Dorm Room Storage and Decorating Ideas

Laura McHolm
Written by Laura McHolm
Updated August 10, 2016
college dorm room
Your college dorm room is a blank slate to decorate as you and your roommate so choose. (Photo courtesy of Anthony Crider)

Use these essential organization tips to live big, no matter what size your dorm room.

Have you heard of the tiny house craze? The trend is to live big in a small space. This means enjoying life with fewer things. On college campuses, living in a tiny space isn’t a revolutionary idea, but new organization tricks from the micro-living movement can help you make the most of your dorm room.

Traditional dorm living is often bland, overcrowded, messy and cramped. That's a stereotype we can simply throw out now! Here are some bright ideas on how to live large in your dorm room.

Elevate your dorm’s storage space

If you have watched any of the tiny house TV shows, you know the residents find storage opportunities in every corner to make the most of the space. The same goes for a dorm room. Purchase bed risers to add under-the-bed storage space. A lofted bed will create more space for your shoe collection, storage containers, study desk and more.

Functional dorm furniture and accessories

Most dorm rooms come with the basics, such as a desk and dresser. Enhance the space by adding functional accessories, such as over-the-door organizers, and furniture, such as a funky ottoman, bench or couch with storage inside. These stylish accents will keep your dorm room feeling open and relaxed, all without cramping your space or style.

Strategic dorm room décor

With the right décor, you can make a space feel bigger. Here are strategies to open up your dorm room while showing off your individual style:

• Walls: Wall decals are the latest rage in home décor for both traditional and tiny homes. They are beautiful and won't violate any dorm rules about hammering nails into walls. Shop online or in-store for removable wall decals that speak to you. Another way to add cheer is by draping lights and calming fabric on the walls, softening concrete walls.

• Mirrors: Hang interesting mirrors around the room. The views and reflected light from the mirrors will make the room feel bigger. Select big and small mirrors with interesting frames to add dimension to the room.

• Color: Brighten a dark dorm room with bright colors, but be sure to stick with one color scheme. Too many colors can close in the space. Check in with your new roomie(s) to see what they are planning so you can coordinate. For example, if you both love blue, make sure you choose complementary hues or patterns.

• One “pop” item: Choose one item that will wow guests and make you feel at home. Try a chandelier, faux fur rug or throw, elaborate throw pillows, etc. That over-the-top piece will make your room pop!

college dorm room
Vertical shelving adds a lot of storage space in a dorm room. (Photo courtesy of Steve Bozak)

Become a pro organizer

While you’re probably not majoring in the art of organization, living in a dorm is practically an intro-level course on the subject. An organized dorm room is a bigger dorm room. Here are some pro tips:

• Clothing: Lay folded clothes — T-shirts, sweaters, etc. — inside your drawers vertically on their side (not stacked on top of each other). You can purchase wooden or plastic planks to use as dividers. This way, you can fit more of your clothes and see them all at once when you open the drawer. Organize your closet and drawers by color, light to dark, so you can easily grab what you need.

• Laundry: Keep your laundry basket on the floor of your closet if there’s room. This will leave more free space in your dorm room.

• Books: Arrange your textbooks by size and stand them up on a shelf. That way, they will take up less room on your desk.

• Storage containers: Clear storage boxes can be a lifesaver in a small space, and they come in cool colored tints. Use these boxes for school supplies, files, seasonal clothes, phone chargers, electronics, etc. The more stuff you have stashed away, the bigger your space will feel.

• The big stuff: If you have skis, a snowboard, surfboard or other big item, look into getting a storage unit close to the campus. Split the cost with your roomie!

Turn dorm room decorating ideas into reality

Once you’ve moved in, sit back and enjoy your huge dorm room — a big space with big character. Before you hit the books, complete one more step: Take photos on your phone of how it all turned out. Refer to the images whenever you slip up on the organization to clean it up quickly.

While you’re at it, why not brag a bit? Post the photos to show your friends that dorm life can be luxurious.

How are you planning to decorate your dorm room this academic year? Share your ideas in the comments section below!

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