How to Organize Dorm Rooms (and other small spaces)

This fall, some of you may be preparing to send a teenager off (or taking one of them back) to college. Moving into the dorm freshman year is an emotional experience for everyone; you’re sad and worried to leave your teenager on their own and he’s likely hoping you won’t start telling embarrassing stories about them to their new hall mates.

Not to mention, moving into the dorm is stressful and requires some much-needed preparation

Parents sending their children off to college for the first time can find themselves completely overwhelmed with dorm room lists the university provides, the must-have college dorm essentials Pinterest boards their teenager creates, and general tips their friends provide. How can parents possibly anticipate what their child will actually need and use? And, the ever-pressing wonder if the items they buy for their kids get buried, will their kids ever use them?

To help you know the best items to buy your child (items they’ll use) and how to arrange their dorm rooms to maximize those items, we’ve compiled your list for move-in day.

Under-Bed Space & Storage

Ideally, your teenager has already discussed with his/her roommates how they want the beds set up. Do they want to bunk, loft, or each have their beds on the floor? Arranging the beds should be the first item on your agenda on move-in day, although we recommend waiting until everything’s moved in to make the beds.

There are merits and drawbacks to each bed arrangement; bunking consolidates bed space but means roommates will feel every movement in bed; lofting allows for separate bed space but can be inconvenient if you leave something out of reach; beds on the ground is the most comfortable for everyone but will take up tons more floor space. Each arrangement will require different storage options.

Storage Bins

Rest assured, your teen will use storage bins. They make moving in and out of dorm rooms a breeze, plus they provide an easy way to store seasonal clothing and other odds and ends your student won’t need all the time. 

For on-the-floor beds, you’ll want bins that are between 6 and 8 inches high to ensure they fit under the bed. Lofted beds can fit taller bins under them and, depending on how high you loft the bed, you might be able to stack multiple bins on top of each other. 

Choosing clear or opaque bins is a personal preference. Clear bins make it easier to find items without digging through the bin while opaque ones hide messy organization within the bins. 

Bed Lifts

Bed lifts give that little extra space your student needs under the bed to squeeze in more storage bins, fold-up chairs, and ottomans. You can find them in a variety of sizes to fit your child’s needs. You can even find bed lifts which hook up to an outlet and provide extra outlets right in the feet. 

Hanging Sofa Organizers

Despite these being designed for keeping all your remotes in one place on the couch, they are equally as useful for dorm beds, especially if your teenager decides to loft his/her bed. Tuck one of these remote organizers under the mattress (you might need to safety pin it to the bed bug cover) and your child will have easy access to their glasses, a book, extra pens, evening medicine, and TV remote without needing to crawl down off the bed.

Closet Organization

Depending on how old the dorm room is, your child might find herself sharing a pretty small closet with her roommate. Maximizing closet space will be imperative. 

Soda Can Tabs

This is an inexpensive hack to double the amount of clothes your teenager can put in her closet. Purchase hangers with metal hooks, slide a soda can tab over the hook, then add another hanger to the empty tab hole. Hanging space, doubled!

Shower Curtain Rings

If your teen has tons of scarves, you need this trick. Keeping scarves organized can be tricky and it’s hard to organize them to keep them all in sight. Buy a package of plastic shower curtain rings and attach them to a straight-bottomed hanger. Loop your teen’s scarves through the shower rings and voila! All your teen’s scarves in one place on one hanger.

Command Hooks

Command Hooks are a college student’s best friend. They are easy to install and don’t involve damaging the dorm’s walls. Don’t limit your usage of Command Hooks to inside the closet. Install a few hooks just inside the front door for frequently used items and a couple in the bathroom for bathrobes.

Other Organization Tips

 Over-the-Door Shoe Organizers

Never underestimate the power of the over-the-door shoe organizer. These organizers are great not only for shoes but make fantastic toiletry organizers. Pop one of these over the bathroom door so it faces the inside of the bathroom and your teen and his/her roommate have tons of space for shampoos, body washes, and hair dryers.

First Aid Kit

You never know when disaster might strike or at what time. Having Band-Aids, painkillers, alcohol swabs, and other first aid tools on hand is never a bad idea. You can easily go out and purchase a pre-assembled first aid kit but you can also use something like an old fish tackle kit to assemble your own.

Good Luck!

There are so many clever tricks that parents and students have come up with in organizing their college dorm rooms.

Were there any tips we missed? We’d love to hear your tips & tricks in the comments below!