When you’re dealing with limited living space in your dorm, it’s all about maximizing every single spot. Keeping things neat and clean can make a real difference in terms of the square footage available to you at any given time.
Whether you’re spitting your dorm with roommates or have the (small) space to yourself, coming up with an organization plan should be at the top of your college checklist. Many colleges and universities provide room dimensions and general dorm layouts for incoming students planning to live on campus.
Tip: Google “dorm layout” + the name of your school to easily pull up the results that can help you figure out how much space you’ll be occupying.
Before you start shopping for your new home, check out our favorite organization solutions for small dorm rooms. Below, you’ll find the top items for saving space and helping you create a cozy — not cluttered — vibe.
Before you can actually make the most out of your under-the-bed storage, you need to make the space for it. A set of adjustable bed risers can give you as many as 8 additional inches of height underneath your bed. I personally loved having these in my dorm, both for the added storage and the elevation.
Now that you’ve made the space, you can start putting stuff under your bed. Use this space for items you won’t use too often but still need to keep within reach (i.e., extra blankets, cleaning supplies, books). Rolling bins can come in extra handy for storing heavier things, while clear stacking drawers make it easy to see and access whatever you put in them.
You might be thinking: I don’t need this — I can use [insert another piece of furniture here] as a nightstand! But hear me out. You’re maximizing every inch of space in a small dorm, and that includes the surfaces it comes with, like your desk and dresser. This clip-on nightstand comes in extremely handy when you need it, and it’s easy to tuck away when you don’t. It’s an added convenience you’ll be happy to have, especially if you’re on the top bunk of a bunk bed.
Don’t want to go the nightstand route? No problem! This bed caddy slips right between your mattress and bed frame and gives you the added storage you need to keep by your side. The large pocket is perfect for books, magazines, or tablets, and you can tuck your phone and other small items in the outside pockets.
It’s easy to forget about all the vertical storage space available in a small dorm, but this over-the-bed shelf is one item you’ll love having. You’ll get two shelves of added space in an area that would otherwise go unused — and if you really want to get crafty, you can even add some stick-on hooks for extra hanging space. If space-saving were a class, you’d get an A+ for this one.
Whether you’re bringing clothes for all seasons or have extra blankets for when the weather turns cold, vacuum bags are some of the best investments you can make toward maximizing the space in your small dorm. Simply fill them and then remove all the extra air, then store them away until you need them! (P.S. You don’t need a vacuum to remove the air. Most products come with instructions for muscling through it instead.)
For the clothes you want to wear sooner than later, you don’t have to worry about bringing only your favorites when you hang them up on slim, space-saving hangers. This set of 50 features a velvet finish to keep everything in its place. Now, you have more space for clothes, or you can use the remaining square footage to store other items.
You might assume that drawer dividers will just take up extra room in your already limited space, but they can actually help you keep all the clothes in your dresser organized and easy to keep track of. They’ll make it so much easier to keep your small dorm room neat and tidy without clothes piling up on surfaces.
There’s a chance you’ll get lucky and have a tall closet or built-in shelves above your dorm’s door. If that’s the case, you can make it much easier to access with a portable, folding step stool that tucks away when you don’t need it. I use one of these in my closet now, and it’s made me much more willing to use more of my vertical space.
Don’t pile up your shoes just to save room in your closet — an over-the-door rack keeps everything organized without using any floor space.
10. Over-the-door shoe rack
If you’re limited on closet space, finding room for your shoes can be hard. There’s no need to compromise when you strategize your storage with an over-the-door shoe rack. You can choose from a soft-sided option or a metal shelf style to keep all your footwear organized and within reach without using precious room in your closet. These can also double as storage for other items you want to keep handy, like bath towels or scarves.
11. Desk hutch
Some dorm desks include a small shelf or hutch already, but if yours just sports a flat surface with no vertical storage, you can easily add one! This two-shelved hutch is specifically made for dorm desks, so you can rest assured it will fit into your space hassle-free. Store your books, extra supplies, or anything you need room for.
12. Rolling utility cart
I love this rolling utility cart for a few reasons. First, the wheels make it easy to move around and tuck away in your space. Second, the narrow design keeps it from occupying too much room in your small dorm. Third, it’s so versatile that you can use it as a makeup station, coffee station, or even an additional bookshelf. Finally (yeah, it’s that impressive), it’s completely detachable, so you can use the bins however it makes sense for your space.
From storage cubby to extra seating to a coffee table, this all-in-one ottoman does the work of multiple pieces of furniture
13. Storage stool
When it comes to space-saving solutions for a small dorm, you can’t beat a 3-in-1 storage ottoman. Not only can you fit your clutter inside the cube, but it also doubles as added seating and can serve as a coffee table when you flip the lid over.
If you’re adding a mini fridge to your small dorm, pick up a shelving station to increase your surrounding storage space.
14. Mini fridge shelving station
There are some products that make you wonder how you never thought of them before seeing them, and a mini fridge shelving station was one of those items for me. While a mini fridge can take up significant floor space in a small dorm, you can add some storage around it with a wooden shelf or increase its vertical footprint with this metal option. It’s a great spot for stowing other larger appliances if you have them, too.
15. Organizers for everything
Like I said from the start, giving everything in your small dorm a home is crucial to keeping things tidy. Desk drawer organizers, clear plastic bins, and expandable file storage can be huge space savers in a small space.
16. Room divider
Okay, so this may not necessarily be a space saver, but it can be helpful when sharing your small dorm room with other people. You know the saying “Out of sight, out of mind”? Well, a noise-reducing partition can help you achieve a sense of personal space whenever you need some “alone” time.
Here’s a final tip:
Go into move-in day with a solid plan for attacking your dorm room organization. If you’re going to be living with roommates, get in touch with them ahead of time so you can all contribute to an efficient and organized space. Don’t forget to print out our handy college checklist to make sure you pack the essentials for a successful move-in!