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Dorm 101: Must-Haves for Dorm Room Organization


Organized Dorm Room

College will teach you many life lessons, but the first one I learned my freshman year was this: dorm rooms are small. My first year at Flagler, I shared a dorm with three other girls and quickly learned how valuable every square inch of space could be. I also discovered that the key to having more space is to be organized.

Now that my senior year has rolled around, I thought I’d share with you some of the best dorm organization items out there, in order to help you to utilize those precious square inches and enjoy every bit of small-space living. Also, if you’re living off-campus, no worries, these are great items for you too!

For your closet:

Closet Organization

Product Information: Pop-up Hamper, Wheeled Hamper, Slim-line Hangers, Hanging ShelvesExpandable Shoe Rack, Over-the-Door Shoe Bag

  • A laundry hamper is a must-have for any dorm room closet, and I featured two different styles above, both of which I highly recommend. Pop-up hampers are ideal for tiny closets – the mesh material is flexible, so it can be squeezed into tight spaces. I swear by the wheeled hampers though. Sure, they take up a little more space, but not having to lug heavy clothes back and forth to the laundry room makes them worth it.
  • Slim-line hangers will give you more space for clothes because the hangers are much thinner than normal ones (hence the name). They’re also made out of a non-slip material, so your expensive top won’t slide off the hanger and end up crumpled on the floor like it could with plastic hangers.
  • Running out of room in your dresser? Hanging shelves will give you more storage for your clothing. They take up a small bit of space in your closet, but can hold tons of sweaters, jeans and other bulky items.
  • Shoe racks are ideal for dorms because it will keep all your footwear neatly organized in one place, so your shoes won’t be littered all over your closet floor. Over-the-door versions are roomy and can hold lots of shoes, but not all dorm closets have doors. So, I chose a shoe rack that expands and contracts, so you can adjust it to your specific closet size.

For your desk:

Desk Organization

Product Information: Accordion Folder, Bookends, Desk Organizer Lamp, Drawer Organizer, Dry Erase To-Do List, Desktop Drawers

  • If you retain one piece of advice from this post, I hope it’s this: invest in an accordion folder! Seriously, buy a good one and use it to organize all your important papers (hard-copies of research papers, bills, etc.). That way, you’ll be able to easily find everything you need in one tidy folder.
  • Bookends can be a fun way to show of your personal style and keep your textbooks in pristine condition so you can get top dollar when book buyback rolls around. And how cute are these ones from Modcloth?!
  • Since space is so limited in dorms, items that are multi-functional– like this desk organizer lamp– are ideal. In addition to providing light, it also acts as a pencil cup and has a speaker/hook-up for your iPod!
  • A drawer organizer will keep all your excess school supplies organized so you’ll never have to dig through a messy drawer to find staples ten minutes before your big paper is due (believe me, I’ve been there).
  • Okay, so a dry erase to-do list isn’t exactly necessary, but it will keep your schedule organized. Hang it near your desk, take a few minutes every Sunday to fill out your weekly schedule and you’ll never forget a deadline, event or a meeting with your advisor.
  • Desktop drawers are a perfect solution for cluttered desks and can store all of the items that always seem go missing like headphones, camera chargers and USB drives. In addition, these pretty ones will look great on your desk.

Other Storage Solutions

Other Storage Solutions

Product Information: 3-Drawer Cart, Stackable Drawer, Lined Baskets, Storage Ottoman, Over-the-Door Hooks, Hanging Jewelry Roll

  • A 3-drawer cart can hold all those items you’re not quite sure about storing: sheets, hair styling tools, and even food! Plus, since it has wheels, you can easily move it around and use it as a writing surface or nightstand. I love this floral print cart – it would be a stylish addition to any dorm.
  • If you’ve run out of space in your dresser and closet, stackable drawers are the answer. You can buy as many (or as few) as you want and you’ll have plenty of room for storing even the bulkiest of items. Another perk: these drawers can easily slide under your bed, so they won’t take up any floor space.
  • Lined baskets are an adorable and functional way to store smaller items like hair products, make-up and toiletries.
  • A storage ottoman is a great multi-use item for dorms. You can store things in it and then pop the lid on to create instant seating for friends.
  • Although over-the-door hooks are usually designed for coats, I personally use mine for handbags. Multiple bags can be strung on each hook and the piece will still stay put, plus the bags won’t fall off.
  • A hanging jewelry roll takes up less space than a jewelry box and will keep your necklaces tangle-free. It can also easily be rolled up and thrown into a duffel for impromptu weekend trips.

