Whether it’s the first time out on your own, or you’re still living at home, college is a brand-new world for most people. Navigating the campus can be daunting regardless of its size, not to mention meeting new peers and teachers alike. And with more people than ever working in some capacity during their college years, time (and money) is tight. So why waste what little time you have looking for that lost notebook, or clearing away clean clothes that have been sitting on that one chair for days? You don’t need expensive organizational systems to maximize your space. You just need a little planning.
Clean your space
The best way to get and stay organized is by first going through what you have and getting rid of the excess. You’ll find a myriad of strategies for this, but regardless of how you go about it, make sure you’re being thoughtful as you work, and not just throwing out things to throw them out. If you don’t need an item right then, but you know you will in the near future, keep it to avoid the extra cost of buying it again later. If you have more than enough of something, you can donate it. The end result should be less general stuff to keep track of and store, making organization easy to acquire and continue with, regardless of the last time you did a deep clean.
Use what you already have
As you’re going through your space, whether it’s a dorm, apartment, or shared house, put to the side receptacles that can be used for storage. This includes shoeboxes, unused laundry hampers, or the boxes you originally used to move into the space. Obviously the bigger boxes can be used to store out-of-season clothing or sentimental items you want to keep but don’t have room to display (think prom dresses). Cleaning supplies can be kept in the laundry hampers at the bottom of closets to make them handy and easy to remember where they are. Lastly, the shoe boxes can help with the miscellaneous items in your home. Whether it’s art supplies, old journals, or even socks and underwear, don’t underestimate the space-saving properties they offer.
But don’t be afraid to invest in something new
It’s probably not the best use of funds to spring for an expensive home organizational system during this part of your life. Besides the fact that money should be going to school, food, or rent, you’ll also probably move a few more times before you get settled somewhere. Instead, look for smaller ways to keep neat and tidy within different categories. For example, for school or your job search, find a custom folder and create a set to better delineate what subject or company each holds. This way you can grab it at a glance, and look polished while out and about with it.
Even small areas need to be organized
The large spaces in your life aren’t the only ones that need order. Your desk at work, your backpack or laptop bag, or your purse, all contribute to your overall feelings of being put together. And because these spaces are compact, it can be really easy to let them get cluttered. But a purse organizer or specific places for stationery, paperwork, or sensitive information, can make you more efficient and more likely to be the go-to person in your office or friend group.
Once you’ve reached a satisfactory point in your journey, you need to figure out the best way for you to maintain everything you’ve already done. Try different approaches to see what works best for you over time. This could be tackling one area per day that needs it (Mondays you clear off counters, Tuesdays you clean the bathroom, etc.), or building a routine to hit your high traffic areas throughout the day so as not to become overwhelmed (make your bed in the morning, put your office supplies in their proper storage places before you leave your desk at night, clean out your purse every night before taking off your shoes). Getting organized doesn’t have to involve a major life overhaul or buying all new things. Sometimes it’s just made in tiny increments.