Organizing Tip: Packing & Organizing a Dorm Room

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Whether you are within a day’s drive or must fly several thousand miles to campus, here’s a few tips for packing and organizing a dorm room.


Packing a dorm room.

  • Draft a list of items based on dorm room “zones” (see image at top) and revise your list as necessary.
  • Think functional and frequent use. There’s no sense packing an item that will only be used once a semester, or worse, once a year.
  • Pack boxes on the medium weight side. Trust me, you don’t want to have a box fall apart in transit or have a packed, sealed box that you can’t even lift.
  • Items that won’t dismantle/fit into boxes should be wrapped securely in blankets or in packing sheets to prevent damage.

Pack now = pack later.

Remember that whatever you pack now, you’ll repack and unpack over the course of several semesters. You might end up weeding out items over time, but why go through the hassle of carrying something from your home to the car/shipping service, up/down flights of stairs and down a corridor to realize that you really don’t need it?

Organize on campus.

It’s much easier to unpack and start figuring out ways to store/organize items in a fixed space (i.e. your actual room) versus an unknown boundless area (i.e. what you think your room will be like).


Store underneath and above.

Maximize space in a dorm room by storing underneath and vertically.

  • Use large plastic containers or use large boxes for general storage underneath your bed or in your closet. Stack containers about three feet high near your bed, through a colorful blanket or shawl on top and voilà, you’ve got a nightstand.
  • Use hanging door organizers for shoes, belts and other accessories on the back of your main door or closet doors. Hang patterned or screened shirts on hangers on existing railings on the wall, or tie string to the sides and across the tops of mirrors to drape jewelry and accessories for functionality and decoration.
  • Think uniform layers for closet storage. Save space horizontally by using one style of hangers and build storage layers from the ground up with stacking containers. Short hanging rod? Only hang items that easily wrinkle or are longer in length than a standard shirt.
  • Use stacking storage containers, boxes and baskets on top of dressers to hold toiletries and accessories. Fold or roll clothing in dresser drawers to save space.

Carry in, carry out.

Storage items should be as portable and free-standing as possible for easy installation and removal (as well as reasonably sturdy). Be wary of storage units that screw or must be drilled into the wall—you don’t want to wreck the room and then be fined for room damage at the end of the semester or year.

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Rashelle Isip is a New York City-based professional organizer and productivity consultant who helps people get organized so they can stress less, have more fun, and be happier at home. Her work has been featured in Good Housekeeping, Fast Company, Cosmopolitan, The Washington Post, Business Insider, and The Atlantic. Get access to her free guide, 10 Simple Ways to Make Your To-Do Lists More Effective, by clicking here.
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