Fun fact about myself: I can’t go to sleep at night without cleaning my space beforehand.
Since I’ve had my own room, clutter has been the bane of my mental peace. If my backpack isn’t tidy or if my workspace isn’t spotless, I won’t feel any inclination to complete my schoolwork or to be – and stay – productive.
Being organized in college, though, mandates much more discipline than in middle or high school. My parents are obviously not around to keep me accountable or to constantly remind me to clean my room, so it’s entirely up to me to maintain a tidy, well-organized room and workspace.
I’ve been receiving quite a surfeit of questions via Instagram about how I stay organized, so here are the top five ways I sustain a neat and structured lifestyle while at Cal Poly:
- Designate a space for everything.
Every. Single. Thing.
Whether it’s as large of an item as a textbook or as trivial of an object as a thumbtack, every item in your room deserves to be stored away in its own spot and to be returned there after every use.
To better organize your belongings, I suggest purchasing plenty of bins, baskets, containers, and storage drawers from Office Depot or any other office supply store. For instance, I designate a bin for all my pens and pencils and another bin for all my Post-Its and sticky tabs.
Determine an organization system that works for you and your workspace, and it will help you maintain a sense of “structure” while you’re working.
- Use and label all your binder tabs.
Whether you’re tackling three or six courses this quarter/semester, designating a spot for all your schoolwork for each of your classes is essential.
If you prefer to use binders instead of folders like I do, I recommend utilizing and labeling your binder tabs for not only all your coursework, but also for other categories, such as “Miscellaneous,” “Work,” or “Old Papers/Recycling.”
In the “Miscellaneous” binder tab, I typically store community service hour record sheets, letters from friends, extra Scantrons, handouts from extracurricular activity meetings, and other paperwork not associated with any of the classes I’m taking.
In the “Work” binder tab, I usually keep my résumés, cover letters, and all other work-related documents.
In the “Old Papers/Recycling” tab, I stow away all my graded papers and tests (unless I need them to study for an upcoming exam), used Scantrons, and extraneous paperwork. However, I don’t recycle any of these papers until the end of the quarter or until I know I will no longer need them in the future.
- Create a cleaning schedule.
If cleaning your room every night isn’t practical for you, try cleaning your room once or twice a week (i.e. every Sunday, every Tuesday and Thursday, etc.). By establishing a cleaning routine, it will be easier for you to make organization a way of life rather than an occasional task.
Personally, cleaning my workspace and my side of the room and tidying my closet every night work well for me. For laundry, I typically wash my clothes every Monday (everyone does laundry on the weekends, so doing laundry on Mondays is easiest for my schedule).
- If you’re not going to miss it, donate it, recycle it, or throw it away.
Eliminating clutter decreases the number of items you have to organize, so if you have any clothes you’re no longer wearing, papers you’re no longer using, or food you’re no longer eating, either donate it, recycle it, or discard it completely.
For example, for my closet I typically assess the necessity of each article of clothing at least once a month. If I haven’t worn something in a while and probably won’t wear it in the next month or two, I consider donating it or revamping it (i.e. cutting old jeans and turning them into shorts or turning a skirt into a cute tube top) so it’s brand spanking new. There are a plethora of YouTube videos on how to DIY your wardrobe if you need inspiration!
- Use a visual way to see your weekly/monthly schedule.
You can use Google Calendar, Office 365 Outlook, a Passion Planner, an online or physical calendar, and/or any other means to accomplish this. Because Cal Poly’s email system is linked to Office 365, I find it more convenient to use Outlook as a web calendar for my weekly class schedule rather than Google Calendar.
For reference, to the right is my calendar for the week of January 27 to February 2.
In addition to my class times, I input my professors’ office hours, club meeting/interview times, exam dates, important deadlines, appointments, and anything else worthy of a reminder. I also color-code everything on my calendar so I can easily associate a particular color with specific events and classes (i.e. red for personal events, yellow for Pilipino Cultural Exchange Club, orange for my JOUR 285 class, etc.).
If my system is too chaotic for you, you can opt to create multiple calendars on Outlook rather than jam-packing all your events into one calendar.
Regardless of how you choose to organize your weekly/monthly schedule, remember to make it fun! Organization should never feel like a chore – it should make you look forward to school and/or work and help you upkeep an organizational structure that works best for you.