Decluttering for College Students

It’s back to school time, folks. For some parents, that means jubilation. For others (like me!), it means a bit of sadness and resignation to the fact that my children are growing up very quickly. This year, I will have a college junior and a high school senior. How did this happen?? I was just in school myself! I love being with my kids, and I miss them when they aren’t around. However, it’s extremely exciting watching them create their own futures. I hope that the roots we’ve established are strong, because I know their wings are mighty.

As a professional organizer, I offer you some tips for your college-bound offspring to stay organized during the school year.

A place for everything and everything in its place.

Have zones (study zone, personal care zone, quiet zone, food zone, etc.) and label them (even if only in your mind).

Equip each zone with everything you need to do the task performed there, like books, computer, and paper in the study zone. We tend to do this naturally, anyway. For instance, in our own homes, food prep is usually done in the kitchen. Personal care is done in a bathroom. Each room has its assigned function. The same holds true for a dorm room or college apartment. Each item can have its assigned spot, like a specific hook for a backpack, so it always gets hung up when coming into the room and is right there when the student is racing out the door to class. A shower caddy keeps personal care supplies corralled and easily carried to the communal bathroom on the residence hall floor.

Have only the bare essentials.

Dorm rooms are small. Too much to keep track of leads to nowhere to put anything and to stress over having to keep track of it all.

Have a hamper or laundry bag in a convenient place.

Avoid dirty clothes piling up all over the floor. Keeping the floor clear (besides avoiding trips and falls) makes the room appear and feel bigger and can go a long way toward roommate amity.

Fold and hang up clothes as soon as possible after doing laundry.

Backtrack: DO your laundry. Future entrepreneurs can make a pretty penny doing laundry for fellow students. (When I went to college, a man on my floor ironed clothes for his friends. Not too shabby!)

Use a planner.

It doesn’t matter if the planner is paper or electronic. The one you use is the right one for you.

Record everything, both small and large. Include test dates, paper due dates, progress deadlines (to keep the student on track, e.g. have an outline for a paper due on 12/15 done by 11/1), study sessions, activity meetings, sports practices, time to do laundry, etc.

Block off prep time, the time it takes to do the activity, and time for transitioning to the next activity.

My favorite suggestion: color code as much as possible. Example: use red for tests and paper due dates, blue for social time, green for activities, or whatever works for you.

Color code other things as well.

It’s easy to see at a glance what belongs in what category.

Since I’m “old,” I like my paper-based systems. I used a different color notebook for each subject, with corresponding colored folders in a small desktop file box to corral papers pertaining to each class.

One minute of planning saves 10 minutes of doing.

The night before, have everything you need for the next day in your backpack (or whatever you use), prepared and ready to grab in the morning.

Include a water bottle and protein-rich snack (that’s the Mom talking!).

I asked my son (the college student) to weigh in. His reply:

Empty your backpack every night. Evaluate what is actually needed in it.

Put away washed laundry immediately; don’t let it sit around.

Utilize a shower caddy.

Go vertical:

Use hooks on a closet door

Use a hanging mesh shoe holder (can be used for much more than shoes)

Hang your laundry bag

Hang up your backpack

Use e-books rather than huge textbooks.

I guess something may have rubbed off on him! :D




CEO of Let’s Get Organized, award-winning professional organizing firm in northern NJ, creator of the Make Space for Blessings System.

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Gayle Gruenberg, CPO-CD

Gayle Gruenberg, CPO-CD

CEO of Let’s Get Organized, award-winning professional organizing firm in northern NJ, creator of the Make Space for Blessings System.

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