Make the Most of Your Small Space in Three Easy Steps

Moving into college, especially for the first time, is exciting. Squeezing all of your belongings into a tiny room you share with someone else is not. Even if you’ve graduated from a dorm, chances are your apartment may not be that big either. If you’re not sure how you could possibly fit everything into such a small space and make it look good, read on for some tips.

Don’t bring too much. There are huge lists of things colleges suggest you bring when moving in, but you may not need everything. If you’re staying in a dorm, don’t waste too much space on kitchenware, because you’ll rarely use it. But if you’re living in a suite or apartment with a full kitchen you might need most of it. Having an iron and ironing board on hand seems useful, but if you’ve never ironed your clothes at home, don’t bother bringing one to college, because you’ll probably be even less likely to use it there. I think I used my iron twice the entire year I lived there.

Talk with your roommates and coordinate who’s bringing the big stuff. If you want coffee pots, hot plates, kuriegs, microwaves or fridges, you’ll only have room for one of each. Keep in mind that you might not even have enough space for all of these and/or most colleges may not allow things like hot plates.

Another thing people (myself included) over pack is clothing and shoes. Especially in triples or quads, you just won’t have the space you want to store everything. Seriously think about how often you’ll wear the clothes you bring, especially if you’re a sweats/yoga pants type of person. Those nice outfits are great for going out, but you probably won’t wear them to your 8 a.m.

Get creative with storage. Since there is so little space, you may need to think of some out-of-the-box ideas. First of all, don’t buy anything until you know what the room looks like. In-person tours are of course the best option, but a virtual tour works in it’s place. Especially if you’re flying, you don’t want to lug things that won’t fit.

Under bed storage is one of the most commonly used storage spots. Many dorm beds can be raised quite high, and if you have bed risers that’s even better. I knew a couple people whose bed were raised four or five feet off the ground, and they used a stool to get into it. That may be undesirable for some, but unless it’s a bunk bed, try to raise the bed enough to fit a bin underneath. I stored my shoes, towels and sweatshirts in bins under my bed and it worked out great.

Most dorms have some kind of closet or wardrobe. Storing vertically increases the amount of things you can put in your wardrobe. There are hangers that store a bunch of clothes, bras, shoes and more down in a line, so one closet spot hangs six shirts instead of one. Put some hooks on the outside for your coats and your robe. Cut a door shoe hanger to the size of your wardrobe door to store shoes, hair products or other small things, like packaged food items. Plastic jewelry and accessory holders are also great for keeping your things organized and easy to find without taking up a lot of space. You should also utilize the space on the floor of the closet or the bottom of the wardrobe. Crates or smaller fabric cubes are great for keeping things like first aid supplies, shoes, kitchen supplies and food if it’s a dorm, laundry supplies and other miscellaneous objects.

Dorms also have a set a drawers. I know folding is no fun, but if you have a lot of clothing, it’s the only way everything is going to fit. For clothing that won’t get wrinkled, such as t-shirts and tanks, rolling them up or folding them small and storing them upright are often space savers.

Drawers make it easy to keep your desk organized. If your desk doesn’t have drawers, you should get something small enough to fit underneath it. Chances are your desk will also be a part-time kitchen table and stylist chair. Small containers could also be useful to keep pencils in drawers and other items on top of the desk.

Don’t ignore the walls! Adhesive strips and hooks may be your best friend, because they are great for more than just posters and decorations. Put up adhesive hooks to hang anything from coats and robes to storage containers. Using something light with a lot of shelves or pockets, such as a hanging shower caddy, can make makeup, beauty products or school supplies easy to reach.

Try these design hacks. There are lots of easy design tricks to make the room look bigger. Many dorms and apartments have white walls, which naturally makes rooms appear more spacious. Keeping a color scheme also creates a sense of unity in the room. Try picking one or two main colors and using different shades and patterns with those colors in them. Stripes are a good choice because they give an appearance of a longer room.

If possible, pull large furniture away from the walls of your apartment to create an illusion of space everywhere, even if it’s only a few inches. You could also try double-duty furniture. Use an ottoman or bench seat with inside storage or a desk that also works as a coffee table. If that doesn’t work for you, there are small fold-up table and chairs that don’t use a lot of space when you’re not using them.

One of your first college freedoms is picking supplies and designing your room (or your side of the room), which is something many college students might not have been able to do before. Even though the shopping, packing and moving can be a stressful experience, remember that it’s also really fun, too.

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