Alright, confession time. I sat down to write an article on how to best prepare oneself for the start of a new semester by organizing and decluttering your space and your life. But I had to sit on my floor to do so because my desk was cluttered, and there were a bunch of things on my bed and my chair. So, maybe I’m not the best person to give this advice—perhaps not the most qualified—but I’m also going to be pretty honest.
Starting the spring semester is hard. People keep calling it the spring semester, but it’s dead in the middle of Cleveland’s winter. When classes roll around, nearly everyone isn’t ready yet. You’re trying to soak in the last hours of your freedom. You’re drowning in a bunch of syllabuses from classes with professors who aren’t any more ready or prepared for the semester than you are.
And sooner or later, you might walk in to your room after classes and groan at the mess of things you have yet to unpack, outfits you decided not to wear for the first day of classes and the pizza box from last night. So how do we get out of the winter break funk and get started on the semester before we drown in it?
First, dedicate a solid couple of hours to getting your life on track. Maybe ask a friend to hold you to it. Don’t let it be any later than a week into classes or you’ll never actually do it. Resign yourself to some time spent cleaning and unpacking and writing lists.
Second, stay on top of keeping your room clean. The residence halls here are small and it’s easy to feel cluttered, so spend a few minutes every day cleaning up after yourself. You’ll appreciate it when you come home from a long day of classes.
When you finally get to that time you set aside, start with the easy stuff. Unpack your stuff from home, clear off your desk. Then take a look at your space. Does it still feel cluttered? A messy space leads to a muddled mind, so if your space seems cramped and overfilled, you have one of two options.
Option one is organization. Everything in your room should have a specific place—and I don’t mean the bottom drawer of your dresser where you put all those random things you got from Orientation Week that you’ll probably never look at again. That doesn’t count. And if there just aren’t enough spaces and places in your room, either invest in some more organizational tools—like drawer units or storage boxes—or resign yourself to option two: the purge.
In small spaces like dorm rooms and most college apartments there just isn’t always enough room for everything you hold near and dear to your heart. Start by getting rid of the things you never touched your first semester. Maybe you consider yourself an avid reader and brought 13 books with you to college but found that you only read one last semester. Leave yourself one or two and find a new place for the others.
Purge until you’re left only with things you’re sentimentally attached to, or your room finally feels less clogged. Even a small purge and a clean-up will make your space feel brand new and give you the drive you need to start organizing your life.
Get a big calendar and write out everything you know is going to happen for the semester. Mark out specific weeks that are going to be really busy and set an alert on your phone for the weekend before so you don’t get surprised about that one week where you have four tests, two projects and a new movie coming out that you just need to see.
From there you can branch out into long and short term to-do lists, bullet journaling, organizing your shirts by color, purging all your socks that don’t have a match and catching up on laundry. Or—with your room clean and your things purged and your shiny new calendar all ready for the semester—you can take a nap.
Paulina Martz is a second-year theatre and psychology double major. She plans to maybe someday actually take some of the advice she gives.