances are, if you’re reading this, it also isn’t for you. At least not yet.

It is a constant struggle to keep my room clean because I never learned how to do so when I was younger. But over winter break, I decided I would no longer be an accidentally terribly messy person. From the culmination of two books, Atomic Habits by James Clear and Declutter Like a Mother: A Guilt-Free, No-Stress Way to Transform Your Home and Your Life by Allie Casazza, I found a starting point. 

If you want to start instilling lifelong organizational habits, start small and add your habit to something else you have to do. For example, when I leave the house, since I already have to, I will take my garbage out. Or every time I walk into my room, I clean.

But the issue isn’t just trash or having to clean. The fact that I have to clean every time I walk into my room says something else about me. It means that I, in fact, have too much shit. 

So, how do you determine that you have too much shit?

  1. Your room is messy because there are clothes everywhere. That means you probably have too many clothes (unless you truly wear all of them, which we all know is a lie).
  2. Your room/apartment/house resembles an episode from Hoarders. You have a ton of shit boxed up (have you ever actually taken stuff out of those boxes and used it? We aren’t talking seasonal stuff but like stuff that is for THIS season and you don’t use)

After you figure out that you have too much stuff, how do you actually start cleaning it up?

The first step, the easier part, examining the things. What do you buy that you don’t actually use/ need? For example, I stress-buy shampoos. I have dabbled in many different kinds because for a period of time I thought I had wavy hair. Unfortunately, none of the shampoos I was buying came in travel size, so I have a lot of shampoo and conditioner containers, nearly full, that don’t work for my hair. So, I decluttered those first. But be careful with this step. For example, if you have ten packs of floss, you may think that you should declutter it. But, if you are going to use it, don’t! Then you will just have to buy more. The purpose of decluttering is to help you discover all the things that you actually need and have. That shampoo didn’t work for my hair, so I was never going to use it again. 

The next step is clothes. Make a few piles: seasonal clothing (box this up), clothes that you want to donate, and clothes that you love. And, of course, a “maybe” pile. You could donate your clothes by googling thrift stores near you and then signing up for a donation time (Sometimes, they will pay you for your donations or give you store credit), or sell them on Depop, Poshmark, Facebook, eBay, etc. 

Hopefully, these steps help you to declutter your dorm room and feel happier in your space!

Olivia Wang

Columbia Barnard '24

Olivia is a Sophomore at Barnard College studying Computer Science. In her free time, she enjoys spending time outdoors and learning new languages.
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