The dorm room. Your temporary home.
Whether you realize it or not, the way that you organize your room at the beginning of the semester can have a large impact on how the rest of the year plays out. Will your room be open and comfortable and invite guests at all hours? Will it encourage inter-roommate interactions? Or will it be divisive but offer privacy? You decide.
This is your first chance as an incoming college student to flex your intellectual muscles. Get creative. Your room is meant to be comfortable, easy to manage, and ideally should promote a certain vibe.
To avoid piles of clothes on the floor and drawers full of stuff, make sure you have a basic floor plan, as well as plenty of closet, under the bed, and over the door organizers. Before arranging furniture, create a mental or written room lay out. The first question to ask yourself is, "Do you want a room that promotes a common hang out space or a layout that offers each resident their own space in the room?" Remember, you and your roommate might not always get along.
We're here to show you the practical tricks, not mediate roommate wars, so check out the best of both ways to organize your dorm room:
This is the room with more common, communal space. If you are someone who can handle having their private space invaded, we highly recommend this style of layout.
- As a freshman you're most likely going to be in a double, a triple, or a quad. You are all going to have the essential furniture — beds, desks, and dressers. These take up a lot of space in your room, so consider how they can be used to promote a common area with sitting and table space.
- Remember that beds make excellent sofas but are also your private domain. Place them in corners but with maybe an end or a side jutting into common space. Beds can become crucial sitting space
- Your desks are meant to be your primary work space but if placed together can become excellent spaces for mixing drinks and party games. This will generally save floor area.
- Dressers rarely accent a room as a hang-out space. They are too tall for use while sitting, and will often act as dividers. If you don't mind losing closet area we strongly suggest placing one resident's dresser in the closet to free up limited common room space.
- While your desks and beds can be used to accent a hang-out space, you should also consider bringing or acquiring other furniture. A coffee table can be the most important part of a dorm room. It offers a center of activity and will be extremely useful for drinking games, board games and other activities. It also frees up your desks, avoiding potential spills and clutter. One respectable coffee table can become a magnet for an entire hallway social scene.
- With just a table, the chairs from your desk, and your beds as partial sofas you can create a suitable hang-out room. If you wish to take your room one step further we suggest a futon, a chair from home, or $6 folding chairs from Walmart or any outdoors store.
- One other tip: look up. How high are your ceilings? Many students do not realize the floor space they can create by building up, not out. A big consideration at the beginning of the year is to build loft beds. A desk and dresser can be moved under a lofted bed, thereby opening up space for chairs, TVs, tables, futons, beanbags, etc. Great shelves can also be built on the loft for storage. However, this eliminates your bed as a sitting space, and a hulking loft can also make a room seem more cramped. In addition, a loft can be more adventurous for you overnight guests when climbing in and out. Lofts are best if you want to create separate personal and common areas in your room. They allow you to move your whole personal space into the area of one bed, while leaving the common space open and bright.
- Other advice: Fridges, lamps, bookshelves, and speakers can all be used to your advantage. Put lamps on top of fridges and try placing bookshelves either against open wall space or next to futons so the tops become side tables. Speakers generally can be tucked into unused places, beneath beds, desks, hung from walls (how to hang speakers from walls), or often sat on the top of a desk shelf to save space.
- Home: All of your furniture needs can be gotten from your home or someone else's. So use Craigslist.com and pick up that crucial coffee table, futon, or chair. Don't waste your money. Save that for the Keg Fund.
This layout puts the emphasis on providing each roommate with their own personal space
- People often set their rooms up to create their own space. In a small double the best way to do this is to split the room in half. On one side is your bed against the wall, with your dresser next to your private closet. Your desk usually goes on the other side of your bed, preferably near a window. This situation allows an imaginary boundary creating a sense of personal space.
- Dressers, desks and beds can also be used to create private areas. By placing your beds so they jut into the center of the room you replace an imaginary line with solid objects. A common move is to place your dressers down the center of the room. Put them next to each other, but facing in opposite directions to your respective beds. Now each roommate has their own half of the room and can locate their desks wherever they like.
