Today’s tips work for both dorm living (it’s that time of year again) and bedrooms with not much space. Getting ready for college dorm living can be tricky, so we asked professional organizer, Amanda LeBlanc, of The Amandas to share with us some tips and tricks of the trade to get organized when space is a premium.

To purchase any of these items mentioned here as well as many more organizing tools, visit Amanda’s online store HERE, or stop by Clutter Prescription if you’re in Birmingham.

Dorm room space is limited so every inch needs to be planned out!
Dorm room space is limited so every inch needs to be planned out!

So, you have a child going off to their first year of college or perhaps you are going off to college in the fall. Congratulations either way, because this is such a major life event that you will remember for the rest of your life.

Things have certainly changed since my parents dropped me off at my dorm almost 20 years ago! I had bedding, a few boxes of clothes and that was pretty much it. Today, colleges and even other parents are informing moms and dads of the importance of setting up the right living space to make their kids feel safe and at home. In addition, I’m sure you have been made keenly aware that these dorms are tiny, and most of the time, you are not allowed to hang ANYTHING on the walls. As a professional organizer with over 10 years of experience, I’m here to tell you a few tricks I have learned while helping clients set up dorm life for their children.

Each year, parents call me asking us to make a trip to one college or another to help make a dorm room efficient, organized and more like home for their children. The first thing I do is pull the floor plan of the dorm their son or daughter will be living in. Here is a little secret: I have just about every floor plan for every dorm across the Southeast!

The first thing to look at is the closet. How many inches of hanging space do you have? My store in Cahaba Heights, Clutter Prescription, carries a product called a closet doubler. This turns the one-rod closet into double hang, instantly doubling your closet space.

The adjustable hanging closet rod doubles the hanging space.
The adjustable hanging closet rod doubles the hanging space. Photo credit:

A few other must haves for the closet:

  • Slim line hangers
  • Shelf dividers  
  • Buildable shoe shelves


When considering what to bring, know that clothing takes up about 1” per item. If your closet is 48” wide and you use the closet doubler, you can easily store about 100 items. Acrylic shelf dividers will help organize the top shelf of the closet for purses, folded pants, etc. You may even want to bring a basket or two for storage at the top of the closet.

For the next portion of clothing storage, we look to the chest of drawers that usually comes with the dorm. To maximize your storage in these drawers, use Dream Drawer spring loaded dividers, which help create sections in drawer space. One drawer can now be split into 2 or 3 sections, maximizing how much you can store.

Drawer dividers are key to keeping things in their place and maximizing space,
Drawer dividers are key to keeping things in their place and maximizing space. Fits 12″-18″ deep drawers.

We look at the room plans when we organize drawer space, as well. If you know how wide the drawers are and how many drawers we are going to have, then you can do a mock set-up. Once you have it laid out, pack those items in boxes labeled drawer 1 section 1, drawer 1 section 2, etc. This makes the move in process much easier on the student as well as the parent. Let’s face it, this day is stressful enough!

One more word of advice in regards to clothing: your child is not moving away forever! Don’t let them pack every article of clothing they own. Be wise about what you are bringing. It’s better to start with less and add to it. This will give you a good excuse to visit soon!

So what about the rest of the room? Well, one of the most popular items we sell are bed lifts. These fit on the legs of the bed and raise it enough to create storage under the bed. Since we need every inch we can find, this is essential in maximizing storage space.

Bed lifts
Bed lifts add 5 inches of additional storage under the bed, which is key in a small space! Photo credit:

Let’s start with the back of the bed and move forward. In the back, you can place bins of winter items or extras that are not needed often. Next place plastic one-drawer units under the bed for toiletries, food items, paper plates, etc. Those drawers will face the outside of the bed making it easy for your student to get to what they need. I like them because they contain a whole category and keep things neat! I have seen students use lidded bins and nothing ever goes back inside. Remember to keep everything as simple as possible.

A newer item for dorms is the free-standing shelving units that fit over the bed and on top of desks. This is a great addition to a dorm, because as I stated in the beginning, you can’t hang anything on the walls and when you are limited in space you need to think vertical! Above the bed storage is great for daily use items, like, alarm clock, basket of electronics, basically anything they want within reach and use often. The shelving unit over the desk is great for storing books, school supplies, etc. Here’s my advice about these shelving units: bring in baskets or bins with labels on the front to make items easy to find and place back. Again, I would refrain from too many bins with lids. A great way to add to the aesthetic of the room is to coordinate bins and labels with the bedding, adding a homey touch.

Dorm room space is limited so every inch needs to be planned out!
Dorm room space is limited, so every inch needs to be planned out!

All in all, the best advice I can give you is to prepare. Know the space and your options. We have floor plans and lists of items to bring to school for our clients to take the stress out of guessing. Get the right organizing accessories for your dorm and do your best to give the room a warm and inviting feel. Being away from home for the first time can be scary. Take the fear and stress away from your child by making sure they are prepared and organized!


Thanks, Amanda!

05-21-13-Amanda-LeBlanc-013Based in Birmingham, AL, Amanda LeBlanc is a professional organizer and owner of The Amandas. Amanda teaches her clients how to organize their busy lives by creating systems that work for every lifestyle and shows them how to make the most of the storage space they have, all in a stylish, yet functional way. Offering services at many levels, she can streamline and give structure to anyone, no matter where they are in the decluttering process. Her company is multi-leveled, includng The Amandas, on-site organizing services, The Clutter Prescription, a retail store in Vestavia’s Cahaba Village and an online store/virtual program. There’s even an app in iTunes. So no matter how you like to feed your need for organization, Amanda’s got you covered! 


About the Author
Catherine Romero