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Maximize Your Cramped Dorm Room with These Simple Tips 

Before moving into your own apartment, most colleges make you live on campus, like canned sardines. Yes, we’re talking about the dreaded college dormitory. Living in a dorm may seem like a yearlong sentence in a box-like cell, but if you follow a few tips and use every millimeter of space, your experience shouldn’t be a living hell.

The typical college dorm is about 12 feet by 20 feet—not quite the space we are all used to. And depending on your dorm-room assignments, you might be sharing this room with a complete stranger, which leads me to my first tip:

Plan ahead

It is crucial that you try to find out who your roommate will be so you can plan on what to bring. I’m not necessarily saying track down your roommate by traveling to another city, but rather locate them on social media. Once you have made contact with your roommate, decide what bulky items each of you should bring—items could include a mini fridge, television, microwave and gaming consoles. Most colleges have layouts and dimensions of their dorms available online. Use them to plan for your dorm.

“Definitely plan, at the very least, two months ahead of time for moving in because if you wait until the last minute, something that is meant to be exciting can become stressful and frustrating,” Celeste Brown, a communications major at the University of Texas–San Antonio, said.

Your space-saving options will be limited depending on your dorm. Essentially, you will either have a room with movable furniture or non-movable furniture. Plan as much as you can with your roommate before devoting a year to this cubic space. Remember, this place will serve as your bedroom, study and workspace, entertainment and recreation area, living room and, in some cases, a dining room.

Consider using Pinterest to look for ideas when planning for your dorm.

Stash it, hide it

After figuring out living-space basics, it is time to shop until you drop. Let’s face it, your parents don’t really want to spend any more money on you for college, given the fact that your tuition costs an arm and a leg. But don’t stress, there are many low-priced options when it comes to saving space and cash. Places like Walmart, Target and Bed Bath & Beyond are all great options when looking for space-savers. For students who have movable furniture, make good use of under-the-bed storage. Dorms with movable furniture usually also have adjustable beds. Plastic storage boxes are the best bet for under-the-bed storage. Prices range from $30 to $40. You can also buy collapsible storage boxes for less than $8 each.

“Utilize storage containers,” Brown said. “Target has some awesome ones that are thin and long, so they slide right under your bed. Also shoe racks that hang from your door are super beneficial.”

Brown also mentioned three must-have items, which include a desk organizer, storage bins and furniture that can double as a storage unit.

“You could use the desk organizer to hold everything from pens, to journals and sticky notes,” Brown said. “They also prevent clutter. The storage bins are great for everything from toiletries to clothes and books. Most can be hidden, but there are some that are decorative and meant to enhance the appearance of your room. Ottomans are a great example of furniture that doubles as a storage unit.”

All dorms are usually equipped with dressers. Make use of these, but think twice about stuffing your clothes in every drawer. A great space-saving tip would be to separate a few drawers to stash dry food, school supplies and miscellaneous items. When storing clothing, try rolling it instead of folding and stacking to save space.

According to, loft beds are great space-utilization tools that take advantage of vertical-room space that otherwise might be overlooked and underutilized.

The closet

For the most part, people can live without a huge closet. But the thought of a small closet would kill some people. While women may have more clothing than the average guy, they are smarter when it comes to saving space. According to Erica Edwards, an interior design major at Texas Tech University, a shoe rack is vital.

“The closet is definitely the biggest problem for girls,” Edwards said. “You hear it all the time. But you don’t know until you get there that you should just take your spring clothes in the spring and switch out according to season. If you cannot do that, then you can vacuum seal with a Ziploc seal bag to save space.”

Edwards said organization is the key to efficient storage and decor.

“I did not have movable furniture so I had a lot of small containers that held a lot of things,” Edwards said. “The more you can fit in a small space, the better.”

Edwards also mentioned driving around the city on bulk trash pick-up days to find furniture that can be restored with polish and paint. After all, you are on a college-student budget.

Leave it

If it’s useless, don’t take it. The most cost-effective way to save space is to leave stuff at home. Yes, you need clothes, but don’t take your entire wardrobe, because in college you will find yourself wearing casual clothing, possibly emblazoned with your college logo or Greek letters. Or as Edwards mentioned earlier, consider taking seasonal items.

Remember that using every inch of space appropriately should be a priority when living in a dorm. No throwing clothes and books on the most convenient surface, including the floor. Also, you will probably only be living there for one school year (10 months).

Space Saving Items:

Chair pockets: $24.95
Bed risers with outlets: $24.99
Command hooks: $4.99
Folding stool: $19.99
Stackable baskets: $8.99
Hanging shoe rack: $9.99
Sterilite 18-gallon (72-Quart) storage box, set of 8: $39.76

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