What do you think?

Are you going to be living in the dorms this year? What do you think of these organizers? Upperclassmen, any storage advice for new college students? If you have any questions, ask away– I’ll do my best to answer. Also, remember to leave a comment with your thoughts on the article!

Posted on on August 22, 2010 / Filed Under: Dorm Room / Tags: , , , , , ,

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57 Responses to “Dorm 101: Must-Haves for Dorm Room Organization”

  1. 1
    August 22nd, 2010 at 8:22 am

    Great tips. I love decorating my apartment. It’s so much fun!

  2. 2
    August 22nd, 2010 at 9:41 am

    I have a dry-erase calendar that hangs on the wall next to my bed. At the start of the quarter, I write down the dates of all of my exams and papers and whatnot, that way I have a visual reminder of everything. I haven’t had an assignment sneak up on me since!

    I also put big parties and special events on there, it gives me something to look forward to!

  3. 3
    August 22nd, 2010 at 10:19 am

    This has to be one of my favorite posts. I love organizing and just moved into a one bedroom apartment with my fiance… so I will definitely be considering these!!

  4. 4
    August 22nd, 2010 at 10:29 am

    This was very helpful, thank you so much!!!

  5. 5
    August 22nd, 2010 at 11:12 am

    You posted some cute and functional stuff! I love organizing things. lol But I would also recommend a shower tote for people who do not have their own bathroom, like this one: And if you do have you’re own bathroom a shower caddy is nice, like this:

  6. 6
    August 22nd, 2010 at 11:13 am

    Your* not you’re haha. Got a bit distracted pasting the links. :P

  7. 7
    August 22nd, 2010 at 11:21 am

    This is great! Going into my junior year I feel like I’m getting better and better at organizing because I have to do it each year!
    Drawer organizers are my favorite though for my underwear drawer! I can organize out bras, undies, and socks with dividers so everything doesn’t get cluttered.
    As far as hanging shelves in the closet, though, it depends on your school. I used one freshman year and it helped hold towels and other things, but overall it just took up too much room in my closet and wasn’t worth it. It’s all about what works for you!

  8. 8
    August 22nd, 2010 at 11:40 am

    Very helpful I am going to organize my dorm room using these tips !!!!

  9. 9
    August 22nd, 2010 at 12:05 pm

    This is seriously helpful! I’m not even done with dorm shopping yet and I’ll be sure to add these to my list. :D

  10. 10
    August 22nd, 2010 at 1:13 pm

    Ohmygod, this is such an amazing post! I couldn’t agree more with you suggested, and you listed things I had never even heard of! Next year for sure a bunch of this stuff will be going on my list. Thank you!

  11. 11
    August 22nd, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    Great post…. As college students, we have to try to think of creative ways common storage items can be used. Here are a few – Since many students loft their bed, we often use an “over-the-door” shoe organizer under a lofted bed for storage. It hangs nicely on the end of the bed frame and is great for storing additional school supplies, hair and make-up supplies, etc. Another great storage item is a trunk. Great for keeping things out of the way and double nicely as a coffee table if you have a futon.

  12. 12
    August 22nd, 2010 at 3:10 pm

    Oh!!! Organization!!! (why does that send shivers of joy up my spine??lol!)

    These are all grrrreat ideas, thank you! I also want to add that you may find it useful to buy hangers all the same color for your closet, or all one color for shirts, another color for jackets, ect…
    It really adds a visual appeal and makes it super easy to keep your hanging clothes in order and give you an instant inventory of your clothes at the same time.

  13. 13
    August 22nd, 2010 at 4:10 pm

    oh my gosh this could not have come at a better time! I have been trying to be as organized as much as I can but I felt like I was missing a few things, this helped me remember what else I needed! Thanks! :)

  14. 14
    August 22nd, 2010 at 5:35 pm

    Excellent post. I must remember to keep an eye out for one of those closet door shoe bags, they’re the perfect solution to my space problem and I never thought of it.

