7 tips to save space in a student dorm room

Girl sitting on floor surrounded by boxes
Girl sitting on floor surrounded by boxes (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Summer will be over before you know it, and once students have bought the essentials in the back to school sales, they will be gearing up to move into their college dorm rooms. It’s not uncommon for most students leaving home to pack more things than needed. And if you’re lacking in space, it’s useful to know how to save space in a student dorm room. This is especially the case if sharing with roommates, and you want to avoid a cramped and cluttered living space. 

The good news is, you can fit everything you need in even the tiniest dorm room or apartment. All it takes is a much needed decluttering and some savvy storage ideas. So if you want to maximize dorm room space, here’s how to save space in a student dorm room and make it feel more like home. 

If you're in the process of kitting out your space, our guide to 5 dorm room appliances that you will and won't need will help you prioritize, and be sure to consult our ranking of the best mattresses for college students if you need to sort your own bed setup.

1. Savvy storage organizers

Organized items in bedroom

Organized items in bedroom (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Most dorm rooms have limited space to store everything neatly, so it’s best to invest in suitable storage. Modular storage, bedside caddies or space-saving bins are a great way to organize and put things in their rightful place. If you have a small room, vertical bookshelves or units can be effective as they won’t take up much floor space. 

In addition, you can install "floating: shelves like these OlarHike Floating Shelves ($19, Amazon). Consider also making use of baskets and boxes, such as these Extra Large Storage Boxes with Lids ($79, Amazon), to store loose or smaller items.  

2. Under the bed storage 

Under the bed storage bag

Under the bed storage bag (Image credit: Amazon)

Out of sight is the best way to store items that can clutter up your dorm room. Invest in storage that can be tucked away under the bed, like this Lifewit Under Bed Storage Bag Organizer ($15, Amazon), to store excess clothes and protect them from dust. 

If you have a footwear collection, investing in under the bed shoe storage bags, such as this Extra-Large Under Bed Shoe Storage Organizer ($13, Amazon), can save you lots of space. 

3. Multi-functional furniture 

Ottoman in bedroom

Ottoman in bedroom (Image credit: Amazon)

Utilize multi-functional furniture such as ottomans or blanket boxes that can also double up as seating. These can also be moved around, and are often foldable for easy transportation.  We recommend this Youdesure Folding Storage Ottoman Bench ($39, Amazon), which will also make a stylish seating area for any dorm room. 

4. Clothing rails 

Clothes rolling rack

Clothes rolling rack (Image credit: Shutterstock)

If you have an overstuffed wardrobe, consider a clothes rail/rack on wheels to organize your garments better. These come in either single or double styles, and the rods can be adjusted or extended to suit your dorm space. Clothing rails like this YOUDENOVA Rolling Clothes Rack on Wheels ($42, Amazon) can be placed anywhere in the room, and taken apart when needed.  

5. Folding tables and chairs 

Folding chairs and table

Folding chairs and table (Image credit: Shutterstock)

If you’re tight for space when dining or entertaining, invest in some practical, foldable furniture. Foldable chairs or tables are easy to fold and store away after use, while also being simple to keep clean and proving generally durable. Invest in a set like this Flash Furniture 5 Piece Black Folding Card Table and Chair Set ($104, Amazon) to save valuable space.  

6. Desk organizers  

Desk organizer on desk

Desk organizer on desk (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Declutter your workspace by investing in desk organizers to store loose paperwork, notepads and stationary. In addition, get into the habit of labelling things. It may seem time-consuming, but this will neaten up your surroundings and save you precious time in the long-run as you'll be able to find everything quickly. 

Desk caddies like this Acrylic Office Desk Organizer with Drawer ($29, Amazon) will spruce up any dorm room desk.  

7. Over the door storage

Door rack

Door rack (Image credit: Amazon)

For those who want to look their best on the first day of class or even on a first date, a full-length mirror is needed. And if you lack floor space, an over the door option is the ideal solution. These are safe to install onto any size of door and can instantly reflect light to make a small room look bigger. Similarly, you can use over the door hooks like these Lynk® Over Door Hook Rack ($16, Amazon) to hang up jackets, hats or other light items of clothing and free up space.

And there you have it. Give these clever tips and tricks a try to see if they can transform your cramped dorm into a charming space in just minutes.

Tips before moving into your dorm room

Boy carrying box upstairs

Boy carrying box upstairs (Image credit: Shutterstock)
  • If possible, obtain a list of what you need from the college and pack accordingly
  • Ensure you read the college’s Housing and Residence Life guidelines
  • Don't move to college alone. Always have at least one family member or friend to help with the move
  • Don't overfill your car/transport by taking everything at once. Only take what you need and keep the rest of your belongings in storage units
  • Utilize laundry baskets, bins and vacuum bags to transport things and use for storage

Be sure to follow our back to school guide for all of your shopping needs this season. If your dorm lacks natural light, you'll need to read how to brighten a dark room, and if your new room is a little dirty then learn how to clean painted walls to remove stains and have it spruced up in no time. 

Cynthia Lawrence
Content Editor, Homes

As the Homes Content Editor, Cynthia Lawrence covers all things homes, interior decorating, and garden-related. She has a wealth of editorial experience testing the latest, ‘must-have’ home appliances, writing buying guides and the handy ‘how to’ features. 

Her work has been published in various titles including, T3, Top Ten Reviews, Ideal Home, Real Homes, Livingetc. and House Beautiful, amongst many.

With a rather unhealthy obsession for all things homes and interiors, she also has an interior design blog for style inspiration and savvy storage solutions (get rid of that clutter!). When she’s not testing cool products, she’ll be searching online for more decor ideas to spruce up her family home or looking for a great bargain!