As students across the country prepare to move onto college campuses and into their college dorms, it’s important that their new spaces set them up for success. Studies show that clutter is associated with procrastination — when they’re in an organized environment, they’re better able to remain internally organized. “When we can find what we need when we need it, we relieve ourselves of stress,” says ?Kelly Jayne McCann, a professional organizer and clutter coach at The Organizing Maven.?
Experts told us that you should plan ahead to prevent clutter. “Many people pack up their childhood rooms and bring as much as possible to school with them. Take time before you leave to edit your belongings and consider what you’ll actually use while you’re at school,” says Jamie Hord, founder of home organizing service Horderly.
If you’re getting ready to move in or trying to rearrange your dorm room, here are a few products and tips from organizational experts to help you make the most out of your college living space.?
Our top picks
- Best shoe and apparel storage:?Seville Classics 3 Tier Mesh MultiPosition Utility Shoe Rack
- Best bed, bath and laundry storage: StorageLab Under Bed Storage Containers
- Best cooking and cleaning storage:?SimpleHouseware Heavy Duty 3-Tier Metal Utility Rolling Cart
How we picked the best dorm storage solutions
We spoke to experts in home storage and organization on how to help prevent college dorm clutter. All of the products we’ve included are expert recommendations, highly-rated items based on their advice or items used by our staff. Here are a few factors our experts recommend we consider:
- Dorm size: When storing items in a dorm room, you should look to maximize the amount of space that you use, including on your closet door, underneath your bed or on the walls.?
- Item type: You’ll need multiple types of storage items. For instance, apparel can be stored in closets or boxes, while everyday bed and bathroom necessities should be stored where they will be easy to access.?
- Student Discounts: Some retailers have college student-specific discounts and student memberships so you can get the best deals on college essentials like dorm storage products. For example, you can create an Amazon Prime Student account for $89.88 a year, which is $90 less than a standard Prime membership, for student-exclusive discounts.
The best products for dorm storage in 2023
We separated our favorite products into three categories: shoes and apparel, cooking and cleaning and bed, bath and laundry storage so you can shop based on what you need for your specific dorm room. While not all of these products are necessary to make the most of your space, they may be helpful to help you settle in and make you more comfortable in your home away from home.?
Shoe and apparel storage
A shoe rack can be a good way to save space, especially if it only takes up vertical space. Hord says that a hanging shoe bag “is great to hang on the back of your dorm room door or your closet.” This 24-pocket version includes four overdoor hooks and can hold up to 40 pounds, according to the brand. It has a 4.5-star average rating from 21,512 reviews on Amazon.
If door space is already occupied — or you simply don’t like the way a hanging shoe bag looks — you can put a stackable shoe shelf at the bottom of your closet to help you keep your shoes contained and easily accessible, according to Hord. Select associate updates editor Zoe Malin uses this rack to store shoes under her bed. The three mesh shelves can hold up to 12 pairs of shoes or up to 30 pounds when it’s evenly distributed, according to the brand. You can lay each rack at an angle or flat for more space to hold taller shoes or boots.
Non-slip hangers can be an excellent option for making sure your items don’t fall to the floor and create clutter. Meck suggests non-slip velvet hangers like these for a more secure grip on your clothes. These hangers are made with a soft velvet material that won’t crease your clothes when you fold them over, according to the brand and are flat so that you can have more hanging space in your closet.?
Meck recommends using cascading or tiered hangers for pants, skirts and shorts, which can save closet and drawer space. This four-tier option can hang up to four skirts or pants using adjustable clips. The clips also have a non-slip coating in order to prevent unsecured clothes from falling to the floor.
This nine-compartment hanging organizer is “sturdy and a good value,” according to Kienzle. It has a hook and loop fastener that you can hang on a clothing rack or closet rod, allowing for additional storage for shoes, apparel or other dorm supplies. If you’re planning on hanging it inside your dorm closet, ensure that your closet rod is at least 4 feet up from the floor.
Bed, bath and laundry storage
When living in a dorm, you probably don’t have a personal bathroom space to store your shower and bath supplies, so it’s good to have a tote that is easy to haul with you down the hall, Meck says. This shower caddy sports six pockets for smaller items like your toothbrush or hairbrush, along with a main compartment to store your shampoo, scrubs, shower shoes and more. It’s made with water-resistant fabric and a mesh bottom so that any water from the shower can drain easily, according to the brand.?
A laundry basket can be essential for keeping dirty clothes off chairs, your bed and the floor. This one is collapsible, which makes it easy to transport your clothes from your dorm to a laundry room and then tuck it away in a closet or under your bed when you don’t need it. It has a 4.8-star average rating from 8,349 reviews on Amazon.
Kienzle recommends using a storage ottoman for both seating and storage because it takes up little floor space. In her college dorm Select associate reporter Bianca Alvarez used this ottoman as a place to store extra office supplies, clothes and shoes and as a step stool. “I set my bed to the highest setting so I knew I wouldn’t be able to get on or off easily so I used this ottoman as a step stool which helped save space and get? me up and down without the look of a traditional stool stepper.”
