Tori Fisher / Gavel Media

Declutter Your Study Space and Your Mind

As we ring in the New Year and a new semester here at Boston College, everyone understands the common struggle of getting back into the rhythm of classes, continuing clubs and activities, and balancing out social and academic schedules. Fortunately, with the help of Marie Kondo’s #1 New York Times best-selling book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, students can take away some important lessons to help us organize and tidy up our study habits as we embark on spring semester.

There may actually be study tactics more useful than flipping through flashcards or drawing diagrams to memorize material. While most approaches toward attaining good study habits focus on specific work-related strategies--that is, changes in the way we study--there is something to be said about tidying up the actual environment in which we work, and Kondo’s guide denotes just that.

Kondo reiterates the two important principles of decluttering and organizing the environments in which we live—be it our homes or college dorms. The unforeseen impact this has on our studying habits is greater than one might think, and Kondo’s advice helps us understand why.

Decluttering and organizing the environment around us is an essential component to creating a clear, non-congested, and open working space that allows us to thrive when it comes to studying. Kondo explains the act of decluttering as “work that can be broadly divided into two kinds: deciding whether or not to dispose of something and deciding where to put it.”

While this task may appear simple to many, it probably requires the most thought and effort. Many of us are natural hoarders; we collect things over time--things we may not necessarily need--simply because we think they will serve a useful purpose down the road, or they will be things we want to refer back to someday.

Kondo describes one of her clients as “a self-confessed seminar fanatic who saved and filed the materials from every seminar she had ever attended.” Moreover, many people hold “materials for multiple seminars on the same or similar subjects.”

Sound familiar? This habit is undoubtedly common amongst college students. Whether we deliberately save things or are simply too lazy to throw out old papers, excess “stuff” congests our working space, thus congesting our minds and making it increasingly more difficult to focus and reach our maximum studying potential.

In order to avoid this, Kondo suggests that, “to truly treasure the things that are important to you, you must first discard those that have outlived their purpose.” That never-ending pile of old notebooks and class handouts on your shelf will likely remain untouched and render itself dusty and useless. Take the time to really think about whether or not you will use the things you have saved once they have served their purpose.

This extends beyond school-related items to decorative trinkets, opened boxes piled in the corner of your room that likely contained guilty Amazon purchases, emptied giant packs of granola bars--the list goes on. Getting rid of this clutter will create a much better studying environment, particularly in the already limited space a dorm room provides. It will allow you to organize and more easily store the items in your room that are worth saving.

By redirecting our focus on the environment surrounding us rather than on the work itself, we can actually benefit more from the way we study. “When your room is clean and uncluttered,” says Kondo, “you have no choice but to examine your inner state.”

An organized room equals an organized mind, or at least brings you closer to it. By creating a peaceful and comfortable space to work in--that is, one that is decluttered and organized--you help to create a similarly peaceful state of mind. So not only does it benefit your studying habits, but it precipitates a more restful and motivated mindset, all of which serve as an important bedrock for academic success.

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Ileana Lobkowicz