Despite that summer is just getting started, September will be here faster than the speed of light (well, almost as fast!). Because we all know that time is an illusion in college! If you're a college student who has just returned home for the summer, then I bet you have yet to unpack all 7,000 of your bags—and I also bet your mom and/or dad stand in the doorway of your room everyday and say something along the lines of: "PLEASE, for the love of God, put all of this stuff away and clean your room!" Or if you're entering your freshman year of college this fall, then odds are your mom has already started loading up the house with a bevy of things you probably won't even need, but she's stocking up "just in case."
Well, luckily for you, I have some seriously awesome advice written especially for this article by two amazing authors, Kelly and Katie McMenamin. They also happen to be sisters! These lovely ladies wrote an incredibly helpful novel titled Organize Your Way: Simple Strategies for Every Personality Type, and they're here to help rescue you from your messy room that's currently threatening to swallow you whole. Take a look at their beneficial tips on how to organize your way through the summer and right into September when you're packing up and settling back into your dorm room (or moving in for the very first time)!
Our company motto is "Life Should Be Easy." It never seems to be (hello, college applications!) …but organizing it should be. What’s the easiest way to enjoy the best four years of your life? Organize your stuff and time around your natural habits. Why? Because it makes college and life afterwards a helluva a lot easier. How? Simple. Ask yourself three questions:
1. Are you messy or tidy?
2. Are you a piler or a filer?
3. Are you tardy or prompt?
Before you answer, take a moment. Ignore what you’ve been told you should do your whole life—well, at least when it comes to organizing. There are no wrong answers. Your answers will tell you more about yourself than your grades, SAT scores, or college essays.
The key to getting and staying organized is to accept who you are. It’s the first step towards becoming an adult and an easy one at that. Get honest, answer the questions and then follow our advice below based on your answers.
First thing? MEASURE...twice. Otherwise, you’ll have to do multiple store trips. Since you probably can’t get exact dorm measurements beforehand, come to school armed with more organizational products than you’ll use. Make sure everything is returnable. Then, buy tons of 3M hooks (multiple sizes) and 3M picture hanging fasteners. You’ll use ‘em all, we promise.
DESK AND PAPERS
Are you a piler or filer? If binders never worked well for you, you might be a piler. You’ve got to see things to remember them, so use either an incline desktop file sorter to hold files or a Sapien bookshelf. Filers, get at least three attractive, desktop file boxes depending on the size. Piler or filer, everyone needs at least one open bin to house incoming stuff.
As for notebooks and binders, use whatever worked well for you in high school. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Pilers, loose leaf binders involve too many steps. Stick to a spiral notebook and file folder for each course.
Next, basic office supplies: scissors, pencil holder, one or two power cords, one extension cord etc. Get a slew of Linus shallow drawer organizers (four per size). Use them everywhere. Tidy folks will use more of these than messy folks. Get item finders to attach to your phone and keys. These will payback tenfold when you’re running late. Get a small catchall or use a 3M hook for keys. Place it where you tend to drop them.
CLOTHES AND STUFF
Huggable Hangers or Amazon’s generic version fit a plethora of clothes in tight spaces. Trust us. We’ve lived in NYC forever, we know small. Buy as many hangers as clothes you’re bringing plus ten extra for future clothes and broken hangers. Come armed with an over-the-door shoe organizer and stackable shoe shelves—figure out which works best when you arrive. A double hang rod utilizes wasted space underneath shirts, skirts and pants as most closets just have one hanging rod. Pilers, hang most of your clothes, even T-shirts.
Remember those Linus drawer organizers? Use the larger sizes to create order in your sock and underwear drawers. Pilers, store jewelry in these organizers along with a jewelry bulletin board. Filers, bring an old school jewelry box with a lid as you’ll prefer not to see all of your jewelry out.
Best under-bed storage is the Container Store’s long under bed box with wheels. The lid hinges in the middle making it easy to retrieve things. Hooks (3M or over the door) are ideal for coats and towels. Elfa has the penultimate door solution as it runs the length of the door and you customize it with bins, hooks, etc.
Bring two of every toiletry, makeup, medicine, and vitamin. Keep the second set in a toiletry bag for effortless packing. Get two shower caddies—one for the shower and the other as a quasi-roving medicine cabinet.
Are you messy or tidy? Bring an extra set of sheets, weeks of underwear and socks and multiple laundry bags (put off laundry longer), no scent Febreze (tardy laundry smells), Shout color catcher (all colors in one load) and a lint roller. For tidy and prompt folks, bring the above items (only fewer) and a clothing steamer (no ironing board necessary). Bring a small, basic sewing kit.
Mini-fridge. Check. It’s jarring living without one. Bring two or three cutlery settings (store in one of the 9” Linus organizers), chip clips and some small food storage containers. We’re partial to glass as it can go from fridge to microwave to “table” in one vessel.
Pinterest Dorm Decor has far more ideas than we could offer here —fairy lights, bunting, wall decals, paper chandeliers. So, we’ll keep this simple. Every room needs curtains (use a tension rod), a rug (See The Big Lebowski for why) and two matching lamps. Bring a white, neutral comforter, and pillow inserts. Add color later with a duvet, pillow covers, and the aforementioned rug once you’ve arrived and coordinated with your roommate.
Prompt people, the idea of not being completely done on Day 1 will annoy you. BUT, try to heed this advice because nothing is more disorganizing than being stuck with an organizational or decor product that doesn’t work well.
Other life changers? A bedside table—small bathroom etageres are perfect—and plug-in lamp dimmers.
Chat with your roommate before arriving, but when you’re face-to-face sans parents, have this essential conversation: Lay out your expectations of living together and ask about theirs. Obviously the list could be endless, so pick your biggest pet peeves, e.g., prompt and tidy people, you need things hidden away because too much visual clutter will stress you out. It’ll help avoid conflict or smooth things over if it arises.
We promise these PixieTips will serve you not only in college, but further down the road when you’re out in the world, organizing your way, making life easier in the process. Bon voyage!
Katie McMenamin and Kelly McMenamin are sisters, professional organizers, personality-type experts, and founders of PixieDidIt! Their business is an outgrowth of buttoned-up hedge fund analyst Kelly spending 30-odd years trying and failing to get her messy older sister Katie, a writer, to be more organized. Countless fights ensued until they had an idea: What if there is more than one way to organize? Today, they spend the bulk of their time organizing for clients, writing for their website, and giving talks on how to organize according to your personality type. Kelly lives in NYC with her husband and three sons and Katie lives in their hometown, the Land of Champions, aka Cleveland, OH, with her husband and three daughters.
Click here if you wish to grab your own copy of their fabulous book! And if you'd like to learn more about these superb sisters, you can visit them on their Facebook and Twitter pages, and on their website, too!