Unless you were raised in a jail cell, your dorm room is going to seem way too small for storing all your stuff, and yourself, without frequent fits of claustrophobia. Upon moving in, you’ll inevitably find that your closet is too small and that you have to make hard decisions about what will actually fit in your room this semester (big-screen TV or roommate? Touch choice.).
Here are the top five mistakes to avoid when stuffing your stuff into a small space:
1. Leaving furniture as is. By far, the biggest mistake you can make on move-in day is to leave the furniture where it is. You are totally allowed, with your roommate’s blessings, of course, to move it! Don’t be shy about trying out a few different arrangements. Often, there is a better way to position your furniture to at least give the illusion of more space and even privacy. Typically, pushing your bed and desk against the walls leaves an open area in the center of the room. Pushing bureaus back-to-back can create private nooks for dressing or sleeping (so you never have to wake up to eye contact with your creepy roommate).
2. Not using vertical space. The sky (OK, ceiling) is the limit when organizing your room. Even if your desk doesn’t come with shelves, you can pick up cost-effective shelving units at places like Kmart and Target. Be sure the shelves are durable enough to support the considerable weight of textbooks or whatever else you plan to keep on them, like clothes or shoes. If you have room, a full-out bookcase is great for storing groceries, cooking supplies and other dorm miscellanea. Or opt for wall shelves, which free floor space, but might not be as sturdy.
Hint: Buildable cube shelving gives you sturdy flexibility and can be recycled for whatever space you find yourself living in next year. And you can shove a single cube at the bottom of your closet or on your desk for additional organization.
3. Overlooking under-the-bed space. Don’t underestimate the amount of stuff you can store simply by cramming it under your bed. Baskets, plastic drawers and crates may help with organizing, but your best investment by far is a set of bed risers (a.k.a. sturdy stilts for your bed posts). These raise the bed so you can cram even more necessities under there.
4. Keeping a messy closet. Accept that you will not have sufficient closet space, especially if you go to school in a climate where bulky layers are necessary. With this in mind, mess management is a must. First off, get a shoe rack. There is nothing more frustrating than being late for class because you spent five precious minutes hopping around your room in an epic search of your missing shoe. Your best bet for a shoe rack is one that hangs over the closet door. Stuff it with shoes and other random stuff like hats, gloves and toiletries. With shoes and accessories off the floor, you may be able to fit an extra bar for hanging or a small shelving unit for folded stuff. (By the way, don’t forget to bring or pack your clothes on clothes hangers. Your room won’t come with them.)
5. Bringing big stuff. Be flexible about bringing larger items like couches, bikes and kayaks. These are nice amenities, but may find a better home in your parents’ garage. If you’re able, and your roommate is willing to do bunk beds, some larger furniture may fit. Some schools let you loft your bed above your desk, an ingenius way to conserve space. If you’re looking into a loft, however, find out how high and sturdy it is before buying so you know it will fit and won’t fall. As for your bike, keep it locked outside on a bike rack. We’ve seen kayaks stored that way as well. Really.
By Maria Moy for The Real College Guide