Storage space in college housing is always at a premium. I don’t need to tell this to you — you’re the one with the box of sweaters jammed under your bed.
College is supposed to be a learning experience, and it’s time to learn how to live in a small space. Dorm life may seem miserable at times now, but 10 years from now — heck, five years from now — you will look back fondly on these days IF you manage to make this space feel like home.
The new semester starts in a couple weeks — there’s no time to waste! Let’s get down to business.
10 tips to make your dorm room feel like home
1.) Have real talk with your roommate. If your roommate was a high school friend or summer camp buddy, you may have thought you were ahead of the game. Oh, it will be so great living with someone I know! Then you realized this person thought leaving dirty clothes strewn about the room was no problem. Or maybe he or she gets mad because YOU do that.
Now is a good time to hop on Facebook and have a friendly conversation about any lingering issues from the first semester. If one of you is a slob, try to address this in a constructive manner (“Maybe I could throw out my leftover takeout boxes right away from now on”). If one of you is dominating a closet or the shelves, respectfully decide how to handle the situation. If you need extra space, we know a great place for self storage, by the way.
2.) What are you sharing? With storage space at a premium, you should not have duplicates of anything. Trish Hilliard, a Houston-based certified professional organizer and founder of Simplicity Please, advises talking about certain essentials.
“I’d recommend talking about who will bring what as far as items that can be shared, says, “so that you save space and don’t have redundancy, like an ironing board and iron, mini fridge, microwave, TV, dust buster, etc.”
This might also be a good time to talk about other items you might share, like snacks or movies — the less duplicates, the more storage space you’ll have.
3.) Reconfigure out the floor plan. Most universities give you dorm furniture that can be easily moved, stacked, or bunked — take advantage. The room doesn’t have to stay the way you found it!
If there is a better way to arrange the beds, dressers, and desks, draw a chart, share it with your roommates and come to an agreement. You may be able to add valuable square footage.
4.) Hit the big sales. You have our permission to shop. There are almost always reasons to have sales — the end-of-year holidays, Presidents’ Day, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day…if retailers can get you in the store, they will. Common dorm necessities will often be discounted, so don’t miss out.
“Check out The Container Store, Bed Bath & Beyond, Target, and Walmart,” Hilliard says. “All of these stores will have a section dedicated to ‘back to college’ gear.”
5.) Use a self storage unit. Let’s face it — everything doesn’t fit in your dorm room. That’s where Uncle Bob’s comes in. Renting a self storage unit near your campus is fairly inexpensive, especially if you and your roommates split the cost.
6.) Think vertical. As alluded to earlier, don’t forget to look up. You can fit a lot more, and improve how your room functions, by using the vertical space, too. Monica Friel, a Chicago-based certified professional organizer, actually likes living in a small space because “every inch counts.”
“Make use of upper walls for shelving or bulletin boards or extra storage space,” advises Friel, who owns Chaos To Order. “A lot of dorm rooms and even apartment buildings will loft the bed and maybe put a desk underneath it.” Having that designated study space will not only better use the storage space, but will also make it easier for you to concentrate on schoolwork — a win-win storage solution.
7.) Think multi-functional. Limited storage space means utilizing every nook and cranny. Your door isn’t just a door — with a few hooks, it’s a storage facility for coats and scarves. An ottoman isn’t just a place to kick up your feet — lift the lid, and it’s a storage space for socks or tee shirts. In tight spaces, buying or using multi-purpose items can go a long way.
8.) Stay organized. As Friel says, “When you’re in a small space like that, you don’t have any choice — you must be organized because otherwise you won’t find anything.” That means everything must have a place — and I mean everything, from textbooks and notes to toiletries and towels to food and drinks (non-alcoholic, of course).
Most likely, you won’t have a private kitchen or bathroom to store these items in, so designate a place for them in your dorm. And every time you take something out, make sure to put it away properly to keep your storage spaces tidy and organized.
9.) Don’t accumulate extra stuff. People tend to fill up the space they have. In a huge mansion, you can accumulate knickknacks and furniture to fill room after room. In a dorm room? Not so much.
Before buying something, consider if you really need it and if you want it taking up additional storage space in your dorm room. Even if a school club is giving away something free in the student union, do you really want it wasting valuable storage space back in your dorm? By limiting the things you acquire, you’ll make the best use of that small space.
10.) Don’t move stuff home — move it to self storage. When it’s time to come home for the summer, put everything in a self storage unit. You’re just going to use it again next year, so why schlep it all home when it can stay close to campus?
A self storage unit will make the move home much easier, especially if you’re flying home or taking the train instead of driving. Plus, self storage at Uncle Bob’s will also keep that extra stuff from your dorm room cluttering up your house all summer.