Tips for Dorm Living

Tips for Dorm Living

Photo by Flickr user Hannah Rosen.

Living on campus may be fun, but having to fit all of your things into a confined space – and sharing that space with someone else – can prove to be challenging. Keep these suggestions in mind when packing up and moving in:

Buy The Right Bedding

Dorms may vary in what size mattresses they have. Some have only twin mattresses, while others have twin XL mattresses to accommodate for taller students. Contact your residential adviser or the head of housing ahead of time so you pack the correct size bedding. If you don’t currently own the size you’ll need, you should go out and purchase the necessary bedding before you move. Or you could kindly ask a relative to buy it for you as a going-away present.

Invest in Small Appliances

Your dorm may have a fully-equipped kitchen that you can use. However, if you would rather store cold food and heat up quick meals in your own dorm room, it’s good to bring your own mini fridge and microwave.

Also known as compact refrigerators at most appliance stores, mini fridges are great for storing soda, quarts of milk, leftovers, and snacks that need to be kept cold.

Microwaves come in handy when you want to fix a bowl of Ramen, bake a mug cake, make some popcorn to munch while you study, or heat up some water for hot chocolate. You can also use them to reheat pizza, but as we all know, most college kids eat it cold anyway.

These aren’t necessities, but they are a worthwhile use of space in your room and will make life a lot easier. Make sure to get in touch with your roommate before you move in, though, so you don’t double up on appliances. If you can, it makes more sense to share.

Optimize Your Storage

Arranging your room so you make the most of the space you’re given is tricky but doable. First, determine what storage space the room you’re moving into already has because it varies from dorm to dorm. Does it have an enclosed closet, or simply a metal bar for hanging clothes? Do the desks have drawers or shelves or are they just a work surface? Is there any type of shelving included in the room?

Work with the storage units you’re given, but don’t be afraid to bring your own. If it would be the best option, you can bring a bookcase kit and assemble it once you arrive. Some people choose to pack storage towers if they have a lot of movies or video games.

However, there are always alternatives to these options. Instead of putting together a bookcase, you can stack up crates. I used these in my own dorm room to hold textbooks, leggings, and scarves. You can also lay them flat and slide them under your bed so they won’t take up any living space.

Many of my friends invested in plastic totes for their storage. They are very versatile, holding anything from food items and seasonal clothes to movie collections and crafting supplies. These can also be stored under the bed, depending on the size of the tote and how high the bed is elevated.

No matter your amount of closet space, a hanging closet organizer and nesting clothes hangers are both great choices. Closet organizers are a good choice if you have a lot of clothes that don’t need to be hung up, such as t-shirts; folding them instead will free up a lot of space. Nesting clothes hangers allow you to layer hangers while taking up only one hanger’s worth of space. These work best with clothing items like thin blouses, jackets, dress slacks, or skirts.

Pack Wisely

You don’t need to box up your entire wardrobe or all the books in your personal library and bring them with you. Even if you follow all of our tips listed above, you are still working with limited space, and it’s important to remember that. Make a list of all the things you know you’ll need and pack those first. This includes essential clothes, bedding, textbooks, school materials, hygiene products, and any other necessities.

After those are gathered, then you can use your best judgment when packing fun things. Prioritize them based on how much you predict you’ll use them. If you plan on spending your free time watching movies or gaming, then, by all means, bring a storage tower along to help keep them organized. If having a comfortable chair to relax in feels like a necessity to you, you may need to make sacrifices in order to make room for it.

Ultimately, it’s all about what is important to you personally. Be mindful of your own habits: your routines when getting ready in the morning and before going to sleep at night, how you choose to spend your free time, what clothes you find yourself wearing most often, and more. Then pack accordingly.

If you end up forgetting something significant, don’t worry. You can talk your parents into mailing it to you if it’s small enough, pick it up when you go home for a break, or swing by over the weekend if your house is fairly close to the campus.


If you lived in the dorms when you were at school, how did you arrange your living space? Do you have any home storage tips that could also apply in a dorm room setting? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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