College move-in day is almost here, and with it comes the conundrum of how to decorate and organize a dorm room.
Dorm rooms are notoriously small spaces, and dorm room closets are even smaller. Still, this is the space you (or your college-bound kid) will call home for the next year. It’s essential that it feels welcoming and sparks joy.
While it’s a challenging space, you can make a dorm room feel not only tidy and comfortable but like a sanctuary away from the bustle of classes and exams. In fact, Marie Kondo’s career began with organizing friends’ dorm rooms while she was still at university! These tips, based on her KonMari Method™, will help you start this new chapter on a joy-sparking note.
Tidy and Organize Before Move-In Day
The end of summer is the perfect time for college-bound teens to complete a personal tidying festival. By discarding what doesn’t spark joy before moving into a new space, you’ll enter knowing that every item in your boxes fills you with gratitude. To begin tidying and packing, we recommend Marie’s guide to moving.
Organize Your Dorm Closet the KonMari Way
01. Divide by Category
Because your dorm room closet offers limited space, it can help to visualize your ideal set-up before unpacking. Will you need to use one area for pantry goods and a dorm room refrigerator? Is there a convenient place for a shoe rack and your shower caddy? Where will you store cleaning supplies, such as a broom and dustpan? If you’re struggling to visualize, put pen to paper. Sketch a few different layouts until you find the fit that feels right.
02. When in Doubt, Fold
If you carry only one piece of Marie’s advice into your new dorm room and college life, it’s this: Fold clothing. Dorm room closets are notoriously tiny, and in all likelihood, you’ll need to use yours to store other items besides clothing, such as school supplies, a dorm room fridge, sheets and bedding…the list goes on. Fortunately, most dorm rooms also come with a dresser! Folding and storing clothing the KonMari way will save space, keep favorite items tidy and organized and make it a joy to get dressed each day.
03. Make the Most of Vertical Space
Take advantage of every inch of space in your closet by thinking vertically as well as horizontally. Place items you’ll use the least at the top of the closet — such as seasonal bedding — then work your way down. Marie recommends using hikadashi boxes or other storage containers to organize like items together making them easy to find. And don’t forget to label boxes, so you can tell which are which without pulling out a step ladder.
Use That Underbed Space
Underbed storage is one of the most overlooked areas in dorm rooms. While you shouldn’t use it as a place to store unwanted items out of sight (if they don’t spark joy, let them go!), this hidden area is an ideal spot for a few extra clothing drawers or for storing bulk bathroom supplies. There are many storage solutions specifically designed for use under the bed, including soft bins, sliding drawers and bed risers to add some extra height.
How to Decorate a Dorm Room
In the struggle to find a place for every essential, we can overlook items that simply spark joy. But these goods are sometimes the most vital for living fully and richly. The key to decorating a dorm room is to add touches that reflect your ideal college lifestyle — and the experiences you want to have over the next four years.
While many dorm rooms will not allow you to burn candles, there are solutions such as smokeless incense or room and linen sprays to make your dorm room feel (and smell) like a home. Lighting is equally important! Consider where you’ll place lamps to avoid spending time in the fluorescent overhead lights. Returning to your dorm room after a long day of classes should feel like a reprieve — small touches make the space.
Moving into a dorm room is a time to celebrate major life changes, new opportunities for growth and each college student’s first chance at building a home that sparks joy. How you organize is important but pausing to enjoy the experience is vital. Congratulate yourself on this major step!
Dorm Room Must-Haves
Beyond the joy-sparking flourishes that help make a dorm room a home, there are some clear essentials that you’ll need on move-in day. Here are some items we recommend bringing with you. (Remember, if any of these items don’t spark joy, leave them off your list!)
- Phone charger — Ideally a 6′ or 10′ one, so you can move around as you charge your phone!
- Power strip/extension cord — You’ll need this for your dorm room desk
- Small vacuum or hand vacuum — You might want to contact your roommate before buying to see if they are already bringing one
- A tech organizer — For carrying all your items with you from the dorm room to class to the library.
- For more tech organization tools, shop our collection.
- A laptop stand — Trust us, this makes it much easier to get those papers done! You can also use it to convert your desk to a standing desk (Options: 1, 2)
- Laptop sleeve (Options: 1, 2)
- A backpack or tote bag with plenty of compartments (Options: 1, 2, 3, 4)
- Desktop organizer — For keeping desktop accessories, papers and handouts organized (Options: 1, 2, 3)
- Pen/pencil pouches — For all the komono, or miscellaneous items, you need to carry to classes.
- Foam mattress topper — This can make all the difference in the world on an uncomfortable dorm room mattress!
- Sheets that spark joy — Go for the pop of color if you want to!
- Comforter or duvet
- Soft, cozy throw blankets — It can be nice to get two, one for summer months and one for winter.
- House slippers — For cold winter nights (which will come faster than you think!)
- Underbed storage — We recommend using this for a spare set of sheets or other bedding items!
- Shower shoes
- Shower caddy
- A towel set
- Full length over the door or standing mirror
Dorm Room Closet Essentials
- A hamper
- Stackable bins — To take advantage of vertical space!
- Shoe shelf or other shoe organizer
- Closet deodorizer
- Hanging lights
- An area rug
- Throw pillows
- A bulletin board for creating mood boards
- Framed photos for friends and family
- Throw pillows
- Smokeless incense or an essential oil diffuser