Adulting like a pro in your university living space
Young female students in a college dorm room

University and college life can be rough on all fronts. Attending class, studying, budgeting, and eating properly are enough to deal with, let alone keeping a relatively clean home. But here’s the thing: Learning to clean like an adult can be a life skill, and one you’ll be sure to use for many years to come. So whether you’re trying to understand where things go in your tiny dorm room or how to arrange furniture in your first off-campus apartment, cleaning skills will be necessary to keep your space and your mind free.

Step 1: Know what you need (and what you don’t)

There’s a compulsion to stock up and get as many items as you think you’ll need before you start school or move out on your own, but hitting pause also has its benefits. As an adult, you must weigh the needs versus the wants, and these moments in new spaces are the perfect opportunity to practice.

Keep the shopping list concise and short to start. Get settled with basic items first, because when it comes time to clean your space, less is more is going to be better. Next, look to find a place for everything. Adults don’t shove their clothes into a drawer; they fold them and organize them properly. Consider organizers in your closet to keep things separated, and if your dorm closet is tiny, keep the item count low to avoid overcrowding. Go slow and get the necessities, then add items once you’re settled.

Step 2: Figure out where it all goes

Even if you only have a dresser - or a few slim boxes to fit under your bed - that’s already plenty to deal with. Consider the skill level required to keep organization simple, because when you only have a fraction of the space you’re used to, you’ll need to use it wisely. Storage systems are key, but before you start moving items around, consider editing. Take inventory of what you have and what you need, and from there you can create a seasonal plan for your items. For example, summer’s just starting to end when you’re back at school, so consider keeping a lighter assortment of warm weather clothes as fall shifts into gear - because before you know it, winter has arrived, and all you’ll need are a few sweats, a good chunky sweater, and a down-filled parka.

After the edit comes the storage plan. There are the obvious choices, like dressers and closet organizers, but there are also more customizable options like under-the-bed storage units for when you have several bags, coats, and other items than may take up too much room in a closet. Look over what you have and decide where it all belongs, and you’ll find it much easier to manage what you’re using or wearing on any given day. 

Step 3: Keep it clean - or at least tidy

Cleaning is king. Small spaces can easily become a hotbed of hidden dirt and dust. The more you have in a small space, the harder it will be to clean, so after you declutter and store items you don’t need to use in the short term, you can assess the situation. Keep your cleaning kit to a minimum - a strong cleaning agent alongside a few cloths and perhaps a duster will be your best bet. Adding in other items for specific purposes, such as toilets (get yourself a new brush) or something for stainless steel appliances will help keep you in check. No schedule? No problem. It’s a task you’ll likely want to complete weekly depending on your situation, but try not to get too obsessed with dedicating a ton of time to cleaning. Just keeping things tidy and under control should be enough.

Step 4: Enjoy your tidy space

Once you have your physical space clean and organized, you’ll feel more relaxed and more energized. There’s nothing better than coming home after school, work, or a social outing to a clean, tidy place that you can take pride in. Live it up and enjoy!

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