Veronica With Four Eyes

Tips For Keeping A Dorm Room Clean With Chronic Illness

I recently came across a conversation thread on social media talking about how difficult it can be to keep a dorm room clean with chronic illness and how having a messy dorm can be frustrating not only for visitors, but for the person living in the dorm as well. While there were days that it looked like a tornado had just touched down in my dorm room, I came up with a few different strategies for keeping my dorm room clean and cleaning my room in a short period of time while living with chronic pain, and was able to maintain a calm and cozy atmosphere. Here are my favorite tips for keeping a dorm room clean with chronic illness and disability, based on my own experiences as a college student with Chiari Malformation and low vision.

Take out the trash when leaving to go somewhere else

Instead of letting trash and recycling sit in bins in my room, I would make a stop by the trash room before leaving for class or the dining hall every day to dispose of whatever waste items were in my dorm, or if I had the energy, I would immediately dispose of trash/recycling as soon as it came into my possession and make a special trip to the trash room. I realized how beneficial this habit was after I had been unable to take out the trash before an unexpected hospital stay, and came back to my room smelling like rotten food. I typically left my room at least once a day anyway, so taking out the trash on my way out worked well for me.

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Make the bed every day

My bed is probably the most prominent piece of furniture in my dorm room, and making the bed can have a tremendous impact on the cleanliness/order of my space. I have an entire post dedicated to bedding hacks for Chiari Malformation and chronic pain linked below, as well as a post on how I set up my college bed. Taking the time to straighten out blankets and adjust pillows also helps me to have a more restful sleeping experience for whenever I come back to my bed again.

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Hang clothing items on the wall or in the closet

Instead of throwing items over a chair or letting them sit in laundry bins, I prefer to hang jackets and other clothing items on Command hooks or in the closet. Another option is to hang items that are “mostly clean” on an over-the-door towel organizer or to have a clear plastic bin that is stored under the bed so that these items can be easily identified or thrown in the laundry.

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Use a whiteboard to keep information organized or write short notes

Instead of letting sticky notes or scrap pieces of paper pile up, consider using a whiteboard to write short notes or to work out equations for homework. For notes that need to be documented, the Microsoft Office Lens app does a great job of scanning in copies of whiteboard images that can be copied into other notetaking apps or stored in the gallery. Whiteboards can also be used to document the contents of a mini fridge so items don’t get lost.

Since I often use dry-erase markers to write information since they are easier to grasp than a pen, I added contact paper to my desk and closet door in one of my dorms to create a giant dry-erase surface that I could use for writing. Another option is to use the Notes app on a smartphone or tablet for typing short notes and reminders.

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Try to do smaller loads of laundry instead of one giant load

Carrying a large load of laundry or two to the laundry room is challenging with shoulder pain, so I would try to do smaller loads of laundry, aiming to do laundry once a week whenever possible instead of procrastinating until I was all out of clean shirts. I could fit a week’s worth of laundry in an Ikea tote bag that was easy to carry to the laundry room, and I would throw a few laundry pods in the bag before leaving for the laundry room. That way, once I arrived, all I had to do was empty the bag and start the washing machine.

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Have a place to store other loose items

To avoid tripping hazards or having items pile up, each item I had in my dorm had a dedicated storage area either under the bed, against a wall, or in an area away from a major walkway. For example, shoes were stored under the bed inside a bin that could be moved with one hand so that I could easily find the shoes I wanted to wear for the day. Bulkier items such as my bass clarinet and handcart were stored against a wall so they wouldn’t tip over, and I would hang my mobility aids like blindness canes on the wall near the door since I don’t use them while in my room.

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Other tips for keeping a dorm clean with chronic illness

  • I didn’t talk about dorm bathrooms in this post, as I had an agreement with my suitemates where they would complete the majority of cleaning tasks in the bathroom and I would refill products like soap and toilet paper
  • For students that have trouble opening dorm drawers without handles, temporary handles and knobs can be attached with Command strips
  • To avoid having to get up to turn lights on/off, I purchased a remote controlled outlet that I plugged my lamp into, which helped ensure I didn’t knock over items due to poor balance when getting up to adjust the light

Tips For Keeping A Dorm Room Clean With Chronic Illness. Here are my favorite tips for keeping a dorm room clean with chronic illness and disability, based on my own experiences with Chiari Malformation