Meck recommended these drawer organizers to divide up and organize any odds and ends. To save width space, these transparent organizers stack on top of one another — if you want to corral home office-related supplies you’ll reach for more regularly, you can even place these atop your desk. They can also easily store makeup and brushes, along with smaller bath supplies like your toothbrush or washcloth.?
Kienzle also says that you should take advantage of the space under your bed with storage containers for seasonal items like clothes, duvets and comforters, shoes and extra bed sheets. To keep those items clean, each container has a plastic cover and durable woven polyester bottom that can keep its shape even while the container is empty, according to the brand. To pull them out from underneath your bed, you can use the handles on the sides. These containers have a 4.7-star average rating from 13,024 reviews on Amazon.
If you have a low bed but want to use the storage space underneath, these bed risers — which come in a set of four — can add 5.25 inches of additional height. They have a 300-pound capacity (every dorm will have different offerings, but a twin mattress for example, typically weighs 40 to 45 pounds). However, Hord says it’s important to ensure that your dorm bed doesn’t already come with built-in risers so you’re not wasting money. These risers have a 4.6-star average rating from 5,590 reviews on Amazon.
Cleaning and cooking supplies storage
In a dorm, “a rolling cart can be an awesome, space-saving solution to separate cleaning supplies from kitchen supplies and snacks,” says Hord. She suggests putting cleaning supplies on the bottom shelf, kitchen supplies (like cups, plates and utensils) on the middle shelf and snacks on the top shelf for easy access. This cart has a mesh design in its baskets to provide ventilation for towels and wet clothes, and wheels to move it around your room easily. It has a 4.7-star average rating from 27,853 reviews on Amazon.
When reaching high storage places, Kienzle says it’s good to have a folding step stool on hand.?
“Since dorm rooms are small, requiring students to go high up the walls with their storage, a folding step will help to access hard-to-reach areas. They take up no space when not in use and folded,” she says. This step stool has a 300-pound capacity with a maximum standing height of nine inches, according to the brand.? It has a 4.7-star average rating from 55,032 reviews on Amazon.
How to shop for dorm storage
When shopping for dorm storage products, here are a few tips our experts said that you should keep in mind.
- Dorm layout and guidelines. The layout of your dorm room and the furniture already within that space can initially dictate what storage solutions are best for your space. If you can, research your dorm before moving in and “prep accordingly,” Meck says. She suggested using any images and dimensions of the room you can find online either on the school’s site or other forums to figure out exactly what size containers or storage units will fit under the bed, in the desk or inside the closet.?
- Make a list. “Organized, clutter-free dorm space starts before move-in,” says McCann, who encourages students to make a list of essential items. “This means being able to say: I will use this every day, and functioning without it would be a real challenge. It might sound a little drastic, but bringing only the essentials will make life easier,” she says.
- Consider decluttering tools. Meck says you should prioritize “fast, easy, effective tools” that make it “easy to put things away” like label makers and modular drawer inserts, that not only help you store your supplies but also allow easy access to them later. Meck also recommends over-the-door shoe hangers and stackable containers, which she says help save space without overcrowding your dorm.?
- Coordinate with your roommate(s). Experts also recommended involving your roommates (if you have them) in your organizing decisions. “In order to keep the order, the people living there must have a mutual standard for what ‘organized’ and ‘decluttered’ mean and do the actions to hold up that standard,” Meck says. It’s also best to “carve out time for cleanup and decluttering each week” to maintain that order, according to Hord.
- Think vertically. One of the best ways to maximize your space is by thinking vertically, as we reported in our guide to small apartment living. “Use the vertical space in the room as you are permitted to hang art or framed photos to warm up the space, give it your own style, and make it look and feel like home,” Meck says. She also suggests adding hanging shelves for added storage for framed photos, mementos, books, storage boxes for cords/cables, desk supplies or any other small bits needing corralling.
- Use any available space. Hord recommends making use of all the crevices and items available to you inside your dorm. “Many dorm beds come with risers, or you can purchase some online to lift your bed and create space to utilize under-the-bed storage,” she says. Students can also consider getting a rolling cart (or two) to create different storage stations around the room with the freedom to move it around as you please. These can store items like cleaning supplies and toiletries, and will likely allow for easier mobility when you move in and out of different rooms throughout college.
Meet our experts
At Select, we work with experts who have specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also take steps to ensure all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and without undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.
- Nancy Meck is a professional organizer and the owner of Meck Organizing.?
- Jamie Hord is a professional organizer and co-founder of Horderly in New York City.
- Cynthia Kienzle is a professional organizer and founder of The Clutter Whisperer NYC
- Kelly Jayne McCann is a professional organizer and “clutter coach” at The Organizing Maven.
Why trust Select?
Estee Yi and Mili Godio interviewed four professional organizers to determine the best ways to maximize your dorm room storage space and help make dorm-living clutter-free.?