I have never necessarily been inclined toward neatness. In high school, my friends joked that I lived like a nomad, with enough stuff to live on for at least a week strewn haphazardly in the back of my car. My room wasn’t any better; a path leading to the bed was sometimes the only section of carpet that was visible.
When I was a freshman in college, my organizational skills only slumped. People would walk into my room and not be able to maintain eye contact due to the explosion of things on my floor. I lost my keys so often in the mountain of my things that my roommate took it upon herself to hang a hook by our door so that I would stop panicking each time I had to leave the room. I was convinced that I was busy and had no time to organize my stuff, but I came to dislike spending time in my room because it was so cluttered.
During my sophomore year, I moved into an apartment and wasn’t much better. While I made sure to keep communal spaces clean, I could barely negotiate my side of the room. Still, keeping my personal space remained pretty unimportant in comparison to my schoolwork and social life.
My major turning point came when I studied abroad in Costa Rica and lived with a host family. My Mamá Tica was obsessed with cleanliness and I only had a small amount of my things to keep organized. I took time each day to organize my closet and drawers, gaining a new found satisfaction in my spotless floor and not having to frantically dig around every time I needed my sunglasses or a particular pair of shoes.
Now, I live in the Spanish house on campus, and part of our grade involves cleaning the communal spaces of the house. We operate on a weekly rotating schedule of vacuuming, taking out the trash, and cleaning the kitchen. Compulsory cleaning plus a particularly orderly roommate have driven me to keep my room organized this year, and tonight I did a particularly hefty spring cleaning. I went through all of my school and personal items and made a collection of things to take home tomorrow when I visit my family for Easter tomorrow.
Now, looking at my vacuumed and dusted room, I feel incredibly satisfied. It may have taken 21 years, but I finally realized how much more peaceful I feel when my things are orderly rather than scattered on the floor. Cleaning all the time is still not my inclination, but it has become more of a habit over these past few years. The best development: I love spending time in my room.