Organize Space

Organize dorm space in Six Easy Steps

The biggest problem in organizing your space is that most students, almost all students, bring with them or buy later at least twice as much stuff as you need and it just doesn’t fit.

1.  The first step to organizing your space is avoiding that problem in the beginning or getting rid of all the stuff you don’t need.

What do you really need? – not what do you want?   

Note: Even though I’ve attended 18 college or universities, they have all been in the US. I have never been in a dormitory at a college in any other country. While the general information here should be helpful, the details will be different. You need to get advice from someone who has attended the college where you plan to go.

The answer to this question depends on several variables.An unusual stained glass lamp with a green ceramic base

The lamp in the picture could work as a fine desk lamp and would also be a very special piece of decor, especially if the color matches the color in your bedspread or comforter or something else in the room. You might explore thrift shops for a lamp or other decor that fits you best.

1. How large is the room you will be living in? — that is – how large is your share of the room?
2. What is the layout of the room?  You probably won’t know until you arrive.
3. What is already in the room?  Usually, each student has a bed (with or without pillow), a dresser for your clothes, (maybe with  mirror), and a desk with a chair. You probably will have a small closet… ask how big it s.
4. What is available on the floor. This is very different in different schools. There is often a lounge area on each floor. It might include a TV (so you don’t need to bring one) a microwave and sink for washing dishes in case you want to cook something, a broom and dust pan you can use to clean your room, maybe an ironing board, and of course, comfortable chairs for socializing with friends.

Here are the questionable items: the things you might want to bring

1. A small refrigerator if allowed. If several people share the room, only one should bring the fridge. You can learn  to share.
2. If you really insist on ironing your clothes, one person might bring an iron to share.
3. If no microwave is available, one person might bring that. Another possibility, if allowed, is an electric kettle to make hot water so you can make coffee, tea, instant soup, ramen noodles, etc. It is smaller and cheaper than a microwave.
4. Some students want a carpet. Check first to see if floor is or isn’t carpeted. You don’t need one, but it doesn’t take up much space.
5. Some students insist on bringing a stereo system or DVD player. They certainly are not necessary.
6. It would be nice if one person brought a computer printer to share. You can each buy your own paper.

With all these things, it is much better if one person owns each item. If you share the cost for the fridge, who gets it next year when you no longer are in the same room?

What things does every student need – to bring with them or buy?

The secret to organizing space is “a place for everything and everything in its place”.

Now, let’s looks at that room.

The biggest problem is finding places to put your things so you can find them quickly. You room just doesn’t have enough places to store things. Where can you put the larger items?. Where can you put all the other things?

2. The second step to organizing your space is to create more space.

A. Bookshelves: I’ve never been in a dorm room with bookshelves, but I’ve always needed them. You can often get a used bookshelf for little money or make your own. Stack bricks and lay boards across the bricks at several levels. You can also use a stack of plastic “milk crates” to create shelves.

A small bookshelf can be placed on top of  the desk or dresser. Some rooms have other places where it will fit. Some people put book shelves at the foot of their bed.  A bookshelf will hold, not only books, but many of your other possessions.

B. Increase the space in your closet. If you have a fairly large closet and few clothes you need to hang, hanging shelves can be purchased. They attach to the clothes rod and provide 6-8 flexible shelves good for storing folded sweaters, shirts, etc. (nothing heavy). Another possibility is a stack of milk crates to provide shelves. Or, if you have only a few long items hanging, like slacks or dresses, put them all on one side. On the side with shirts you have unused space. You can add several milk crates – the college student’s “Lego blocks” for creating space.

For your shoes, if you have a lot of them, a fabric shoe hanger can be placed inside your closet door. The pockets you don’t need for shoes can hold all sorts of other objects.  Another possibility is a metal shoe rack are that fits under your longer clothes or under your bed.

You might get several hooks or series of three or four hooks that are attached to a metal piece that hangs over your closet door. These are good for winter coats, sweaters, raincoast, belts, a bathrobe if you have one and more.

You might also put a towel rack on the closet door. Otherwise, you might need a folding rack for your towels and for drying damp clothes

For additional storage space you might buy plastic bins meant for under-bed storage. Be sure to measure your space first. These are especially nice to put away out of season clothes. In summer they hold sweaters and jackets. In the winter, they hold your warm weather clothes.

