Organizing tips for dorm rooms, other small spaces


Posted on August 8, 2012 at 10:49 AM

Updated Wednesday, Aug 8 at 11:01 AM

To contact Jennifer Barber with Cut the Chaos, call 502.500.8980, email, or go to

Jennifer's tips for dorm/campus life:


Sharing space – a small space – that is something not everyone is used to and you want to get good at fast.

A small space seems bigger when everyone is getting along – and much, much smaller when you are not.  Talk to your roommate when you first get together over a meal and find out:

                Night owl/ Early bird

                Light sleeper/ like a log

                Very social/ likes quiet

                Can study anywhere/ needs quite

                What might work to share? Laundry detergent, shampoo, consumables, computer printer, microwave, coffeemaker, etc.

                Can we color coordinate to make the space look bigger?


Set some goals so that you have your priorities clearly defined for yourself:

-          Learn

-          Gain experience for life

-          Routine: studying, exercising, work, social, spiritual

Only bring what is essential for those goals and don’t feel like you have to bring everything on move-in day. 

Simplify and pair down – spent a year abroad in college with nothing more than a large suitcase – it really can be done.

Don’t bring your best stuff – don’t want to have to worry about things being stolen, ruined or borrowed

Don’t over commit – you’ll be excited about all the great opportunities to try new things – keep your priorities and only say yes if it’s in line with those

Keep your schedule as similar as possible to what has worked for you in high school – calendar when you are going to study, wake up, exercise, go to church, do extracurricular activities.  If it doesn’t fit on your calendar, it won’t get done.



Space Savers:

                Technology: use your phone as your alarm clock, put your calendar, reminders, to do lists on your laptop.  Sometimes you have to invest to save space – putting all your music on an iPod, buying small speakers or a speaker bar, laptop, flat screen monitor, iPad/kindle.  Also keep contact information on your computer for hours of operation and contact information for labs, library, campus security, etc. to keep it neat and organized.

Use functional things to decorate (area rug, bedspread) – avoid things that are only for decoration.

Oversized ziplock bags and storage cubes/ Space bags

                Toiletry caddie

                Bulletin and magnetic boards

                Boxes that turn into book shelves

                Square/Rectangular nesting bins

                Microfiber towel

Under the bed (use bed stands to raise the bed frame)

                Collapsible laundry basket

                Walls – decorate the walls not any surfaces, use for hooks and hangers

                Magnetic strip

                Use thin hangers and skirt and pant hangers that hold multiple items

High closet shelves – for items you don’t need everyday like laundry detergent, extra sweater

Magazine file/Brown folder holder

Notebook with page protectors

Buy your books used and sell them back at the end of the semester – buying them used you won’t feel as if you invested as much and have to keep them


Important documents like driver’s license, Social Security card and health insurance card and medical information.

                First aid kit with band aids and thermometer

Shower shoes

                Computer back up plan – thumb drive, cloud, email home to Mom & Dad

                Small safe box for wallet and personal belongs


                Power strip/extension cord


                Reading light & battery light


                Mini-tool kit

                Water bottle and water filter

                Zip lock bags of various sizes

                Cleaning supplies

                Reusable bag

                Compact umbrella

Chip clips, cups, dish soap and rag, paper towels



                Less is more (except for underwear)

                Think Vogue – everything mixes and matches and you need less

                Only have this season’s with you – you’ll be home to get what you need for next semester.


Spend the next few days thinking about all the things you don’t normally give much thought to – what toiletry supplies are important to you. Medicine you might need.  Emergency contact information.