  15. 15
    August 22nd, 2010 at 6:00 pm

    I don’t know what i’d do without my hanging shelves last year.
    I was in a “forced triple” -three girls in a space barely big enough for two!
    We were each given a standing wardrobe that was 4’x6′ and 4 drawers.
    i had a set of shelves for my jeans, which i loved because i could fold them and store them in the little cubbies (it looked like a store display!). I also used a smaller set of hanging shelves for my shoes: perfect! I still had room in my wardrobe for my “hangables”!

    I also have one tip for freshman: Have a place for everything, and everything in it’s place! It’s too tempting to walk in, throw down your keys and bag, leave your jacket on the chair, your shoes under your desk, etc. Don’t do it!!!! It’s so much easier to hang up things and put stuff where it belongs. It’s much less stressful to know where things are, and you can walk across your floor at 1am and not stab your foot with a high heel or trip on a tote bag strap! =)

  16. 16
    August 22nd, 2010 at 8:16 pm

    For freshmen attending college far from home (or for those who have huge wardrobes!), I think it’s a great idea to use Space Bags or any other other sort of vacuum bag for quickly storing and transporting your clothes and bedding. My mom suggested using them my freshman year and it made all the difference! They make bringing bulky stuff especially easy. Sure, you do need to have access to a vacuum with a hose if you want to pack up your winter clothing, bedding, etc. but I just asked housekeeping for a vac and I got one! They come in a variety of sizes, too–the carry-on size is PERFECT for using every last bit of space in your luggage when flying home.

  17. 17
    August 22nd, 2010 at 8:28 pm

    I absolutely loved this post! I’m an incoming freshman, and I’ve always been organized, although I was not sure on how to approach organizing my dorm. Your tips were helpful, and these are definitely the type of items that I have purchased or will soon. This post definitely relieved me in the sense that I know that it is in fact possible to have both a chic and well organized dorm room.

  18. 18
    August 23rd, 2010 at 10:18 am

    I love this! I was actually just getting ready to post the same kind of thing on my blog!! After seeing all of these, I’ve realized that I am such a college student, because I have just about everything you have listed for my dorm! =) At least I’m organized…=) Thanks for the great posts!

  19. 19
    August 23rd, 2010 at 10:43 am

    Thanks for this! Really helped me put together my back-to-school shopping list. In regards to the helpfulness of accordian folders: I definitely agree! Great place to keep receipts and mail.

  20. 20
    August 23rd, 2010 at 12:20 pm

    i would also add bed raisers so you have extra space under your bed for storage boxes & stuff.

  21. 21
    August 23rd, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    Great post! This post comes in a perfect time and is a tremendous help for me. Thanks!

  22. 22
    August 24th, 2010 at 6:57 pm

    I LOVE this article. Decorating my dorm room is one of the things I am most looking forward to when I go back to school, and this article would have helped me out a lot last year when going away to school for the first time. Great job :)

  23. 23
    August 25th, 2010 at 3:00 am

    Great post ! And i have the same feeling as the author.

    It is very helpful for me, coz i like to decorate my room.


  24. 24
    August 28th, 2010 at 3:47 am

    Wow this is so helpful! Not for my dorm but my bedroom! Thank-you x

  25. 25
    August 28th, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    Keep a planner!!!! This has less to do with dorm organization and more with school, but it’s so important, even if you think you can remember everything. When you have five classes, are active in two organizations, and have an awesome social life (since obviously CF girls are that awesome =D =D) it is basically impossiable not to forget a meeting or project unless you have it written down.

  26. 26
    August 31st, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    thanks for this article! im moving in next week and this really helped :)

  27. 27
    September 1st, 2010 at 2:37 pm

    I’ve bought quite a few of these items already but its good to see what others reccomend! I’m afraid to buy anything else until I leave for school though, I’m waiting to see how much room we will have! Mean while my other roommate won’t stop buying stuff!

  28. 28
    September 3rd, 2010 at 9:23 pm

    Two things I’d like to add-
    1. Command Hooks for your wall. Here’s the key- Don’t put them up right when you move in. Wait a week or so then decide where you really need to hang things-purses, wristlets, towels, etc.
    2. If you have a couch or a futon (or you’re like me and you can’t keep a clean desk) consider a foldable table. I found mine at target for 9 bucks, and it folds flat so i slide it between my desk and bed when I don’t need it, but it’s the perfect height for writing from a couch.

