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Emily Ley Blog

Decluttering a Dorm Room and Post-College Apartment

March 14, 2019

I loved the season of life after college. It was independent, simple, and so excitingly fun! To be honest, I didn’t even know just how sweet and valuable that time was in the moment, but fortunately, I still get a little taste of those memories through the two youngest on our team. Hannah and Lindsey are such sweet hearts, brimming with genuine love and excitement for our people. Oh, and also their shared love for beating everyone in a workout! They keep our team young. Hannah always knows the latest and greatest, and Lindsey doesn’t know half of the songs we refer to because she wasn’t even born yet! I just love getting to work with them, and I know their tips on small & temporary spaces can help everyone in the same step of life!
-Emily

Hannah’s Top 3 Tips:

  1. Don’t be afraid to fully move in to a temporary space. You deserve a space that feels like home no matter what, and it’s hard to feel at home in a space if you haven’t fully moved in. Give all of your belongings a home and decorate your space, whether you’re going to be living there for three months or three years. Dedicating that little bit of extra time to make your space a home when you move in and out is worth the peace of mind and the feeling of home that you’ll have while you're living there, no matter how temporary it may be.
  2. Keep meaningful items close by. Sometimes living in a temporary space means some of your belongings have been left in a storage unit or at a family member’s home (especially when you’re in college). Having access to sentimental items like a family photo album or a box full of precious memories can make a temporary space feel like home, no matter how far away you might be.
  3. Remember the little touches. Your favorite candle or some cozy bedding might seem insignificant, but these things can make any space feel like home. Make a list of five things that make you feel at home. For me, that’s a volcano candle, my favorite sheets, a monster charger (having the ability to plug in a lamp and allll the chargers into one electrical socket simplifies my space and is such a convenience of home!), my favorite pieces of art to spruce up big empty walls (command hooks are a lifesaver in rental properties), and a few potted plants. Once you choose your five, find a way for those items to have a prominent place in your home. You’ll feel at home every time you see or use them no matter where you’re living.

Lindsey’s Top 3 Tips:

  1. Make your space feel cozy and inviting. Whether you're bringing friends over for dinner or movies or just to bake cookies, it’s important to be proud of the space we get to call home. This season of life is more independent, so the time spent with people is special and life-giving. Any home, any size will always have enough room for the people you love!
  2. Get creative for your decor! Little details of quotes, calendars, wall accessories, etc., will show the time and effort you spent on making the place your own! It doesn’t have to be permanent and it certainly doesn’t have to be expensive, but just a little something for you to smile at when you come and go! I have a huge board in my apartment bedroom with pictures of friends and family, quotes, and bright colors. I love how much personalization it adds to my room, and I had so much fun putting it together!
  3. Keep the air fresh! This tip seems so small and semi-obvious, but a refreshing atmosphere can make all the difference. Open the blinds and windows when it’s nice outside, and clean with your favorite scent. Create a warm tone with sweet candles or maybe crisp with a fresh candle. Needless to say, my oil diffuser and candles quickly became essential when I moved into an apartment. I also use the same laundry detergent as my mom, so all my laundry feels like home!  Fun idea: Switch your candles out by season to smell what you’re excited for.

Team Simplified: How do you organize a small-ish space in a way that feels like home?

Hannah: Use lots of baskets and bins, and make sure everything has a place! If you can’t find space for something, reevaluate if it’s an item you truly need or if it's something you can get rid of. If it’s a one-of-a-kind item that you love and won’t be able to find again in the future, that might be a good reason to keep it. Be sure you love it and will use it before making that decision, though!

Once you’ve pared down to the basics, look for ways to use your space creatively. In the last home that I lived in, I had a huge master closet but not a ton of storage space in the rest of the house. I ended up putting a shelving unit inside the closet to store important documents, books, and other random items that didn’t have a designated space in the rest of the house. If you need space in your kitchen, consider getting a cute mug rack so they don’t take up an extra cabinet that you could use for something else. Need an office space? Turn a corner of your living room into a cute little office nook. Once you find a place for everything and start looking at your space creatively, you’ll be able to organize your home in a way that makes sense for you. Pro tip: Just because the house says a space is supposed to function as one thing doesn’t mean it has to serve that specific function! Don’t be afraid to get creative!

Lindsey: Home is anywhere you feel comfortable! With an organized place you love, it will be easy to forget about missing home or feeling temporary in an apartment. Everyone has their own way of doing things, but I appreciate solid organization in the bathroom. I do not keep anything extra I don’t need under my sink, so I have plenty of space for my hair dryer and hot rollers (Yes, I still haven’t figured out how to use a curling iron. No judgement!), towels, medicine, nail polish, etc. I don’t want anything to not have a designated spot, so the bathroom vanity wears multiple hats. This goes for makeup, too! Instead of living out of a makeup bag, use two cute cups for brushes and beauty products! It will make your morning routine feel less rushed with a disorganized bag and fancier because you have a place for everything! Like Hannah said, fully move in! The organization of things will come — there’s no point in forcing something that doesn’t seem natural for your home, whether it be temporary or permanent!

Team Simplified: What are your tips for decorating or organizing in cost-effective ways?

Hannah: If you’re trying to organize or decorate on a budget, you have to know what you’re looking for. It is so easy to waste A LOT of time and money on things you don’t really need if you don’t know exactly what you want (trust me, I’ve learned this lesson the hard way). Take inventory of the things you have in your space and evaluate what needs help (e.g., maybe you could really use a place to store your shoes, or a colorful throw pillow to spruce up your sofa). Write everything down as you go. Once you do that, see if there are any items you have on hand that you can use to fill in those gaps. Maybe you have an extra throw pillow on your bed that you could move to the living room, or a bin in your closet that you’re not using. Be sure to exhaust all of your options and make a thorough list before you buy new things; otherwise, you’ll end up spending extra money on things you don’t need. When you’ve determined exactly what you need, then you can start looking for decor and organizational tools to make your space feel like a home without blowing your budget.

