Short on space, free of parental authority figures and home to stressed-out students, a college dorm room is the perfect environment for clutter to accumulate.

With all the challenges and distractions of college life, students often think they don’t have time to organize their dorm rooms. But trying to study in a messy room can result in lost productivity that makes decluttering well worth the effort.

Keep reading to learn seven smart strategies for cutting the clutter in your dorm room.

college dorm room

1. Don’t Put Off the Little Tasks.

You’ve been up half the night finishing a paper and your desk is covered in books, handouts and disposable coffee cups. All you want to do is climb in bed and leave the mess for tomorrow morning (or maybe even a few days from now), but it’s better to take few minutes and clean up immediately.

“Don’t procrastinate when it comes to putting things away,” said Victoria Griffin, a writer and a rising senior at Campbell University. “Doing small things every day will keep your room tidy over the course of the year.”

2. Ditch the Freebies.

“Students accumulate a lot of free stuff, from flyers to mugs to samples, which can start to take up a lot of space,” said Blake Connoy, managing director of Helpling, which connects people with cleaning services.

And while we all love free things, be honest with yourself. Do you really need 10 Frisbees or 15 cups in your dorm room? Be more selective about what you accept in the first place. If you already have a bunch of free stuff, choose a couple of favorite items and toss the rest.

3. Make Cleaning a Team Effort.

Even the most compatible roommates can clash over who’s to blame for a messy dorm room.

“Make sure you both feel responsible for the room’s upkeep, and there will be fewer squabbles about whose turn it is to vacuum,” Griffin said. She recommends that roommates set aside one day each week to clean.

And if you’re the neatest one in your pairing, make the task a little more enjoyable for your messier counterpart. Play music while you’re cleaning and reward yourselves by doing something fun after the job’s complete.

4. Convert to Digital Files.

Your desk can be the hardest area to consistently keep clean, especially if it’s always covered in papers.

“Keep paper clutter to a minimum by making a digital copy of everything: class notes, forms, letters, anything you think you’ll need in the future,” Connoy said.

Recycle all the original copies, he said, and if you find that you need something later, you can just print it out.

5. Plan for the Seasons.

If you know you’re traveling back home a few times during the year, you can save serious closet space by bringing only those clothes that are suitable for the next few months.

For example, when you go home for Thanksgiving, drop off your warm weather clothes, and bring your heavy coats and other winter gear back to campus. You can take the same approach during the spring semester.

6. Use Smart Storage Solutions.

Even after paring down your possessions and cleaning regularly, you still might feel like your stuff is taking over. Dorm rooms can be extremely low on space, so it helps to find smart storage solutions wherever you can.

Connoy recommends investing in under-the-bed storage containers. Other great options include over-the-door shoe organizers, stacking storage cubes and closet-rod doublers.

7. Organize Items by Purpose.

Griffin uses a smart system that involves dividing her possessions into three categories: items she uses every day, items she takes out occasionally and items she rarely uses. These categories help her figure out the best locations for different items.

She keeps the everyday things—like her toothbrush and backpack—in areas that are easily accessible. She puts occasional use possessions in the top of her closet so they’re within reach but out of the way. Finally, items she uses once a month or less are stored under the bed.

“If something does not fit into one of these three levels, such as something used once every three months, you don’t need it at school,” Griffin said.

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