Learn tips to clear up clutter, get a good workout cleaning

By Natalie Mitts

PROVO, Utah – As Sandra Phillips always says, many college students, including those at BYU, are suffering from a serious case of TMS syndrome – too much stuff.

“Clutter is the chief problem among college students,” said Phillips, co-owner of Live-Right. “When you’re short on space, you have to be short on stuff.”

Phillips and Don Aslett have written many books and given presentations across the United States about organization. She said both single and married students acquire clutter and do not know where to start. Phillips suggests making the most of wall space and starting with half as much stuff as would appear to fill a room.

“Hang as many things as you possibly can vertically,” she said. “It’s more efficient.”

When moving into an apartment, Phillips suggests going on a field trip around the apartment with roommates.

“As a group, set the standards for the apartment,” she said. “The main problems start because people don’t communicate. We’re raised too differently to have everything mesh together.”

She said in order to keep apartments tidy, students could either split up chores and rotate jobs periodically or clean together once a week.

“It’s fun to clean as a team,” she said. “This way no one feels that anyone has an advantage.”

The bare minimum for cleaning supplies is Windex and a terry hand towel, Phillips said. These household items are tools for a great workout, too. A light cleaning burns 180 calories per hour. Harder cleaning, such as scrubbing floors, burns 225 calories per hour. Doing the dishes burns three times as many calories as watching television. Sweeping is even more effective than dishwashing. Vacuuming increases muscle tone and works the calves and thighs. Washing windows builds biceps, Phillips said.

Organization has seeped into almost every area of the media. Hundreds of television shows, stores, books and Web sites provide tips on keeping rooms clean and organized.

Better Homes and Gardens magazine provides seven clutter-free tips on its Web site bhg.com. One tip is to go on clutter patrol for 10 minutes daily.

It is important to keep papers, clothes and other items in plastic containers, said Yvette Langmaid-Buttery, creator of getmyselforganized.com and author of “Organized for Life.”

“Keeping everything contained in a size-appropriate, portable container keeps clutter off the floor, makes it easier to find things and means less packing next time you have to move,” she said.

Another thing to remember is to hold on to plastic bags for future use, she said.

“To store lots of bags or cases, put them all inside each other, smallest inside the next biggest and so on,” she said. “Keeping plenty of sturdy bags is sensible if you move a lot.”

Bookshelves save a lot of space because they hold so much, Langmaid-Buttery said. The Billy system from Ikea is great because the shelves can be taken apart, she said.

“When you live in a small space and move a lot, you need every item to be earning its keep,” she said. “You need to constantly reassess what’s worth keeping and what’s not.”

According to a news release from the Container Store, 45 percent of incoming freshmen surveyed said organization was their top priority in preparing for college.

“Being organized is calming; it help students develop healthy study habits, get better grades and can ease the feeling of being homesick,” said the news release.

The Container Store focuses on six areas of organization: closets, walls/doors, desk, laundry, bath and storage.

Public relations coordinator Alli Bujnoch suggests using mini magnetic strips, which include six heavy-duty magnets. These easily display photos, ticket stubs and cards and keep desks clutter-free.