For many college kids, living in a dorm room is a rite of passage. While it’s exciting to move into your first home away from home, most dorm rooms are tiny—maxing out at only a couple hundred square feet! That’s just enough room for your desk, dresser, and twin bed, leaving you pressed for personal space. You’ll quickly realize that the key to living in a small space is organization.
Whether you’re headed off to college, or you’re a parent getting your college kid ready for their first semester, we’ve gathered some of our favorite tips and tricks for keeping your dorm room in top shape. From clutter-busting desk caddies to clever storage hacks, when it comes to making the most out of your dorm room, use some of these room organization ideas and you’ll be at the top of the class.
1. Keep Track Of Dates
College students have extremely busy schedules. From classes to extracurricular activities and jobs, a calendar is an essential organizational tool for any college student to keep track of each day. Whether you prefer a dry-erase calendar, a wall calendar, or a desk calendar, use it to stay on top of your class schedule, finals, homework, and important events you don’t want to miss.
2. Storage Seating
Chances are, the dorm room is already equipped with the basics—a bed, dresser, and desk. But, you’re probably going to want extra furniture so you and guests will have places to sit. Since dorm rooms are tight on space, choose seating that can pull double-duty, like an ottoman with built-in storage. If it’s on wheels, you’ll be able to easily push it under your desk or bed when you’re not using it.
3. Under The Bed
Many dorm room beds can be raised up high to allow for storage underneath. If it’s not a function built into the bed frame, you can put it up on bed risers. Once it’s up in the air, you’ve got tons of new floor space in which to store a dresser, a variety of bins, and boxes, or—if you raise the bed high enough—you could even create a mini study area or living space with a futon, some bean bag chairs, and a small TV.
4. Skirt The Issue
Boxes and bins stacked under the bed can look cluttered and unsightly. So, if you plan to use that space for storage, outfit your bed with an extra-long bed skirt after you raise it. It will add privacy by keeping your things out of view and more secure from wandering hands and help make the entire room look neat and tidy.
5. On The Desk
Stack a desk hutch or small bookshelf on your desk to add loads of storage for textbooks, school supplies, and decor. Use magazine holders to keep your folders and paperwork neat and tidy. Put up a corkboard, whiteboard, or magnetic board for important reminders and to-do lists. Hang a wall calendar nearby so you’ll always have important dates available at a glance.
6. Look Up
If you run out of storage space in your small dorm room, just look up! You’ve likely got a lot of unused vertical space to take advantage of. Hang shelves, then put baskets or bins on them to neatly hold anything from clothes and toiletries to books and photos from home. Hang hooks from the wall to keep your jacket, backpack, or purse off the floor. Don’t miss the door—it’s the perfect place to hang a storage organizer or mirror.
7. Bedside Storage
Every college student has something they always need to keep handy—their laptop, phone, or tablet, to name a few. That’s where a bedside storage caddy comes in extremely handy. Usually made from fabric, it’s got pockets to keep items within reach for when you need them and hangs from the side of the mattress. This is especially convenient for those who have raised their beds. It keeps important things within reach so you don’t have to climb down from the bed to get them.
8. Rolling Cart
A three-tiered utility cart is an indispensable organizing tool for a college dorm room, where bulky furniture takes up too much precious space. Use a rolling cart as a nightstand to hold your alarm clock, books, and extra bedding. Or, turn it into a rolling beauty bar stocked with hair styling tools, a lighted mirror, and makeup. Stock it with snacks, soups, and dishes and it can serve as a portable pantry. The best part? You can roll it out of the way when you’re not using it.
9. Portable Bath Caddy
Sharing a bathroom with an entire floor means toting toiletries, soap, shampoo, and conditioner to and from the bathroom every day. Make the task easier by using a portable bath caddy. Look for one that’s large enough to hold full-size supplies—no college student wants to keep replenishing small bottles. Make sure you reserve a space on a shelf or a hook on the wall to store the caddy when it’s not in use.
10. Storage Mirror
Here’s a great room organization hack for when you’re short on space. Make the most of your small space by using multi-functional pieces whenever possible. Chances are you’ll want to hang a mirror in your dorm room, so opt for one that opens up into a storage cabinet. This is a perfect spot to store makeup, jewelry, and small accessories.
11. Contain The Clutter
One reason things end up all over the floor, desk, and bed is that they don’t have a designated place where they belong. If everything has a specific place to be, it’s less likely to end up as clutter. If it’s something you use a lot, like toiletries, school supplies, or clothes, put it somewhere it can easily be accessed—and easily be put away. Store similar items together so you’ll always know where to find what you’re looking for.
12. Keep It In A Cubby
Store small accessories like gloves, scarves, hats, and wallets in a cubby conveniently hung on the wall by the door. The small compartments are a sure way to keep your stuff in order and easy to get to. Hang hooks from the bottom and use them to hold purses, umbrellas, jackets, and book bags so they’re always ready to go.
13. Above The Bed
When it comes to maximizing a small space, you have to capitalize on any space available. That means taking advantage of the space above the bed, too. Free up floor space by hanging shelves or getting an over-the-bed bookshelf. In a tight space, it’s the perfect place to put your alarm clock, books, personal items, headphones, and phone charger—anything you’ll want easy access to while you’re relaxing in bed.
14. Think Outside The Jewelry Box
Tired of tangled chains and missing earrings or digging through a messy jewelry box? Keep necklaces, earrings, pins, and bracelets in order with a hanging jewelry organizer. They have a variety of see-through pockets to showcase all kinds of jewelry neatly. Hang it on the wall, from a hook by your bed, or on the rod in your closet.
