Successfully moving into your dorm room is only one small piece of the college student-adulting pie, and, personally, I hate the part that comes after…
Because your clothes, shoes, and bedding won’t unpack themselves (remember that episode of Jimmy Neutron where he put microchips inside pants so they’d fold themselves???) you’re going to have to start organizing ASAP. College dorm rooms are notoriously tiny, and it doesn’t help that back to school catalogs think that colleges have the luxury of affording students tiny palaces for rooms—seriously, I don’t know what dorm room can actually fit all the crap they brainwash us into bringing! Which is why my freshman year of college, I watched upwards of about 30 different “How I Organize My Dorm Room” videos on YouTube to get an idea of how to really optimize the small space I have.
Fast forward three, almost four, years and past a lot of trial and error, and I think I’ve finally pinned down the absolute best, and my favorite, ways to save space while keeping my room looking neat. And trust me, I know you may not want to spend a ton of money buying organizing containers and bins for every little thing—I certainly didn’t—so that’s why I’m highlighting the cheapest ways to save space in your dorm. And to really help you prep for this most exciting time of year, I’m also going to talk about my favorite ways to keep my dorm room organized, whether you’re living in a triple, double, or the coveted single!
Cheap ways to save space…
1. Hang your jewelry using adhesive hooks.
Using Command Hooks is by far my FAVORITE way to store items to save space. They don’t require hammering anything into the wall, so you won’t damage anything, and they remove cleanly (as someone who once ripped paint off the wall because I didn’t know how to properly remove a Command Hook, I can attest to the fact that taking your time when removing the adhesive makes such a difference!).
Last year, I bought small hooks and stuck them to my wall in a cute pattern. Then, I hung my bracelets and necklaces from them, and it not only looked super cute, it also helped me avoid having to bring a jewelry organizer to school. I was able to see everything I had at once so I could easily choose what I wanted to wear, and putting them back at the end of the day was a breeze. Command Hooks don’t cost much, and they usually come in packs.
Pro tip: buy larger Command Hooks and hang your purses and handbags on them!
2. Tape your power strip to the side of your desk.
During my first two years of college, my surge protector was literally all over the place, and it was always in my way. I’d sometimes trip over it, or get other cords tangled around it because I figured the floor was as good a place as any other for leaving it. Then, last year my dad suggested I use some double-sided mounting tape to secure it to the side of my desk, and it was the easiest hack ever! It makes it easy for me to plug things in from the comfort of my bed, I don’t trip over anything, and mounting tape doesn’t cost much, and you’ll certainly have enough left over for next year.
3. Push small furniture items under the bed when you’re not using them.
I love cute little storage ottomans and other pieces of furniture, but if you aren’t using them as frequently as you thought you would, push them under your bed to keep them out of your way. Having them in the middle of the room, or by the door can hinder your ability to move around freely, and it might annoy your roommate. If you aren’t sure if you’ll really use a piece of furniture, save money by renting instead of buying. Check out my post on Items You Can (And Should) Rent In College for more details.
4. Buy an over-the-door mirror.
I know not everyone feels they need an over-the-door mirror (though they are really useful when you want to check your outfit before you leave but your suite mate is in the bathroom) but if you do choose to invest in a full-length mirror, buy one that can easily be hung over your door so you don’t have it propped up against a wall where you can easily trip over a corner and break it (or your roommate could trip over it and break it!). They usually cost around $20, and they’re even cheaper when they go on sale, so keep an eye out for that.
5. Get a desk lamp that doubles as a pencil holder.
My school provides us with desks that already have a light built into them, so I’ve never had to purchase a desk lamp, but if you’re going to, save yourself from making two purchases by getting a lamp that’s also a pencil holder. I’ve always thought those were really cool, and a smart asset to any college student’s academic wishlist. You can put extra pencils, pens, highlighters, paperclips, sticky notes, and more into the storage compartments. Plus, most of these lamps also include a place for you to charge your phone. Pretty spiffy if you ask me.
6. Store items on top of your mini fridge.
If you bring a fridge or microwave to school, make use of the space on top! Get a plastic container and put cereal boxes, granola bars, and other food items in it for easy access. You can find the containers for super cheap at a dollar store, so it’s definitely a win.
7. Use thumbtacks to hang items from your cork board.
The desks that my school provides us with also come with a built-in cork board type material, so we can use push-pins and thumbtacks to hang things on it. This is also a great place for any accessories such as sunglasses, watches, and rings. If you don’t have a desk mirror, use it to hang a hand-held mirror.
8. Don’t bring items that are prohibited in dorm rooms!
This is by far the easiest and cheapest way to save space: simply DON’T purchase any items you aren’t allowed to have! Always check with your school if you’re unsure of whether or not you can have a certain item in your dorm room. I can name at least 10 items that aren’t allowed in my school’s dorm rooms without even thinking. If you’re caught with these items, they’ll be taken away until someone can bring them home for you. Read my post on 13 Things Not Allowed In Your Dorm Room + What To Bring Instead for details on some common prohibited items (and their totally UNprohibited substitutes).
How I organize my room…
I use magazine holders for notebooks.
I love love love magazine holders because they provide easy access to important books and papers (and, yes, my magazines) while also adding an extra flair to my desk. They keep things tidy because Lord knows that without them, I would probably just stack my books anyhow on my desk.
I use plastic bins to organize my supplies in my desk drawer.
This has been one of my favorite desk organization hacks since freshman year! I was tripled my first year and had to share a desk with one of my roommates, so instead of having all of our markers and highlighters rolling around and getting lost, I started using small, plastic bins to hold small items and it worked! I could usually by two or three for $1, so it was super cheap. If you love DIY and have the materials on hand, I also suggest creating your own desk organizers using cereal boxes and decorative tape, or gift wrap.
I store shoes under my bed.
There’s no reason for your shoes to be thrown all over the room, and if you have a roommate or two, it would be even more annoying if they started doing the same thing, and you wouldn’t want that now would you? I keep my shoes under my bed because it’s easy to get to them and they stay out of the way. Another good place for shoes would be storing them on the shelf in your closet. I never purchased a shoe rack because I couldn’t imagine having space for one when I was tripled.
Some other things I keep under my bed are my mini fridge, plastic containers for storage, and an umbrella.
I keep my laundry bag in my closet.
It’s kind of the same idea as the shoes; the goal is just to keep the laundry bag out of the way. I used to hang my bag on the back of my door handle and it was super annoying! You can also put this under your bed.
I never put any items in my walking space.
I always try to keep the main walking area as clean as possible. Can you imagine tripping over someone else’s crap every time you want to leave the room, or having to practically jump over boxes and shoes? This is especially important if you have a roommate, because I always like to think that the walking space doesn’t belong to any one person. Be careful, or you could run into problems with your roomie!
I usually have most of my decor on my wall.
I know everyone wants a Zoey 101-esque dorm room, but that’s TV and TV loves exaggerating shit. Avoid the octopus lamps and other floor lamps because they take up space and likely aren’t even allowed in your room; if you have a bad dust allergy, avoid bringing in decorative rugs. For dorm decor, I usually tape cute art prints to the wall and use decorative tape to create “picture frames.” It’s so cute and so easy, and doesn’t take up space at all. Check out my Guide To Dorm Decor for more decorating tips.
What are your favorite ways to save space in your dorm? Which of these tips is your favorite?