Clean your dorm room when it’s dirty. Ah, if it were so simple.

Technically, it is. Clean your room when it’s dirty. That goes for your bedroom as a child, the terrible, windowless studio you crashed in at the age of 22, the duplex you rented at 25 and the home you mortgaged at 35. If it’s dirty, clean it.

But when in college, these simple, little life rules have a way of growing complicated. Not because they’re somehow harder to complete, mind you, but because you, by virtue of being a college student, become a bizarre combination of suffocatingly lazy and constantly busy. Perhaps you spent the morning sleeping instead of throwing away last night’s after-partying 2 a.m. impulse pizza. Upon getting up, you had to fight through a hangover to make it to five hours of lectures, followed by a cram session for tomorrow’s test you haven’t yet studied for, followed by Ultimate Frisbee, followed by more partying and more impulse pizza. Which will not be cleaned up tomorrow, because you have that test, right?

All the crusty boxes of pizza are piling up, along with the pilfered orange juices from the cafeteria and the sweaty workout clothes that don’t have time to be washed after your intramural softball game and before the party that follows it. And have you ever taken those sheets on your standard-issue twin bed down to the laundry room? Of course not. Who has that many quarters?

But before you just let yourself drown in takeout containers and dirty socks, let’s see how often you need to clean up after yourself before you’re really in trouble.

Students for Clean Living
You’d think that the exorbitant price of college these days would include the cost of a Jeeves-like personal butler, but alas — no matter how much you pay for your fancy Psychology of the Endangered Emu classes, you’re probably still responsible for doing things like throwing away your pizza crusts and doing your laundry. But let’s be realistic. Instead of asking how often you need to clean your room, we will instead answer the more pressing question: How long can you get away with not cleaning your room?

Let’s address actual trash first. No beating around the bush — if you leave food out, in your trash or otherwise, you’re going to find yourself with new friends that you didn’t meet in your Sociology of Vegans lecture. Common female houseflies will hang out around your trash and lay up to 150 eggs in a batch (up to six batches!). They hatch in just a few days. And remember that those larvae aren’t just flies. They’re maggots. Yup, your unfinished takeout from the cafeteria can become crawling with larvae within a day or two if you have flies. So best you clean up anything rotting — food, drink, dead animals — within the day.
Now, what about that pile of laundry? The biggest threat of dirty clothes seems to be odor; bacteria and germs aren’t a huge problem, especially if they’re just hanging out in the corner. That being said, many clothes don’t need a wash after every wear unless you’re getting stains or sweating through them a lot. The exceptions? Underwear, bathing suits and workout gear. They make for fertile bacterial ground, so wash every time.
If you’re feeling really ambitious, please recall that you also need to change those sheets on your bed. Sleeping in pajamas? The recommendation is to launder your sheets once a week. Prefer sleeping in the buff? Twice a week, and don’t forget to change any mattress pad as well.
What happens if you decide to throw caution to the wind and sleep on the same sheets all year? You’re exposing yourself to bacterial growth that could lead to things like acne, eczema — and even mold.

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