How To Be An Untidy Student

This week, I return to university… for the last time.

I’m so excited. I can’t wait to be done. But before I go, I want to impart some wisdom. (Anyone who knows me even remotely should know that “arrogant” indeed applies to me.

If you’re a student—whether a first year/freshman, grad student, or in between—there’s always more to learn. After all, you wouldn’t still be in this institution if you didn’t believe that to some extent, right? I’ll be posting these types of post during my last semester, and probably in the months before I graduate in June, in the hopes that someone will find something useful.

I have lived all of my university experience off-campus and I would not have it any other way. My first year, I moved 5 hours away to live with some strangers in a house. Most of my tips will apply to people living off-campus. Based on my experience, and the experiences of some peers, I would strongly suggest you find somewhere other than campus residence to live if you’re independent or introverted.

Anyway! Here we go! How to be untidy!

I pride myself on being a relatively tidy person. We can’t be at our 100% best 100% of the time. Sometimes I fall prey to these things, but most of the time, I don’t. Being a tidy person requires constant maintenance. Entropy is the main factor in untidiness. Idleness is not tidiness.

Untidy: Put things in the nearest spot.

I’ll find it again eventually, right? There aren’t many places for that receipt to fall, and all of my laundry is piled up in the same spot, so a t-shirt should be in there, too. I know it’s around somewhere, so I’ll look for it when I need it.

Tidy: Give everything a place.

I put my backpack on one section of the floor near my desk. I know where it is when I need it and I know where it goes when I don’t need it. I haven’t given it a pedestal, a door, a box, or a hook. I’ve given it somewhere to park itself. It’s not pretty or elegant, but it’s functional.

Untidy: Scramble to do everything in the mornings.

My keys are on my dresser, I can do my hair after I shower, and I’m pretty sure I’ve written a to-do list for my errands. I may sleep late tomorrow morning, or I may wake up to my alarm’s first call. I’ll have enough time, and I can speed up or skip certain things in case I run behind schedule.

Tidy: Reset your space at night.

For my evenings before I go to bed, I have to hit a certain number of areas. If I have classes, I prepare my bag for the next day and sometimes leave notes to get other things that I can’t get yet or will be using before putting in my bag. I wash my face, and brush and floss my teeth. After I check the weather, I pick an outfit for the next day and put it on my dresser, since that’s the designated spot. I do a general tidy-up to make sure things are in their places—this covers my dresser, my desk, and all the laundry that is inevitably lying on the floor or in my closet (and not in hampers—which is the laundry’s place). I check my planner and put in everything I need. The mornings are a lot easier when my environment and my mind and body are reset at night.

Untidy: Don’t wash OR put away dishes

Okay, I don’t have a reality for where this would make sense. There is no way I can rationalise leaving dirty dishes lying around. Clean dishes, sure, but dirty ones? Gross. Gross. Gross.

Tidy: If there are clean dishes, put them away.

If I need to wash dishes, I decide on a point in time that day to wash them. I don’t say “tomorrow morning” or “when I have time.” I pick “while dinner is cooking” or “before I head upstairs for the night.” Part of my nightly reset is making sure I’ve cleaned up as much as I can so I don’t have to deal with it the next day. Admittedly, I do leave my dirty dishes, but I have a rule of not leaving them for more than 24 hours. I also rinse any dishes if I know I’m leaving them for a while. Scrubbing dried food and sauce is the bane of dishwashing.

Also, if there are clean dishes, get them out of the way. They’re clean, but they aren’t in their place.

Untidy: Assume you have time.

I’ll be able to get everything done. Studying for an hour really is one hour, so that leaves me many more hours for other things. Might as well allocate time for everything, right?

Tidy: You never have enough time.

I won’t be able to get everything done in the span of time I think I’ll get it done. Sometimes I finish something sooner than I thought I would. Sometimes I finish something way later than I thought I would. I often bump tasks from one day’s to-do list to the next day’s to-do list. I’ve given myself enough time to buffer for the fact that I don’t have enough time. (This tidy tip is also known as “plan ahead” because giving yourself more time to make up for not having enough time means you need to think into the future.)

Becoming tidier and more organised isn’t easy. It takes effort. But so does everything in life. If something matters to you, you’ll put in the effort to care for it. If you care about yourself, you’ll take care of yourself. Relationships. Bedrooms. Clothes.

If it matters, it needs maintenance.

2 Replies to “How To Be An Untidy Student”

  1. I agree that it can be hard to get into the habit of being tidy, especially when a busy life can make it really easy to just put your stuff everywhere, not clean up after yourself, etc. Recently I have tried to make an effort to clean up after myself with everything – including dishes, just putting my clothes away immediately after I get changed, putting my bag down in a dedicated spot instead of just in the middle of the room, etc. It’s crazy how many little things come up in your life in which you can clean up after yourself. That has helped me get into the habit of being tidy.

    I love the idea of a nightly ‘reset’ as well. I try to clean up the spaces I’ve touched before I go to bed, though I’m still trying to keep my room pretty clean. I am currently struggling having a place for all my stuff since I tend to just put bits and bobs on my dresser. :p

    1. The top of my dresser is undoubtedly the place that needs the most maintenance. I’ve tried to keep it clear, but all those bits and bobs are things I use on a daily basis–combs, keys, wallet, earplugs… So I’m trying to figure out a system to wrangle them all together instead of fighting against my natural instinct. I have a dish I use as a “target” for a bunch of bottles of lotions and whatnot, and that has helped immensely.

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