Advice from our intern, Lyn, on how you can clean up your space.

In this week’s post, Lyn shares her perspective on the difference between being clean versus neat, and how she works on being more organized.

Let me start out by stating in my opinion, I try to be a very clean person. I have developed a solid routine for personal hygiene and my dishes are always washed after using them. I’ve also never had a problem with keeping my living space healthy and clean. But, there is a huge difference between “clean” and “neat”. I am not “neat”, after I get dressed it usually looks like a Lyn-nado tore through my bedroom and none of my shoes are in Kansas anymore.

I will admit that organizing my personal items, particularly in my bedroom, is not one of my strong suits. I recently moved to a new apartment, and my new bedroom isn’t very big. Because of this, I’ve suddenly realized that in my 21 years of life I have somehow acquired a plethora of clothes, makeup, shoes, binders, decorative rocks, and other random things. I’ve been saying that I needed to organize my room all last weekend, but my desk remains so cluttered that I can’t even use it, and I still have to step over bags of clothes to make my way to the door. I had to ask myself – how is this messy room impacting me?

There is a growing trend in the field of positive psychology that considers organization an important factor in mental and physical health. A study conducted by Dr. NiCole Keith at Indiana University found that people who keep their rooms organized are much more likely to be active, which results in better physical health (NiCole et al, 2010). Right now, those people and I are on totally different levels. Another study conducted by researchers at Princeton University found that clutter can make it more difficult to focus on a specific task, with the non-task items taking up space in the visual cortex (McMains & Kastner, 2011). This is probably why I’m currently lying in my bed surrounded by unfolded clothes and at least one slice of pizza while I type this article instead of actually organizing.

This is the last week of the semester, which means that finals are right around the corner. I don’t want my last round of studying to be interrupted by the mounds of distractions in my visual cortex. So, on this beautiful Tuesday I’m taking steps to conquer my clutter, take back my space, and appease my roommate. Here are some tips that I found while I was attempting to delay actually having to clean and at the same time searching for a place to start:

  • Make your bed – I struggle with this, especially because I have to get out of bed first to make it. But, a freshly made bed can make the room feel surprisingly more organized, even if other areas still need some work. It also creates a space to place items while you’re moving things around. Also, no matter how your day goes, good or bad, you at least have a nice clean bed to come home to.
  • Go minimalistic– It’s hard to get rid of things, even if they don’t get much use. Something inside my brain (or heart?) is telling me that I really need those extra backup black leggings that I haven’t worn for two years. Still, I gathered up a box full of clothes to donate and it already made a huge impact on my room. Not sure if you are ready to give away a piece of clothing that you haven’t worn in months, but think that somehow you will in the future? The next few weeks, find a way to incorporate it into an outfit. If you can’t, then maybe it is time to donate.
  • Use all available space – Ugly plastic bins? Yep, I shoved those under my bed. Then, I installed hooks behind my door for my coats. I also tucked a few furniture items like my dresser and a shelf into the corners of my room to free up a bit more space. I know that my bedroom is particularly small, but these tips could help make any room feel larger.
  • Organize the closet – I know, I know, I would have more room in my closet if I better followed point #2. But, by taking all of my sweaters off the hangers, folding them, and laying them on the floor of my closet, I created a massive amount of space just by rethinking the bulkiest hanging items.

After following these tips, I’m well over 80% done with perfectly organizing my room and it feels great. Let me know in the comments if you have any tips, if you sympathize with being a serial disorganizer, or if the strategies above helped you.

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