10 Tips for Setting Up an Organized Dorm

10 Tips for Setting Up an Organized Dorm | Rourke Planners

The day before I left for my first semester of college, my laptop gave me the blue screen of death (that my code-knowing dad was able to fix, thankfully). On the drive up, we listened to the radio talk about Ted Kennedy and how he just died (that was 1.5 hours of sad talk radio). Inauspicious start to a wonderful 4 years. And I still love seeing students moving in for the school year, especially freshmen with all their stuff in those giant plastic wheely bins...

So first semester has started for most people, and if it's your first year you've gotten everything on that Bed, Bath, and Beyond list and you have the bed in the bag and everything like that (no judging, I did that too). But you don't actually need everything those 'college dorm lists' - those are usually made by businesses that WANT you to buy things for college at their business, and you want to look as happy as the students in the ads. So no, you don't need a fabric shower caddy, you don't need cheap plastic plates you'll toss or donate post-dorm, you don't need the twin XL bed in a bag, a backrest pillow, Keurig Pods (like seriously, do you know how much waste they create?), a jewelry safe (... what?), etc. As hard as it is, a lot of things you won't know if you need it or not until you move in. Why am I saying all this? Because....

Tip #1 - Only have what you need.
Dorms are small. College apartments are small. And you're frequently sharing that small space with another person. So only have what you need. That way you don't have to spend even more money to get storage for the stuff you already don't need. If you can, only buy the things you will absolutely need, then go to the store after you've moved in for the rest.

Tip #2 - Have a specific place for your keys.
I always had a 3M hook right by the door. If you don't have a designated spot you always put your keys you will lose them - in college you're constantly changing bags (backpack, messenger bag, purse, no bag). They will get lost otherwise.

Tip #3 - Utilize doors.
Use over-the-door hooks and shoe organizers (I used one for my PJs). Doors are valuable real estate you don't want to overlook.

Over the Door Hooks | Over the Door Shoe Organizer | Over the Door Shelves

Tip #4 - Buy light & sturdy multi-functional furniture pieces.
Most pieces can also include (storage coffee table, storage TV stand). I say 'light' and 'sturdy' because you're going to be moving a lot and you want your pieces to last at least those 4 years, and if you get multi-functional pieces you can always find uses for them. When you're buying or moving in furniture don't get caught up in what a piece 'should' be used for. I've used a radiator cover+windowsill and a picture ledge as bedside tables, a dresser and a bookshelf as TV stands, and a children's-size vanity as a desk. Think function first, then form.

Storage Table | Shelving Unit | Cabinet

Tip #5 - Fuzzy hangers.
Buy them. They're slim, clothes never fall off, and shirts don't get bumps at the shoulders.


Tip #6 - Only get small dishes.
You have to wash them in the bathroom sink so it's not worth the struggle with big plates. 

Plate | Bowl | Cups

Tip #7 - Get a vacuum.
A small cheap vacuum is totally worth it. You can use it for all 4 years. 


Tip #8 - No disposable stuff.
Why store things you're going to throw away? Only buy reusable things. Reusable water bottles & a filtration pitcher are the biggies.

Large Filtration Dispenser | Water Bottle

Tip #9 - Get a small, portable file folder.
For all those papers you need to keep around. Keep them all in one place to make life a lot easier. 

Portable File Box

Tip #10 - Digitize, Digitize, Digitize.
Most colleges have gone the digital route, but it's still important to say. Digitize EVERYTHING, and keep only the things you think you'll need in paper form. Back up your computer too. Because I know a certain student who almost destroyed her 6-month-old computer when her water bottle leaked in her messenger bag (it was me). So keep files in Drive or Dropbox, and backup onto a flash drive. 

Bonus Tip #11 - If you have roommates, consider having a memo board. This can be an actual memo board or just paper on the wall with washi tape. A calendar for chores, notes, and a pen are all you need. And take out the trash more often. I'm not joking - college students hate taking out the trash and 99% chance you need to do it more often. It's not hard. Just do it. 

What is super important for keeping your dorm or apartment organized? Leave a comment below.