You never really notice how much clutter you’ve accumulated until it’s too late.
A few stray pieces of paper can quickly turn into a whole ream. Those socks you keep kicking off in the middle of the night start piling up under the covers at the end of your bed. That small milk bottle you bought solely for a box of cereal you wound up eating dry winds up spoiling in the back of your fridge. And before you know it, you’re basically living in squalor.
Clutter has a detrimental effect on your mental health, which is hard on your overall well-being, which ultimately makes it more difficult to do that school thing. And isn’t that school thing why you’re living in your dorm room in the first place? This semester, some good old-fashioned spring cleaning might be exactly what you need to get yourself back on track to living a happy, healthy, successful life.
Open your window, get the fresh air flowing, and get out your trash bags because here are 5 dorm room spring cleaning tips for healthier dorm room living:
1. Dig out a laundry basket...or seven
Between going to classes, getting all of your homework done, studying for exams, remembering to eat and shower, and still maintaining an active social life, school is time-consuming. You’re probably going to fall behind on laundry at one point or another. There are only so many times you can wear the same pair of jeans again, and if you haven’t already, you’ll likely run out of underwear soon. Save yourself the stress and start to sift through the massive pile of dirty clothes you’ve tucked away in a corner so you don’t have to look at it.
While you’re at it, you might as well get to stripping all the sheets off your bed and washing those as well. If you haven’t been keeping up with your clothes, which are a daily necessity just for going outside, then you probably haven’t given your bedding a good wash in a while either. That means all the dirt and grime you’ve passed onto your sheets while asleep in the past four months is still there. If you wash them and remake your bed, though, you’ll be feeling better in no time.
(And if you need to do an entire load that’s nothing but socks, well, that’s nobody’s business but your own.)
2. Invest in some knee pads
Okay, this might be a bit of an exaggeration. But if we’re being honest here, a good, deep clean of your dorm room is probably gonna call for a fair amount of time crawling around the floor and bruising your knees. Especially if your dorm room bed is lofted, one of the best tips we can give you is to crawl under there and see what you find. Oftentimes, stray pieces of paper and pens, books you had in your hand when you fell asleep, pillows, and even the occasional fruit snack can slip down into the gaps between your dorm-issued bed and the wall, and you’ll be none the wiser.
Standard dorm room carpeting coupled with the inevitability of dust bunnies, fallen strands of hair that have begun to clump together, or sometimes even the sticky remnants of a spilled drink, it can get pretty grody under there. You’ll definitely be wanting a trash bag and some paper towels, as well as a carpet cleaner for this endeavor. Here’s a pretty reliable one that’s also good for lifting any potential stains out of the carpet.
Once you’ve removed anything loose on the carpet--pens, papers, clumps of hair, fruit snacks--you just need to spray the solution, let it sit for a couple minutes, and use a paper towel or rag to sop it up. From there, you just need to let the carpet dry before you do anything else to clean the floor, and all the stickiness should be gone! Maybe you won’t need those knee pads, but depending on how much of a mess you find under your dorm bed, it actually might not be a bad idea to buy some.
3. Find the surface of your desk
It is a natural human instinct to set things down on some sort of flat surface where you’ll be able to see them later and pick them up. One of the downsides of dorm rooms, though, is that they’re usually pretty small. The only real space you have to put down your assignments or a book or a box of goldfish crackers for the next time you get a midnight hankering is your desk. But little by little, it’s easy for all of these small things to pile up until you can’t even see your desk anymore.
The same thing can happen with your drawers. That hard copy of your syllabus makes it into the bottom drawer of your desk because it’s available online but you never know when the course website might crash and leave you stranded from your assignment details. But then your advising appointment report gets added to the mix. And before you know it, all of those short stories you had to print out and annotate for class are spilling out of that bottom drawer and you’re lowkey worried you’ll slip on one and break your neck.
Pens, highlighters, and even the rogue paperclip give the space an extra level of chaos. And when we see the same chaos day in and day out, we tend to turn a blind eye to it. It just becomes another part of the background of your life until you do slip on that stray piece of paper and nearly break your neck.
That’s the beauty of a deep spring cleaning session, though. This year, make it a priority to find the bottom of your desk. Determine what really needs to stay and what can probably be recycled. Sort whatever you decide to keep into various piles and buy a couple pocket folders to keep everything organized. It’ll be much easier to find what you’re looking for when you know specifically where you can find it than it is to dig through a massive pile of papers.
Once you’ve cleaned out your drawers and found the top of your desk again, give that a quick lemon-scented disinfectant wipe down as well before you begin to organize everything again.
4. Clean out your fridge...and wipe it down
Remember that spoiled milk we mentioned earlier? It’s still there, and there are probably a couple other things you’ll be wanting to pitch as well. As much as we all hate food waste, you don’t need to hold onto food that’s inedible. Take inventory of what you can keep.
The jar of dill pickles? Unless it’s left over from the person who lived there two years before you, you can probably keep it. That sushi you ate half of and promptly forgot about two minutes after you put it away for later? That can probably go. If you’re unsure of what’s safe to eat and what’s not, it’s always better to go the route of throwing it away than to get food poisoning.
In most cases, you should probably just toss anything that’s gone bad straight into the garbage, and then to immediately take that garbage out. It’s the quickest way to get the waste out of your room, which is what will make you feel better overall. You can always see if there are any eco-friendly campus clubs that have put together composts to alleviate food waste if you’re feeling a little guilty, though.
After you’ve ridden your fridge of all moldy and expired food, make sure to wipe down any shelves and drawers. Spoiled food tends to leave behind traces of mold and bacteria, which, if you don’t thoroughly clean, can easily transfer over to any new food you put in the fridge. Say goodbye to those weird smells emanating from your dorm room fridge. This year’s spring cleaning extravaganza has got you covered.
We recommend saving vacuuming for last on your dorm room spring cleaning checklist because there are so many things that could go wrong and force you to have to do it again and again if you start it any earlier in your mission. Scraps of paper might fall to the floor if you do your recycling after you vacuum. You might drop crumbs when you pause for a spring cleaning snack break. Lint from your laundry might float to the ground as you start folding your t-shirts and hanging up jackets.
Saving your vacuuming for last means that you won’t have to do any rinsing and repeating for this particular step. Once you finish, you’ll be finished. When you vacuum your dorm room, make sure you try to get into all of the areas you wouldn’t normally think of. Sometimes this means moving things (within reason). Pull out your desk chair to sweep under your desk; slide bins out from underneath your dorm room bed to hit the dirt underneath them; if you have vacuum attachments, suck up anything on the room’s upholstery.
When all is said and done, you’ll be on the right track to feeling much better about your schoolwork. A clean work and living space is the key to a decluttered mind. And when your mind is less cluttered, you have more energy to do things like schoolwork, socializing, remembering to eat, and even keeping up a clean room.