15. Removable Hooks
There’s a good chance your dorm room has those classic cinderblock walls or, at the very least, a rule against putting nail holes in the drywall. That’s where hooks with removable adhesive come in extremely handy! They’re great for hanging anything from headphones to keys, purses, laundry bags, hair styling tools, or jackets. And the best part—there won’t be any damage to the walls after you move out.
16. Hanging Storage
When it comes to finding creative ways to keep your tiny dorm room organized, over-the-door or closet hanging shoe holders are fantastic storage—and not just for shoes! Use one to keep all your cooking supplies and snacks in order, or stuff it with school supplies, hair tools, jewelry, or makeup. Use them to organize a variety of small things. That said, they are really great for storing all your shoes, too.
17. Cork Board
A cork memo board is a must-have for any dorm room. Use it to hang jewelry, photos of friends and family, important reminders, your class schedule, or notes for your roomie. You’re not limited to a boring brown board, either. A colorful, cool, customized cork board can dress up those boring dorm room walls by doubling as a piece of wall art.
18. Candy Jars
Classic glass lidded candy jars (as well as canisters or mason jars) make great budget storage containers for all your tidbits and trinkets. Use them to store anything—like packs of gum, nail polish, art supplies, hair ties, pens, cleaning wipes, pads of paper and, of course, candy.
19. Do Not Disturb
Clip-on task lighting is the solution for those times when you have a late-night study session but don’t want to disturb your roommate. Clip it anywhere you need—the edge of your desk or the bookcase over your bed—and it will illuminate your work into the night without bothering anyone else in the room.
20. Recharging Station
In this digital age of smartphones, tablets, laptops, and music players, today’s students constantly need to power up their devices. If you’re a do-it-yourselfer, try an oh-so-simple DIY organization idea. Simply run the ends of all your charging devices through large binder clips and then clip them to the edge of your desk. All your cords will be kept neat and tidy and easy to access when your battery runs low.
21. Declutter The Desk
A college student’s desk is one of the most important pieces of furniture in their dorm room—and a cluttered, disorganized study space can make it difficult to focus, work, and learn. Keep your desk organized and all your supplies in order by using a desktop caddy to store pens, pencils, notebook, and paper. If the desk has a drawer, use organizers to keep things in order. Keep the space neat and clean by tethering all your plugs and cables together, wiping the desk down every day, and emptying your trash can weekly.
22. Tension Rods
Make the most of small, unused spaces like behind a door or in a cubby by putting up tension rods. You can use tension rods to hang scarves, drape extra blankets, or hang organizers. Maximize your precious closet space by hanging a tension rod halfway from the floor to the existing rod and you’ve essentially doubled your hanging space.
23. Drawer Dividers
Just because you can’t see in your drawers doesn’t mean the shouldn’t be neat and tidy, too! Drawer organizers and dividers are essential when it comes to keeping clutter under control. Use them in your desk to keep supplies separated. Use them in your dresser so you no longer have to go digging through all your clothes to find a particular item. Look for dividers that specifically fit into your drawers or make your own out of cardboard.
24. My Side, Your Side
When you’re able to define spaces in a room, it makes it feel larger and more organized. Use a cube shelving unit as a room divider to create separate spaces between your side of the room and your roommate’s side. Not only does it give you a little more privacy, but it also adds a ton of useful storage space. This is especially helpful if your roomie doesn’t keep their side of the room clean and organized.
25. Hanging Power Strip
Cables, cords, and plugs—it seems like they’re always in the way. Use this home organization hack in your home away from home to keep all those unsightly cords and cables off the floor and out of the way. Using double-stick tape, attach a power strip to the side of your desk or on the wall next to your bed. Now you have easy access to plug in your electronics and won’t be tripping over wires.
26. Behind The Bed
Don’t neglect the space behind the bed if you’re in need of extra bedroom storage space. Get a headboard with built-in shelving or add a tall bookcase behind the bed to keep personal items, reading materials, decor, and school supplies up and out of the way but easily accessible. What’s more, when you put in a headboard or bookshelf, you won’t have to worry about mounting anything to the wall.
27. Vacuum Bags
Space-saving vacuum storage bags are wonderful for students who don’t go home often enough to swap out clothes and need to store seasonal items, like winter sweaters, coats, and warm blankets. Your cold-weather essentials can be compacted into a vacuum bag and stuffed under the bed or into the back of the closet—out of the way but ready when the weather calls for it. They’re also useful for compacting your pile of laundry if you take your dirty clothes home to wash them.
28. Cooking Clarity
When it comes to your dorm room’s mini kitchen, microwaves are a must-have, and be sure to utilize the space on top of and underneath it. Add a small organizer shelf on top for small items like plates and silverware. A tall and narrow shelf to hold the microwave will optimize floor space and allow for prime snack storage.
29. In The Closet
When it comes to the dorm room, your closet is the main space where you’ll store your stuff. It may be small but, fortunately, there are a lot of ways to maximize it. Use plastic stacking drawers if you need more dresser space. Use hanging shelves and organizers to store anything you need. And don’t forget to use a handy belt hanger and layered space-saver hangers. If you find you’re still running low on closet space, leave some clothes at home and switch them out when you visit between semesters.
30. Corner Shelves
Don’t ignore those awkward corner spaces—use them! Hang corner shelves to store your textbooks, decor items, and photos from home. Use a corner basket on the floor to catch your dirty laundry. A floating corner shelf will maximize that often unused space and turn it into a valuable place to put your personal items.
An organized dorm room can help set a new student up for success. Whether you go with multi-purpose furniture, bins and boxes, or you decide to use one of our DIY organization ideas, the important thing is to keep everything neat, tidy, and in its place while still expressing your unique personality.