3. The third step to organizing your space arranging furniture

Hopefully, you will be working with your roommate or roommates to organize the space.  Visit dorm rooms where upperclassmen live. You might find an arrangement you really like. Try drawing a diagram of the room showing doors, closets, windows and anything else that cannot be moved. In some rooms, it is hard to find any alternatives. In other rooms you might find six to ten different ways of arranging the furniture. Sometimes it is possible to put the beds together to make a bunk bed.

Before you decide to move beds and dressers, measure to be sure they will fit in the new locations. You might need to recruit friends to help move the furniture. It is easier to move the desk and dresser if they are empty. If full, pull out the drawers and put them on your bed first.

4. The fourth step to organizing your space is to use space – in an organized way.

You might draw diagrams of your available spaces and decide what you will put in each location. Things you use most should be easy to reach. Things you use only occasionally can be in hard to reach places.

Clothes are usually the easiest to arrange. Hang clothes in the closet if you really don’t want to fold them. Place easily folded clothes in the closet shelves. Clothes you use less often go in the lower drawers of your dresser.Don’t over stuff drawers making them hard to open. Out of season clothes go under the bed in plastic storage bins. If you have an empty drawer left, you can decide what goes there.

Decide where to put your shower caddy, first aid kit, and sewing kit. Save space on your book shelf or desk for text books. Your computer will probably go on the desk with its case underneath.

Girls, where will you put cosmetics, jewelry, and things like that? It is smart to store them in covered plastic containers on a shelf. They make a mess if you leave them out on top of your dresser. The mug, silverware, other dishes and simple food items would also be best stored in covered plastic containers.

If you have a lot of sports equipment: frisbees, basketball, bat and ball and glove, tennis rackets, golf clubs, etc., you’ll need to find a place to store them out of sight… in back of closet or under the bed when they aren’t being used.

One other helpful item is a small box or basket where you will keep your cellphone, keys, wallet, etc when you enter the room. Then you’ll know where to find them when you leave. It should be easy to reach but not easy for visitors to find. Perhaps a teddy bear or something similar sits on top of it. Perhaps it has a spot in the top drawer of your dresser.

5. The fifth step to organizing your space is Decor.

Your room will look pretty bare without picture or other decor on the walls. On the other hand, if your walls are totally covered with posters and other items, it can be overwhelming. You might get tired just walking into a room like that.

It helps to work with your roommates.  Do you want to choose a color scheme together?  The room will look strange if everything on one side is black and white, while the other side is filled with all the colors of the rainbow. It will look strange if one is covered with posters and the other side is bare. You might decide to each hang 3 – 5 items, none of them too large. I saw a photo of one dorm room where each roommate hung small pictures only in an area above their beds. They had perhaps 10 – 20 small pictures. The pictures were quite different but, by using the same sort of arrangement  the decor looked intentional.

6. Once you Organize Your Space, KEEP IT ORGANIZED

When you get out of bed, make the bed. It doesn’t need to be fancy with square corners, but pull up your sheet and bedspread or comforter.

Never put clothes on the floor. When you take them off they go into the dirty clothes basket or them back in the closet. One exception:  if you plan to wear the same pair of jeans or jacket tomorrow put them on your chair – never on the floor.

Books and notebooks go on the desk if you plan to use them soon. If not, they go on a shelf.

All trash goes directly in a trash can. All dirty dishes get washed and put away. Everything is back in their place.

An if your roommate doesn’t participate – be patient. You keep your stuff organized and chances are good that, slowly your roommate will start to improve. Be sure it’s your roommate improving, not you slipping down to their level.

While you are working on what the new you will be, start “cleaning out a room” for the new you to live in. Get rid of the junk in your life, both physical and mental, that doesn’t fit you anymore.  Take things out of your schedule that are taking your time away from finding out what you want to do. By making room for the new you, you will create a vacuum that the new you will rush in to fill and you will be on your way to the top.                                                 —Edward W. Smith

The next step to organizing your space is     Organize Materials

If you need a list of what clothes and other things to bring with you     Packing List

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