My nephew is heading off to college in a few weeks and he asked me if I could give him some ideas of what he will need in his dorm room. I was flattered that he thought I was so young that I would remember college dorm life so well. Not so much, he tells me. His mom told him that I research organization as part of my job, so maybe I could do it for him.


I am a great aunt, if I do say so myself, and I think that a lot of us know someone who is in a similar situation… or will be soon. So, I’ve done my organizational research and college reminiscing and have come up with these hints and suggestions.


Remember that Dorms are Small

Dorm rooms are seriously tiny. Imagine a walk-in closet and then split it in half for your roommate. SMALL! It can easily be overwhelming at how underwhelming the space is, so prepare now.

The best way to maximize space is to be organized and make a small investment in good products that you will use for all four years (or more if you’re really driven).


Closet Space

This is the place for all of your clean clothes, dirty clothes, laundry detergents, bathroom supplies, coats, umbrella, bags, and shoes. It needs to be efficient like a swiss army knife.

  • Buy a collapsible hamper for your dirty clothes.
  • Find those slim hangers so that each piece you hang will take up half the space as they would if you used those bulky plastic hangers.
  • Over-the-door shoe rack if your dorm has closet doors. Get one anyway, you can always cut it in half for a small cupboard or desk space and use it for storing your hair dryers, laundry soap, and other items.
  • Expanding shoe rack… for your shoes.
  • If you wear jewelry, consider a hanging jewelry tote for organizing and storing.


Desk for Success

This is college, after all, and the desk is the place for all of that learning material you are going to be accruing. Some items are more important than others, but all of these suggestions will keep you moving on your enlightened way:

  • A dry-erase calendar will keep your tests, papers, class schedules, and social activities (I won’t write “parties” in case your parents are reading this) always in view.
  • Have you ever used a drawer organizer to keep your pencils, pens, staples, scissors, and calculator all separated and easy to find? Well, if not, you will love me for this one.
  • Some lamps come with extra storage space and speakers with iPod hook-up. 3 uses are better than one!
  • Get some bookends, because you will have a lot of books. Not everything is online, my college friends!


Extras, Extras

  • An over the door coat rack is great for coats and purses.
  • A small storage ottoman can provide extra seating and stow your extra sheets.
  • If your dorm allows it, get some bed risers and use that space underneath your bed for out of season clothing, blankets, shoe storage, etc.
  • A bathroom caddy (with drain holes) will store all of the things you need for your shower and make washing time much easier.
  • Adhesive hooks! Hang your towel, a bulletin board, a pocket organizer, or hang that totally necessary poster. Adhesive hooks that can be removed without damaging the walls are a dorm student’s best friend.

While a lot of these things can help keep you more organized, try to keep it simple. Your space is limited; chances are it will be smaller than your current room. If it wouldn’t fit in half of your current room at home, then it will not fit in your dorm room.

When are you going to college? What are some tips you have learned from small dorm spaces? What are products that you have used that keep you organized in tiny spaces?


Jessica Johnson