Every year, the migration of college students and parents to dorms requires a massive packing and unpacking effort, as students attempt to wedge their possessions into tiny spaces. The average dorm measures just 12×19, or 228 square feet.
That space, about the size of a hotel room, becomes even tinier if you’ve got a roommate.
So what do you do with all the extra stuff? We asked experts for advice to help you pare down, organize your dorm or apartment, and store the leftovers. Here are three general approaches to embrace:
1. Pare Down.
If you’ve got a few weeks before move-in, spend some time evaluating your possessions at home, and then cast off anything you don’t need. Make a goal to get rid of at least one-third of your stuff.
Paring down is really helpful in the long run, since you likely have several moves ahead of you in the near future. Meanwhile, your parents will thank you for not cluttering their house with the stuff you’ve left behind.
2. Organize Your Space.
It’s probably a good idea to hold off on buying too many items for storage and organization until you’ve arrived on campus and assessed your new space, whether it’s a dorm room or an apartment. If you can, give yourself a few weeks to establish your routine.
Place your items around the room in spots where they make sense. Once you’re into the groove of classes, work, homework, fitness, chores and so forth, you can start to organize areas of your room or apartment based on your routine.
Since college living space is notoriously tight, organizers suggest making the most of every bit of space.
“Use wall space — put up racks and hooks and buy some over-the-door storage racks, said Carlos Diaz, vice president and general manager of Value Store It
in Florida. “These give you quick spots to store every day essentials, from baseball caps to purses to towels.”
Visit your local IKEA store, which has sections devoted to organizing small spaces. This can help you brainstorm the best ways to make use of your own space.
Use the ceiling. “Some colleges frown on hanging objects near overhead sprinklers, but if you are fortunate—or unfortunate?—enough to live in a post-apocalyptic concrete bunker, like most freshman dorms, then get some sturdy adhesive hangers and get horizontal,” said entrepreneur Cam MacKugler
, who graduated from Middlebury College in 2009.
Under-the-bed storage space is golden. “Use bed lifters to give you a few more inches of space, and you can slide six to eight 10-inch tall plastic storage bins under your bed,” Diaz said.
3. Store the Leftovers.
You probably will have a few items that just don’t fit in your living space, but you still want to hang onto them.
What to do? Assuming your parents don’t want to hang onto them …
“Rent a small storage space near campus for sports equipment and seasonal clothes,” Diaz said. “No use cramping your style for sweaters you won’t pull on until your next ski trip.” Small self-storage units rent for as little as $20 to $50 a month, and you always can split the cost with your roommates.
MacKugler suggested this unique storage idea: Stashing your stuff in your car. In addition to your (hopefully clean) clothes, you can store textbooks, musical instruments and sports equipment there—“all without having to sacrifice your 100 square feet of sacred space,” he said.