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Maximizing Small Living Spaces in College

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UNH chapter.

Envision your first time heading off to college, excited and eager for a fresh start and a newfound independence. This enthusiasm must be contained, however, within what feels like a small 10-by-10 closet of a dorm room where you will reside for the next two semesters. Navigating these spaces to make them feel cozy and comforting while also making the most out of your storage areas with small square footage can sometimes be a challenge. If you are sharing with a roommate, this may further decrease the already limited space that you have. This time of the year, students may be figuring out their housing plans or options for the upcoming semester as well as making purchases to fill this new place to call home. Although it may be daunting, a little creativity can go a long way when it comes to maximizing small living spaces. Keep reading for some helpful tips and tricks!

  1. Take Advantage of your vertical space

One handy dorm room organization hack is utilizing vertical storage! Since you’re living in a small space, it is helpful to utilize over-the-door shoe racks, over-the-door towel racks, or hanging baskets that are perfect for storing everything from bulky sweatshirts and sweatpants to accessories and extra supplies. I found very affordable options from Target that have lasted me the last three years and have truly transformed how I store my clothes and have allowed me to pack those extra pieces that I didn’t think I would have the room for!

  1. Designate one area for appliances or kitchen items

Do you have a mini fridge, microwave, and coffeemaker in your dorm room? Set up a kitchen station using a rolling utility cart or adjustable cube storage where you can keep appliances and other kitchen items together. My favorite spot in my freshman dorm was my Ikea cube shelves, or my “coffee corner”, by the window set up with my mini Keurig, an easy-to-clean tray, the cutest mugs, sweeteners, and an endless supply of K-cups and tea bags. Don’t forget to add storage baskets so you can keep snacks, coffee, and utensils organized!

  1. Use a storage ottoman

Focusing on multi-purpose furniture makes a huge impact on maximizing space and decluttering. When picking out furniture for your dorm, look for pieces that do double duty. For example, I picked out a mustard yellow ottoman from HomeGoods that has been great for extra sitting space when friends come over, climbing onto a raised bed, and holding other personal items. When not in use, an ottoman is easy to slide under the desk or bed. To save even more, you could even top the ottoman with a similarly sized tray to use as a bedside table, or maybe a decorative pillow for a fun reading spot. 

  1. Create under the bed storage

An excellent dorm storage hack is to utilize hidden storage space under your bed. Many dorm room beds can be lifted, or you can use bed risers, to make space for storage bins, drawers, or boxes. You can also try to move a dresser underneath your bed to make even more room! If you’re worried about the space under your bed looking cluttered, you could add a bed skirt or even buy an extra blanket or quilt to hide your storage. I have inexpensive plastic drawers under my bed that I found at Ocean State Job Lot that fits all of my extra toiletries, hair and skin products, makeup, and so much more!

  1. Rolling carts

Bulky end tables and nightstands can take up precious space in a small dorm room. A rolling cart is a smart bedside option for dorm rooms of all sizes, and the wheels make it easy to reinvent your space if you want a change. The shelves on the cart can hold a small fan, books, and an alarm clock while also providing room beneath for additional storage. A cart is great for organizing everyday items and you can stow it in the corner, move it around to get ready in front of the mirror, and then push it back when you’re finished. Another fun way to use a rolling cart for 21-year-olds is a DIY bar cart filled with ingredients for your favorite alcoholic beverages, fun glasses, and maybe even some art and decorate pieces to make it unique!

  1. Command Hooks

Most universities prohibit students from making any holes in the walls, and often they will fine anyone who does hammer a few nails in. It’s best to play it safe with Command’s adhesive hooks to hang any decorative pieces or personal belongings. Strong, durable, and easy to install, command hooks are incredibly versatile! My freshman year roommate and I used one to hold our keys by the door, hand towels, and to hang some hanging photo galleries. I even added a large one on the outside of my standing wardrobe to hold my backpack full of notepads and textbooks.

UNH nursing student, beach bum, book worm, and health & wellness lover from Cape Cod, MA!