Organize Your Dorm Room
Jim Baskin - South Yarmouth, MA

Hardwarian Jim Baskin

True Value Hardware

South Yarmouth, MA

Organize Your Dorm Room

Level: Beginner

It can get cramped in a college dorm room. So it helps to think ahead and plan how you'll store and organize all the stuff you're taking to college. And don't forget about your roommate (or two) with loads of their own belongings to consider.

The right set-up can mean the difference between scholarly success and collegiate chaos, so a little creativity and some organizational know-how can help make your dorm room a functional, fun space.

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    You and your roommate will need to use every inch of available space as efficiently as possible to avoid clutter and discomfort. Remember, you'll be living and working in a space the size of a large bedroom so there's not much room for error.

    • Step 1: Plan Ahead

      Before you move in, contact your school to find out what kind of furnishings will already be in your room. You'll probably have a bed, a desk, a dresser and a closet. Also find out what you can and can't bring. Many schools have rules against bringing your own furniture and items like small kitchen appliances. Schools usually supply this kind of information in a new student guide or similar document

      Helpful Tip

      If you are a freshman or new to dorm life, ask an upperclassman what they recommend. Somebody who has already been through what you're about to experience can be a great source of helpful advice. They can tell you what works and what doesn't.

    • Step 2: Practice Minimalism

      It may seem obvious, but when you're packing, remember this: Less is best. Bring only what's necessary to get through the semester or quarter. When it comes to clothes, only bring what you'll wear that particular season. This will save a lot of space in your closet. If need be, you can always grab more clothes when you visit home and switch out the last season's attire at the end of the semester.

    • Step 3: Build a Loft
      circular saw

      You can create a lot of extra floor and storage space by bunking your beds. It also creates under-bed space for storage boxes and other items. Many dormitories provide beds that can be used as bunks or singles.

      You can also try "lofting" your beds by building a frame that holds your bed up several feet (similar to a bunk bed without the bottom bunk). This creates space underneath for shelves, a desk, stereo equipment, a television or a small couch or lounge chair. It is a popular method of creating extra room at schools nationwide — just make sure it is allowed at your school before you start making one.

      To build a loft, you will need to sharpen up your carpentry skills — or your father's. Start by building a box for the mattress to sit on. The mattress will most likely be a twin-size, usually around 38" x 76". Build the box with about 2" extra for both the length and width to ensure the mattress fits. Using a circular saw, cut three 2" x 6" x 8' boards to those measurements, put the box together and fasten the side and end pieces with a power drill and one 3" wood screw per corner. Next, cut a sheet of heavy plywood to fit the box and attach it with 15/8" screws at 2-ft. intervals. This is where your mattress will rest once the frame is complete.

      When measuring your cuts for the four posts that will make the legs of the bed, be sure the bed will be high enough for your needs but leave about 3' of space between the top of the bed and the ceiling. With an electric drill, drill through the posts where they will attach to the box and then fasten them using lag bolts. You can use six 2" x 4" boards to create braces that span between posts on each end of the bed — that's three braces per end. These braces can also double as a ladder to help you climb up on the loft.

      Safety Alert!

      Wear safety goggles and follow all other appropriate safety measures when using power tools.

    • Step 4: Stash Your Stuff

      Now that you've made some extra room, it's time to start organizing your dorm. There are a number of storage options out there, so use what works best for your room's set-up.

      Even if you can't loft your bed, you can still make the most of the space under your bed. Get flat plastic storage bins with or without wheels — be sure you measure how much space you have under the bed first. Because these are stackable and easy to move, under-bed storage bins allow easy access to stored goods. Use each one for different items and label them appropriately. Storing your shoes under your bed will free up a lot of space in your closet and cut down on clutter around the room.

      Moveable storage units with clear bins are great for using underneath a loft bed or in a closet. These keep things organized and easily accessible. The see-through drawers help you find what you need quickly and since they are mobile, they're easy to pull out and find what you're looking for. Stackable, clear plastic bins are an excellent choice as well.

      Helpful Tip

      Purchase durable storage bins that will last through your college experience and beyond graduation. Good storage is good storage, period.

      A compact bedside table or nightstand with drawers is good for storage and flat space for a reading lamp and alarm clock. Consider using a footlocker or trunk with a flat lid for moving your things around campus and storing them when you get there. The level surface of the lid can double as a coffee table.

      Helpful Tip

      For your toiletries, get a mesh caddy for transporting them back and forth from the bathroom. It will keep your things organized and the open design let's water drip out.

    • Step 5: Create a "Kitchen"

      From bedroom to living room to study, you can organize your dorm room as a multi-functional space. But don't forget to make it a "kitchen" too. Try to keep a corner of the room open for a small refrigerator and microwave oven. You never know when you'll feel like having a warm bite to eat or a refreshing beverage during those marathon study sessions.

      Nice work. The more organized you are, the easier it will be to enjoy dorm life.

  • Here’s what you’ll need to complete this project successfully.

    Before you begin, use the shopping list below to uncheck the tools you already have to complete this project.

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