5 Minimalism Tips to Declutter as a Student

We have the privilege to attend schools. And in order to gain knowledge, we gather loads of worksheets, books, flashcards and course scripts. All this material keeps filling our space, stealing it for things we actually care about. Here are 5 tips on how you can study more deliberately with less paper stuff.

1. Libraries and scanned/older editions

As a student you probably don’t have a lot of money. And this can sometimes make it really hard affording required material to study. Sometimes, however, you can save a lot of money by purchasing older editions of a book. Also make sure to ask your professor or teacher whether you will actually need the literature in the first place. You can also ask if an older edition would be working. A lot of times you can buy these on Amazon or eBay for just a few bucks instead of $60.

Your school/university might even have a library which has a copy of the book in question. Just go there and don’t purchase at all. If you still want the opportunity to look things up all the time, you could use a mobile scanner app (some links are below the article). A lot of them are for free and you could just scan the required chapters and save it to your computer/phone/tablet. If your professor insists on the latest edition, make sure to check online whether changes between editions are relevant or not . There really is no reason to buy a new book if you can save the money on more important things.

2. Share books with friends / course partners

Let’s say you’re out of luck and the newest edition of the required reading is actually full of new information compared to the prior version: Share the book with a friend that also attends the course. This would save each of you 50 percent and combined with a scanning app the instant access issue will also be off the table.

3. Use flashcard apps

The problem with learning is that you can learn better by creating new material like flashcards, summaries and mind-maps. While it is a good thing to work like this, the clutter will increase steadily. But thanks to technology, your computer, phone or tablet can help you out:

There are amazing apps for that. If you want to create flashcards, use apps like Anki (which is freeware). TinyCards by Duolingo is also a great way to learn foreign languages with flashcards. Of course you can also use mind-map apps. Writing summaries on your computer can also be pretty helpful and programs like LibreOffice (freeware) can help you with tables of contents and ploughing through your summaries. Links to some tips are down below the article.

4. Use tablets / your phone to store scripts

This tip might be more useful for university students but it will keep the clutter to a minimum: Use your tablets/notebooks/phone to store handouts, scripts and course books. The best thing is, you can even put in your notes within the actual document which will save you time organizing everything.

If some professors or teachers still hand out paper work sheets, you could scan and save them to a cloud service like Dropbox or Evernote. Both services are available for free and you can scan documents within the app itself.

5. Let go of old material

Let go of old material! Do you really need old notes from a couple of years ago? If the answer isn’t a definitive yes, get rid of the stuff. Here’s a clever way to deal with the clutter:

Use three boxes, label the first one “useful”, the second “throw away” and the third one “?”. Things you still need for the future are stored in the “useful” box. Things you will never use again can go to the “throw away” box. The remaining material in the “?” can be scanned with a scanner app. After you made sure you have a digital copy, throw it away!

This will not only keep things simple, it will also give you more space for things you are passionate about, like books, games or movies.

Do you have some additional tips you want to share with others? Please let everybody know down below.

A list of usefull apps:

I only list apps I actually use. There are tons of other apps and if another one works better for you that’s fine. Please consider sharing your tips. I’m alway curious about new apps that help me with learning/organizing.

Scanner Apps:

  • Tiny Scanner (iOS & Android):
    I scan mostly books with Tiny Scanner
  • Evernote (iOS & Android):
    Everything like handouts or worksheets will be scanned to Evernote.

Flashcard Apps:

  • Anki (Windows, Linux, Mac, iOS, Android):
    I use this app to learn knowledge based subjects like psychology.
  • TinyCards (PC/Android Browser & iOS)
    I use this app to learn vocabulary.

Writing & note-taking apps:

  • LibreOffice (PC, Linux & Mac):
    I use this for writing summaries, essays and assignments for class. (Think of it as a free Microsoft Office Suite without the ribbon design)
  • Evernote (iOS & Android):
    If I just want to take notes in class, that’s the perfect tool to do this.
  • Notability (iOS):
    This app is basically my substitute to worksheets and printed literature. If I have to write something down to a worksheet or mark parts of a text, or even draw something, I’ll just load the PDF into Notability and do that in here. Sad thing is, I haven’t found a good alternative for android (yet).

Cloud-based services:


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