Opinion | Change your perspective — literally

Reorganizing the space around you can do wonders for your mental health.

Signe Nettum, Opinions Columnist

During the summer, I tried to keep my spirits up about having a normal junior year by purchasing items for my new dorm room. Wall decals, posters, new lights to hang — I went all out.

As the months went by and the numbers of positive COVID-19 cases in Iowa City rose, I knew that I would have to back out of my housing contract for the fall semester, and possibly the spring semester.

So here I am, sitting in my family home, in my bedroom, trying to do work while lounging on my bed. Bad idea.

Erika Patall, an assistant psychology professor at the University of Texas in Austin, said “Research shows that children vary significantly in their preferences for doing homework … if [you’re] falling asleep, staring out the window or cradling a phone, that’s a problem.”

So, I established my desk as my studying space, but my bed was right next to the desk. Every day I sat at my desk, listening to zoom lectures, I could hear the siren call of my pillow begging me to enter the land of comfy pillows and warm blankets. I knew a greater step needed to happen; I needed to rearrange my room entirely.

Growing up, I always felt like a new person when I rearranged my room, even if it was just switching up the location of my dresser and my bookshelf. I never knew the inner feeling of accomplishment or transformation until I dove deeper into the topic of rearranging furniture.

Once I finished scouring over the best bedroom and office space layouts, I got to work on my own room. One major aspect of my new layout was that I needed to separate the sleeping part of my room and the office space in my room. If I had them too close together, I would worry about school while trying to sleep, or try to nap when I should have been working on homework.

Once I finished pushing the bed into the new area, I felt a sense of peace and cleanliness. I had moved everything away from the walls and vacuumed places that had not been touched for ages. It almost felt like creating a new puzzle out of pieces that I already had. Even if in the end my academic career did not suddenly change, I knew from a health point that I would have a better sleep.

I realized once I had finished cleaning that my old room was who I was growing up. It was high school me, not college me. The room was stagnant and needed to have a huge transformation. It was the lack of change that made everyone in my family on edge. We were expecting something to happen—me leaving for a few months—but it did not, and we suddenly had to scramble to have me stay at home for longer than intended.

At a point in time when everything feels so uncertain and out of our control, it’s important to be able to get a grip on something. If you’re having a rough go of things, set some time aside to reorganize something — your room, your kitchen, something.

Change the pace, just a little, for your own sake.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.