Mastering Dorm Room Organization With the Pixies

We’re constantly on a quest for advice that makes college life a bit easier. Our most recent mission? Figuring out just how to tackle organization in dorm rooms. Luckily, we knew exactly who to reach out to.

Katie and Kelly McMenamin (a.k.a. the Pixies) are professional organizers and the founders of PixiesDidIt!, a company with a purpose of helping others find the best organizational systems based on their personality type. They even turned their hustle into a book, so we knew they’d have some great advice for small living areas like dorm rooms.

Keep reading and check out their insights. Oh, and feel free to take their personality quiz while you’re at it!

Let’s start out by talking about what organization is actually all about. Those perfectly styled magazine bedrooms aren’t exactly realistic, are they?

Pixies: We all think about organizing as that perfectly styled Pinterest picture. But, stop for a second and think of all the moments when you’ve been stressed out trying to find something. Chances are, those moments didn’t only happen when your room was a mess. This is because organization isn’t about Pinterest perfection. It’s about retrieval. Can you grab what you need when you need it without a bowling ball falling on your head? If your answer is “Yes” then you’re basically organized, even if some people consider your home messy. If it’s “No”, then that’s where the Pixies come in and our book, Organize Your Way: Simple Strategies for Every Personality.

The Pixies are strong on the belief that knowing your personality type is the key to organization. Why is that?

Pixies: There isn’t one way to organize, just the right one for you. When we started PixiesDidIt, we started organizing people with a hunch that different people might need different solutions, because what finally worked for Katie (the “messy” organizer) were not the solutions that Kelly (the “tidy” organizer) would have EVER (ever!!) proposed. But, they work. Build systems around your existing habits. For example, use a piling system instead of a filing system if you’re a piler or get multiple hampers if you procrastinate laundry. If your organizing systems don’t work with your personality type, they’ll be hard to maintain and eventually you’ll stop using them. Life’s hard enough on its own without making organizing it hard, too!

Once you know your personality type*, how can you use that to figure out which organization solutions work best?

*You can read through the different personality types here!

Pixies: Each personality type has organizational strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, and knowing what these are helps you know what solutions work. For example, Classics feel more relaxed with less visual clutter around, when things are hidden away in their proper places. It’s why Classics’ houses appear tidier AND why a Classic can’t truly relax amongst mess. Ditto for Funs. But, Organics and Smarts don’t mind visual clutter and, in fact, need more clutter out so they don’t forget about things. But even “perfect” Classics can get tripped up if they’re not using the right daily calendar and To Do list combo. Ditto for Organic Structures and Smart Structures. Funs, Organic Freedoms and Smart Freedoms on the other hand don’t really need a daily To Do list to get things done. They often do better with setting reminders on their mobile device to get something done. Knowing you can ignore all of those people telling you to write out a To Do list when you don’t need one to be effective is liberating.

Tell us a little bit about one-step organizing solutions and why they’re practical for students.

Pixies: One-step organizing is crucial for Organic Freedoms and Smart Freedoms but equally so for incredibly busy people regardless of type, and most students are definitely in the latter group! The trick to one-step organizing is whenever setting up any organizational system, ask yourself, “How many steps is it to retrieve/put things away? Is there a way to remove a step, make it easier?” For example, three-ringed binders are often a minimum of a three-step process to put papers in or out of them, and so we steer some students to spiral notebooks with attached expanding pockets because using them is closer to a two-step process. Another example would be how putting laundry in a clothing hamper with a lid is a two-step process, but if you get rid of the lid then it’s a one-step process.

Dorm rooms in particular pose a challenge because they’re essentially a bedroom, kitchen, and living area all in one. What are your best tips for these small spaces?

Pixies: Technically, dorm rooms were never intended to be kitchens. The key to enjoying this room is to highlight the main purpose — sleeping, hanging out & studying — and to masquerade the purpose for which it wasn’t intended — making food. A great rug and ceiling lamp will highlight the living aspect of the room — affix light, faux paper ceiling mobiles with small transparent 3m hooks. Coordinate all of this with your bedding and pillows — the softer the better. For hiding the kitchen part, get under-bed bins to hide pantry items and a mini-fridge that has a chalkboard on front or get chalkboard paint and paint the front of your existing ones. Last but not least, get matching huggable hangers to maximize clothing storage and shoe racks for under your hanging clothes.

Two roommates sharing a dorm won’t necessarily have the same personality type. What would you recommend for them in terms of organization?

Pixies: At the start of the year or even before you arrive, sit down and talk with your roommate about the most important things to you in terms of how you like to live, arrange your possessions, and manage your time. Even similar personality types will have different ideas. So when you have differences, figure out what the most important thing is for you (perhaps, no dirty clothes on the floor), stand firm on that one item, then agree to respect what their most important thing is (perhaps being flexible with bedtimes) and then find workable compromises for the rest.

If you found this advice helpful, make sure to check out Katie and Kelly’s book, Organize Your Way: Simple Strategies for Every Personality.

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