Student packs container in dorm room (photo by iStock)
Ohio Life

How to Make the Most of Your Dorm Room Space

Residence Halls allow you to get creative when setting up your living area. We asked a professional organizer her advice for creating a fun and functional space.

It may not be the most important college decision you make, but it’s certainly among the most fun: How are you going to deck out your dorm room? Professional home organizer Jaclyn Musselman, who is based in northeast Ohio and owns Organize By Dreams, shares her advice for maximizing space and creating a cozy place to call home.

Make sure everything has a purpose: “You’re working with a small space, so you’ll want pieces that get you the most bang for your buck,” Musselman says. “If it’s a decor piece, it has to be functional.” In a space-starved, residence-hall room, a desk and bed will do just fine. If you need another place to sit, go with a beanbag chair. Utility carts offer a compact footprint with multiple shelves on which to store things. They come in a variety of fun colors and have wheels so they can be conveniently moved around. 

Think vertically: “As much as you can, go upwards with your stuff to maximize your space,” says Musselman. That means optimizing the use of wall space or shelving. Buy a door hook to hold your robe, towels, jacket or hats. “Also, utilize under-the-bed storage bins to get things out of the way,” she adds. 

Coordinate items with your roommate: If you have a roommate, be sure to discuss what each of you is bringing before arriving on campus. Musselman urges this to avoid duplications — you may not need two mini fridges, for example — but also to figure out how much space things will take up. “If they’re bringing something big like a trunk, you’d want to know that up front,” she says. Having a discussion with your roommate also offers the opportunity to talk about how to maintain your shared living space and keep it clean. “Establish a routine with your roommate,” Musselman says. “Set up those little habits.” She suggests using a cleaning caddy or a bucket to hold a small selection of all-purpose cleaning products. “It might even help remind you [to clean],” Musselman says. 

Be smart about clothing: If you’re not too far from home, only bring clothing and accessories for one season at a time, Musselman advises. You can swap out items for the next season during breaks or weekend trips home. For additional space savings, ditch the plastic laundry basket in favor of a laundry bag, which takes up less space and can even be hung from an over-the-door hook. It’s also easier to lug to the laundry room.

Realize that your tastes will change: Above all, remember that the way your dorm room is decorated today likely isn’t how you will want it to be decorated in the future. “With dorm decor, try to not necessarily be so specific,” Musselman says, adding not to select anything too trendy or beyond your usual style. “You might want something different next year.” This especially applies to bed covers, throw pillows or towels that you’d like to last multiple years. The bottom line, Musselman says, is to have fun while planning and assembling your space. “Enjoy the process,” she says.

This story ran in the Summer-Fall 2023 issue of College 101.