Teenager relaxing in clean organized dorm room

It’s time to get back to campus for some higher learning. Dorm living can be an adjustment so it helps to think ahead and plan how you'll store and organize all the stuff you're taking to college. And don't forget about your roommate (or two) with loads of his or her own belongings to consider.

The right set-up can mean the difference between scholarly success and collegiate chaos, so a little creativity and organizational know-how can help make your dorm room a functional and fun space.

You and your roommate will need to use every inch of available space as efficiently as possible to avoid clutter and discomfort. Remember, you'll be living and working in a space the size of a large bedroom so there's not much room for error.

Step 1: Plan Ahead

Before you move in, contact your school to find out what kind of furnishings will already be in your room. You'll probably have a bed, a desk, a dresser and a closet. Also find out what you can and can't bring. Many schools have rules against bringing your own furniture and items like small kitchen appliances. Schools usually supply this kind of information in a new student guide or similar document

Helpful Tip

If you are a freshman or new to dorm life, ask an upperclassman what they recommend. Somebody who has already been through what you're about to experience can be a great source of helpful advice. They can tell you what works and what doesn't.

It may seem obvious, but when you're packing, remember this: Less is best. Bring only what's necessary to get through the semester or quarter. When it comes to clothes, only bring what you'll wear that particular season. This will save a lot of space in your closet. If need be, you can always grab more clothes when you visit home and switch out the last season's attire at the end of the semester.

Make a list by category of all the things you'll need, plus the items you’ll want to have with you for comfort, entertainment, etc. General categories and items include:

  • Appliances – Heaters, fans, and a vacuum
  • Furniture – Bookcase, lounge chairs
  • Laundry/cleaning supplies – Laundry detergent, all-purpose cleaner, sponges/rags, broom
  • Kitchen items – Coffeemakers, microwaves, utensils
  • Electronics – DVD/Blu-ray player, TV, stereo, alarm clock
  • Bath items – Shower caddy, personal hygiene products
  • Study/Desk Organization – Calculators, writing supplies
  • Storage/Organization – Closest organizers, clothes hangers, laundry bag/basket, storage bins
  • Room Décor – Rugs, door mirror, artwork
  • Safety & Prep – First aid kit, flashlight, batteries, tools

Step 2: Stash Your Stuff

Now that you've made some extra room, it's time to start organizing your dorm. There are a number of storage options out there, so use what works best for your room's set-up.

You can create a lot of extra floor and storage space by bunking your beds. It also creates under-bed space for storage boxes and other items. Many dormitories provide beds that can be used as bunks or singles.

Get flat plastic storage bins with or without wheels — be sure you measure how much space you have under the bed first. Because these are stackable and easy to move, under-bed storage bins allow easy access to stored goods. Use each one for different items and label them appropriately. Storing your shoes under your bed will free up a lot of space in your closet and cut down on clutter around the room.

Moveable storage units with clear bins are great for using underneath a loft bed or in a closet. These keep things organized and easily accessible. The see-through drawers help you find what you need quickly and since they are mobile, they're easy to pull out and find what you're looking for. Stackable, clear plastic bins are an excellent choice as well.

Helpful Tip

Purchase durable storage bins that will last through your college experience and beyond graduation. Good storage is good storage, period.

A compact bedside table or nightstand with drawers is good for storage and flat space for a reading lamp and alarm clock. Consider using a footlocker or trunk with a flat lid for moving your things around campus and storing them when you get there. The level surface of the lid can double as a coffee table.

Helpful Tip

For your toiletries, get a mesh caddy for transporting them back and forth from the bathroom. It will keep your things organized and the open design let's water drip out.

Step 3: Create a "Kitchen"

From bedroom to living room to study, you can organize your dorm room as a multi-functional space. But don't forget to make it a "kitchen" too. Try to keep a corner of the room open for a small refrigerator and microwave oven. You never know when you'll feel like having a warm bite to eat or a refreshing beverage during those marathon study sessions.

Nice work. The more organized you are, the easier it will be to enjoy dorm life.

Project Shopping List

Here’s what you’ll need to complete this project successfully.