More often than not, your house is not going to look like Pinterest when you're living in a temporary space, and that's okay! Stick to your budget, purchase what you truly need, and be grateful for what you do have rather than thinking of all the things you'd like to add to your space.

Lindsey: Have y’all heard of Amazon? Target? Home Goods? I’m serious, you can find adorable accessories that fit your taste at little cost. A few pillows, frames, and pretty books can change a space quickly and effortlessly. If I could only buy two things for a small area, I would choose a rug and some sort of additional lighting. A rug of any size provides a pop of color and new texture to your floor. Sometimes college dorms or even apartments don’t have the nicest flooring, so showing off (or maybe distracting with) a cute rug always helps. Next, the lighting! A little lamp or fancy string of globe lights sets a new tone of comfort and peacefulness. You don’t need a million “things” to decorate with. A few special pieces of your style will keep it tasteful and perfectly classic! Almost everyone loves jewelry to add a little something extra to an outfit; try to think of a few accessories that can add a little something extra to your home.

Team Simplified: How do you organize a shared bathroom space?

Hannah: Sharing bathrooms is HARD. During college, I lived in a house with three other girls (fun fact: McKenzie, who is a former member of Team Simplified, was one of them!) and we shared two bathrooms between the four of us. These bathrooms were not large and had very little storage space, so we had to get pretty creative for organization. If you’re dealing with a similar situation, here are my three tips for organizing a shared bathroom space:

  1. Keep your counters clutter-free. Your bathroom will look tidier, and it will be much easier to clean regularly. Bonus: You won’t have to constantly move things that aren’t yours out of the way or wonder who left a dirty washcloth out for three days in a row.
  2. Utilize the insides of cabinet doors for extra storage. This can give you a lot of extra storage space, and it keeps your bathroom looking tidy. I love this toothbrush mount for keeping little items you use often out of the way when they’re not in use.
  3. Keep all of your toiletry items in a portable caddy. Designate a spot in the bathroom for each person to store their caddy when they’re not using it. Under the sink is a great spot for this. If you can find a tiered storage option that fits in your bathroom cabinet, this also works great.

Team Simplified: What are a few tips for implementing routine with roommates?  

Hannah: Setting boundaries with roommates is the key to having a positive roommate experience. This is true when it comes to personal space and respecting each other’s belongings, but it’s also true when it comes to daily routines. Find a system that works for you, and start implementing it as soon as you move in together. Have open discussions about who is going to take out the trash when it gets full, when you’re going to clean the kitchen, and how you’ll go about dividing up weekly chores. If you don’t have open communication and clearly state your boundaries, you’ll wind up getting frustrated with each other and straining that relationship. Roommates can be an incredible blessing, but they can also be a cause of some serious frustration. Having these discussions up front will prevent tough conversations later on when things get frustrating.

Lindsey: I’m a neat freak, and I’m not embarrassed about it; but I haven’t always had roommates who shared my love of tidiness. The #1 thing to remember: A clean, organized space might be your priority, but that doesn't mean it's everyone else's too. I used to get very frustrated about this, completely forgetting they don’t care about the dishes in the sink as much as I do. In an effort to keep everyone under the same roof happy, my three roommates and I rotate shared chores. We know there will be dishes, trash, and the upkeep of our living space, so taking turns is key. This ensures that the work doesn't fall to one person. We are now in the habit of knowing when it’s time to step up and take responsibility in any area, but at first we used a chart with our initials and check marks to keep track of who did what. It might be a difficult conversation to address, but it’s so worth it to tell the other people how much an orderly home matters to you. With that being said, take the time to know your roommates’ priorities; living together isn’t a one way street. Lastly, try not to get caught up in the little things; messes ALWAYS clean up!

Team Simplified: How do you come to terms with getting rid of things while still on a tight budget?

Hannah: I remind myself that things are just that — things. And the peace of mind that comes when you have a decluttered space that feels like home is worth so much more than any dollar amount. I try not to get rid of expensive items that I know I’ll love and use for years to come. Otherwise, if I don’t have the space for it or don’t use it anymore, I try not to stress over getting rid of it, even if that means losing some of the money that I spent on it. Every so often, I’ll go through my things and sell what I can on Facebook Marketplace. If I have anything that doesn’t sell, I’ll find someone in need to give it to, or schedule a Salvation Army pickup for it.

Lindsey: I definitely think that my tight budget stops me from buying things that aren’t Best, Fav, Necessary in the first place. Of course this doesn’t always work when I walk into Target for paper towels and walk out with, well, more than paper towels. I declutter often to keep my space simple, so giving things away here and there starts to place itself in routine. Since I’m a four-season-state gal, I keep lots of clothes I know I can wear all throughout the year. When it comes to getting rid of things, I just have to remind myself there are plenty of people that would love what I have to give. Yes, it may have been expensive, but a friend could want my already-loved items. There’s always the option of trying to sell your things too. It takes a bit more patience, but it certainly helps the initial sting of parting with something pricey. It’s hard to come to terms with, but something you aren’t going to use / wear doesn’t deserve your space. Embrace the idea that your unnecessary items can brighten someone else’s closet or home.

© 2019 Simplified® by Emily Ley

Website by Hardage + Hardage

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