- Other: Shelves, fridges, lamps, and TVs can be used to either reinforce or lessen the separate room feel. A small common cooking, food storage, or TV area goes a long way in softening the divided individuality of a split room.
Now you have the set-up, what to add and subtract to make your room perfect?
It's all about adding storage capacity while not consuming floor space. Shoe racks, hanging organizers, storage bins, adjustable shelves, extra closet rods, and storage carts are often dorm room necessities. All your storage necessities can be purchased at Walmart and Target. We strongly suggest these stores because they are cheap and practical.
- Shoes: Organized shoe racks come in freestanding, cubby or hanger forms. Unorganized shoe storage is
best done with one or two shoe bins. We suggest the following sites:
- Hanging Organizers: hanging storage for shoes, clothes, and numerous other products make use of
closet space that would normally be left empty. We suggest the following sites:
- Adjustable shelves: Double or triple your closet's potential. An easy way to avoid piles of clothes
with little effort. We suggest the following site:
- Storage carts and bins: Often the most overlooked but useful additions to your closet or room. They
can function as spaces for hoodies, shoes, or file cabinets. We suggest the following site:
www.organize.com search storage cart;
Walmart also has an excellent in-store stock of carts and bins.
Bed raisers are a crucial way to add storage space to your dorm room. By raising your bed a further 4-12 inches off the ground you open up an entire space for general storage. Bed raisers are also cheap and can be acquired at any Bed Bath & Beyond, Walmart or Target.
- Once you acquire bed raisers consider purchasing a rolling storage bin or large plastic bin to act as sliding storage underneath your bed.
- Alternatively, your own suitcases will effectively serve the same function and are easier to carry up those three flights of stairs.
A fact of college is that you're going to need snacks, munchies and late night dinners. While I'd like to
tell your mother all you need is fruit, the fact is that well preserved, long-term-storage products are more
practical. This means you need a designated storage facility for your food.
BE CAREFUL: food in the open spoils quickly and is an easy target for roommates or visiting friends to snag.
- Use storage carts, suitcases or bins to store and hide your food in convenient areas. We suggest suitcases but have also found products such as cheap plastic Walmart storage carts effective:
A common feature of dorm life is down time filled with music and movie delights. While bookshelves are sometimes provided, having additional space is often desirable. A bookshelf is an easy purchase that will stay with you throughout college. A bookshelf can also serve as an all-in-one feature for food, books, DVDs, and gear storage. We suggest Walmart and Target for cheap options:
Your drawers WILL become a bastion of chaos if you don't plan effectively. Designed well, they will be your best organizer. Our suggestion: snag stuff from home. When mom is not looking, whisk away the silverware organizers. They make excellent desk tools!
If your dorm room door does not have a mirror or hooks on it then make sure it is utilized for other things. Door organizers are a common sight, especially for CLOSET DOORS. We suggest products such as Walmart's finest door hooks, racks, and organizers:
Jewelry, trinket, sports gear, and laundry storage are all commonly used as well. We strongly suggest having a laundry bin. Try avoiding bins that have metal bars or build-it-yourself models. Laundry bags are great because they can be hung from any hook, they take up zero space when empty, and are easy to carry to the laundry room:
- Decide if your room will be private or a social gathering space
- Use the alignment of your necessary furniture — beds, desks, dressers, to promote the room style that you desire.
- Consider building loft beds
- Add organizers and storage into unused space — under beds, in closets, on doors, by building up.
- Closet Light: Need light in your closet? Here is an easy way that is brighter than those push-button wall lights. Buy a clip-on light and hang from a nail. Place the nail above and inside the closet entrance. Angle the nail upwards at about a 30° angle. Hang the light. Use nails to keep the cord along the wall and out of your way. Pound the nails into the wall halfway, then bend the top half of the nail against the cord and the wall, pinning the cord tight. Prepare for compliments.
- Read some poignant advice from Stanley Goodspeed