  29. 29
    April 10th, 2011 at 3:01 pm

    This is SSSOOOOO helpful. I’m currently a Junior in high school, and several months ago, just went “favouriting” a ton of Dorm Organization Tips, and just finally took the time to read them. These tips are so great, that I think I will start using them ASAP in my bedroom so that I have an idea of what works for me when I go to college in just over a year, especially since I have a small room that I have such a hard time keeping clean. These tips will make keeping my room clean easier, keep my parents off my back, and help me when I leave home. Thank you!

  30. 30
    June 13th, 2011 at 12:17 pm

    I just have a bit of advice to add on desk lamps and lighting in general. I bought one of those organizer lamps my freshman year and kept it all through college. It did what it had to…it turned on. But I suggest avoiding those organizer ones and look around. My lamp got dusty and dirty…impossible to clean. I really wouldn’t store anything in it. I kept all my writing utensils in a separate mug and I could never figure out how to refill the tape. My roommate had one of those banker’s lamps which I thought looked ridiculous but actually provided nice even lighting.

    You might also want a floor lamp or “squid” lamp (squiddies!). My room had an overhead light which really sucked. I got lucky that the previous occupants of my room left a lamp they didn’t want. My friends all had squid lamps which were pretty useful for brightening up areas and also for working since you could orient the lights for reading or working on a desk.

  31. 31
    June 7th, 2012 at 1:10 pm

    Good post, but I need more ideas towards a pretty room, you know? I’d rather have it be pretty AND organized. Where’s the beauty, the sparkle? You know what I’m saying? …


  32. 32
    August 17th, 2012 at 5:16 pm

    I thoroughly enjoyed this post. I am in incoming junior and all I can say is that it’s great to find a post with USEFUL tips. How many times have I read suggestions to bring large, non-purposeful items in tight college dorms (also, it might make fellow roomates immediately uncomfortable when they see a thirty pair shoe collection sprawled on the floor) . I’ll just point out the things that have been especially useful for me (not everything works for everyone, or works for every dorm situation)

    Ottomans are not only great for storage, they’re also useful for seating when you have more friends over, and they also serve as a step stool for those mile-high beds (seriously, my bed sohpomore year should have come with a ladder). And they’re only about 15 to 20 dollars.

    I can’t tell you how many times I have lost my mind looking for my keys. You may want to reserve a command clip for dorm keys only. A good place to stick it is right by the door or on your desk if you have a desk hutch.

    Rainboots. Puddles are everywhere on campus. Also, it’s no fun to have smelly wet shoes in the dorm. Nough said.

    Along with a lamp, (sometimes I wonder if they expect you to sudy in the dark), an extra lightbulb.

    I try to pack for college in the way I’ll organize things in my dorm. I have box for electronic type things like batteries, alarm clock, camera and charger, ipod charger, it goes on… You’d be surprised how useful it is to have everything organized on move-in day.

    I use mailing labels (I think that’s what they’re called… those blank white stickers) to label things. Like boxes and folders.

    Good walking shoes.

    I have a cute little flower pot that I use as a pencil/pen cup because I never have enough room in coffee mugs. I literally hoard writing utensils.

    As for decorations, my favorites are my fake gerbera daisies, picture frames with photos from home, posters (beatles, van gogh, golden gate bridge), and my quilt.

  33. 33
    March 22nd, 2014 at 1:23 pm

    Great ideas to increase the space of small dorm rooms. These are all gorgeous! A bit pricey though

  34. 34
    July 10th, 2014 at 9:04 pm

    I’m a junior and I have already implemented many of these items in my own dorm. The only thing that is missing is a foldable step stool. It is so nice to have that stepstool for those top shelves. I used a wood box from a craft store that I painted to store my movies and chargers. Space bags are also great for those clothes that you won’t use for a while and you can store them on top shelves or under the bed.

  35. 35
    January 6th, 2015 at 1:36 am

    What things would you recommend for packing during the holidays? What type of luggage, travel storage, hacks and things of that nature? I am desperate to find easy ways to transport to and from home!!!

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