1. Unpack immediately.
Don't let your suitcase linger at the end of your bed, or at the bottom of your closet. Even if you're exhausted, wait to crash until you've done the bulk of your unpacking. Even if you just sort things into groups, take the time to put your stuff back in their places or in a spot where it'll be easy to sort later.
2. Purge your desk and shelves.
You'll feel ready to tackle your classes if, when they start, you've got an organized desk and some clean bookshelves. It can be tempting to wait until the first day of class, but between textbook buying, supply searching and socializing with new professors, it'll be hard to set a time aside to clean your desk. Sit down and do it before classes or you might have a messy desk for the whole semester.
3. Wash your dishes, water bottles, and pitchers.
Even if they got cleaned before you left for break, dust has collected in them while you were away and I'm fairly sure you don't want to actually ingest that. Go to your kitchen or bathroom with a bottle of dish soap, rinse everything and start school with clean cookware. Also, this can help prevent you from carrying over any fall semester germs that could make you sick.
4. Recycle papers and notebooks you no longer need.
If you're like me, you've kept your notes for every class you've ever taken, and maybe an agenda or two. Even if you like to hoard things from previous classes, there are always worthless papers and sheets and forms to get rid of. Look through to see what you need, set it aside in a nice stack or lay it on your shelf, and make a pile to recycle. Please don't toss a huge box of paper away in the trash.
5. Laundry (if you've got it).
Chances are you brought at least one dirty outfit back from the break or left a few dirty socks in your hamper. If not, take the day or two before school to wash your sheets, towels, and leftover clothes. Even if your sheets and towels haven't been used since the break, it's nice to freshen them up since they've been sitting around for weeks without use. Throw extra fabric softener in if you've got it.
6. Purge your bath, hygiene and beauty products.
Chances are, some of your fall semester products are either empty or getting a little gunky and gross and may need replacement. If you're like me, you didn't sit around looking through every little bottle you have to toss them out when you left. Now is a good time to check your shower caddy, beauty drawer or any other storage to get rid of products that are old or empty. And, if you have makeup brushes, take the time to wash them.
7. Take stock of your school supplies.
I always think this is really fun, and finding new stuff you barely used hidden in your desk drawers is like shopping for free. Go through pens and pencils to see if they work; toss if not. Find your empty notebooks and stack them for choosing from when classes start. Get a jar or box for your supplies and organize them so that you know what you have and what you need. Extra tip: check your backpack pockets and pencil pouches for maximum purge success.
I feel like so few of us in dorms have vacuums. Even if you don't, someone does. That someone might be your RA. Asking around will usually get one found fast. This is one critical thing that none of us seem to do. If you can actually vacuum, you'll probably gross yourself out with how much dust you find (blegh), but your room will definitely be a lot fresher.
9. Tackle your closet.
Put your summer clothes away unless you go to school somewhere that you don't actually have winter (I'm looking at you, West Coast). If you didn't wear it fall semester (for any reason besides that it wasn't cold enough,) get rid of it or box it up and put it somewhere that won't take up any precious dorm room storage space. Mail anything back home that you don't want or sell it/give it to friends. If you have three of the same thing, get rid of the two that you wear less unless those three things are all you wear. You get the idea.
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