10 Ways to Maximize a Tiny Dorm Room Without Breaking the Bank

And all for less than the cost of a college textbook.

“This isn’t so bad,” you think as you walk into the dorm room. And then you start unpacking… suddenly, that 10-by-10 box looks more like a cluttered closet than a bedroom.

Don’t freak out! With a little savvy and creativity, you can fit everything you need into the tiny room. We’ve compiled the best space-saving tips from decorators and organizers to help you turn that boring box into a cozy nest.


Lift-Top Coffee Table

Photo by ltdcommodities.com

The key to small space decorating is finding pieces that do double duty, according to James Wheeler of Atlanta-based J. Wheeler Designs (jwheelerdesigns.com). He recommends a lift-top coffee table for its functionality as both a workspace and a storage unit. It can even serve as an actual dinner table.

To Buy: $40, ltdcommodities.com.


Magazine File

Photo by containerstore.com

Deborah Gussoff, Certified Professional Organizer and owner of In Order, Inc. (inorder.com), loves the versatile storage options of magazine files. Their vertical format is great for small spaces. If your desk hutch has a bookshelf on top, line up a few of them to hide odds and ends. Gussoff also recommends putting one by the door for an easy place to drop keys and other small items that would otherwise clutter the room.

To Buy: $8, containerstore.com.


Closet Tools

Photo by wayfair.com

For many new college students, dorm life comes with a big dose of clothing insecurity—which is why it’s comforting to bring as many options as possible. But how do you fit years of carefully curated outfits into that tiny closet? Hang a closet rod to instantly double the capacity, then add ultra slim pant and suit hangers to maximize the number of items that can easily fit in the space.

To Buy: Pant hanger, $8, bedbathandbeyond.com.
Suit hangers, $10 for set of 12, bedbathandbeyond.com.
Closet rod, $15, wayfair.com.


Bed Risers

Photo by bedbathandbeyond.com

A typical dorm room bed takes up nearly seven feet of horizontal space. Just imagine how much you can fit under there if you lift the bed only four or five inches off the ground! Abbe Fenimore, owner of Studio Ten 25 (studioten25.com), a Dallas-based interior design firm and ecommerce site, recommends these tech-friendly risers that moonlight as additional outlets and USB chargers.

To Buy: $30, bedbathandbeyond.com.


Under Bed Cart

Photo by containerstore.com

Speaking of under bed storage, once you’ve stowed away extra towels, out-of-season clothes, and dirty laundry, you’ll still have plenty of room for a rolling cart or drawer under the bed. This way the important things (aka, emergency junk food) are always within reach. Lauren Gores Ireland, founder and creative director at lifestyle blog Lauren’s Lyst (laurenslyst.com), recommends a plastic container for its easy cleaning properties because something will (inevitably) spill.

To Buy: $25, containerstore.com.


Over-the-Door Shoe Organizer

Photo by bedbathandbeyond.com

Sure, you could fit plenty of footwear into a lightweight organizer. But where’s the fun in that? Gores suggests you get creative and use it as a hold-all for rolled t-shirts, clutches, and even umbrellas. It’s an easy way to free up valuable drawer space.

To Buy: $20, bedbathandbeyond.com.


Storage Ottoman

Photo by target.com

Taking “double duty” to the next level, ottomans add ideal storage space and double as seating. Fenimore suggests sliding them under the desk or stacking in a corner when not in use to save floor space. You can even top one with a similarly-sized tray and use it as a bedside table.

To Buy: $17, target.com.


Room Divider

Photo by target.com

Creating different zones in a room makes it feel bigger and more organized, Wheeler says. A tiered shelving unit doubles as a room divider that also provides extra storage without blocking the light from coming through. For antisocial folks or those not overly fond of their roommates, simply fill the cubes with books or fabric bins to create some much needed separation.

To Buy: $35, target.com.


Command Hooks

Photo by amazon.com

Using the right combination of command hooks can open up a lot of opportunities in a small space, beyond simply mounting décor. For example, attach command hooks to the ceiling and use them to hang a curtain around the bed to create a private nook.

To Buy: $7, amazon.com.


Bunk Bed Organizer

Photo by pbteen.com

Getting the top bunk means being far away from all essentials. And who wants to climb down every time you need headphones, a tissue, or a snack? A slim footboard caddy is a great solution.

To Buy: $29, pbteen.com.