Neat freaks keep it clean in the dorms

Bring style (and order) to your room

Despite the chaos and confusion of the first day of classes, freshman Jessica Antista's dorm room looks immaculate. Perhaps too immaculate. The beds are made, the floor is free of empty pizza boxes and stray t-shirts, and the wall d?cor look as if they were hung with a level.

There is just one small problem, according to Antista.

"It looks like someone with split personalities lives here," Antista said, referring to the stark difference in decorating tastes between she and her roommate. "My side has been dubbed 'Genie in a Bottle,' whereas her side is dubbed 'Spongebob Squarepants.'"

Indeed, Antista's plum velvet bedspread and her roommate's yellow plaid pillow cases should have remained a forbidden union. But otherwise, their Anderson Hall abode is a fine example of an organized dorm room. From the looks of things, there is a place for everything, and everything is in its place.

A tidy dorm room such as Antista's will come in handy once term paper and exam deadlines start piling up, say the members of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO). According to the NAPO Web site, an organized space can "increase productivity, reduce stress, and create a newfound freedom and sense of being in control." The only problem, of course, is getting organized in the first place.

So how can one change a dorm room from a 185 square-foot war zone into a compartmentalized living space? It's not as hard as you think, according to Matt Rucker, manager of Hold Everything in Chevy Chase. His store specializes in bins, baskets, shelves, hooks and other items to help keep a dorm room freakishly neat.

"Take advantage of the space under your bed," Rucker advised. "It's the perfect area to store out-of-season clothes and other unused items."

Rucker recommends purchasing clear or transparent bins for under-the-bed storage. That way, finding your stash of wool sweaters in November won't require a three-hour search party. Also, Rucker said to place collapsible shelving units in the closets to maximize space.

"Do what you can to find a home for loose items on the floor," Rucker said. "Get your sneakers off the floor and put them in an over-the-door shoe holder. Reserve floor space for storage bins. You'll have more room that way."

And that is exactly what Antista does.

"I have winter stuff under the bed," Antista said. "And also cans of food, since I don't want to be dropping cans on my head from the top shelf of the wall unit."

She also keeps her dorm room in shape by doing a bit of cleaning every day so that the mess doesn't snowball by the end of the week.

"In the mornings, my room is pretty messy," Antista admitted. "But when I get back from classes, I try to clean up."

These tactics might work in a dorm room with two people, but what about in a triple, where space for large bins and shelves might not be available?

The answer, says freshman and triple-dweller Madeleine Beebee, can be found in the lyrics of an old Offspring song: "You gotta keep 'em separated."

"We each have our own area of the room," Beebee said. "Our desks aren't next to each other, and we split the cabinets and the area underneath the beds."

By dividing up the room, Beebee says she and her two roommates wound up splitting the chore of cleaning, as well. That way, each roommate has her own area to store things, decorate, and keep tidy.

"When I see things are a mess, I take twenty minutes to clean up and just do it," Beebee said. "By keeping things clean and organized, I don't think we'll run out of space."

Because floor space is limited, Beebee has "few bins but a lot of hooks." The hooks keep wet towels and bulky jackets off the floor and out of Beebee's way.

"We don't really have room for anything else, storage-wise," Beebee lamented. "We're looking for shelving to go in the gap between the desk and the loft."

Of course, a little peer pressure from a fellow roommate can keep a dorm room clean, too.

"We made fun of our roommate and called her side of the room 'The Pit,'" Beebee said. "Then she cleaned it up."

And there you have it: Bins, hooks and some friendly name calling. It does a dorm room good.

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