The internet is full of dorm room ideas that make living on campus and sharing a bedroom that’s smaller than Oprah’s closet look like a dream come true. Though living in a college dorm room really can be a great experience, there are a lot of challenges to overcome right from the start. First of all, living with a roommate (and sometimes with two or three roommates) isn’t always easy. On top of that, most dorm rooms are a lot smaller than the spaces we’re used to living in at home. It’s important to consider the problems that dorm rooms present and how they can be solved. Whether you’re a parent or a student, read on for simple solutions to some of the most common dorm room problems:
1. The Dreaded Top Bunk
When the room is so small that the beds have to stay bunked, and dorm policy states that lofted beds are prohibited, it’s not likely that the school will be supplying an awesome curly tube slide to keep the top-bunking roommate happy. But there are plenty of other ways to deal with being stuck with the top bunk.
Problem: There isn’t room for anything when the bed is six feet off the ground.
Solution: Buy or make a shelf that attaches to your bed and holds an alarm clock, glass of water, and book. Clip-on lamps and fans make top-bunk dwelling brighter and cooler, and are pretty inexpensive. Mattress caddies are easy to find or make and can hold just about anything—books, snacks, pens and pencils, the stuffed armadillo that’s kind of embarrassing but also impossible to sleep without.
Problem: The prospect of falling out of bed is really terrifying.
Solution: If there isn’t a railing already attached to the bed upon arrival, talk to an RA and find out how to request one.
Problem: Staring at this ugly ceiling every night is not going to make sleeping very easy.
Solution: Hang a tapestry on the ceiling and string lights along the top of the wall to make the space feel more like home.
2. The Teeny-Tiny Closet
With a mountain of suitcases to unpack and a closet so small it’s hard to locate at first, making the most of every inch of space is crucial.
Problem: Too many clothes.
Solution: If hanging clothes is more appealing than stacking them, use space-saving hangers or “hanger cascaders.” They’ll make a huge difference. If stacking seems better, buy hanging shelves and put the bed on risers to fit extra drawers or shelves underneath it. If lofting the beds is allowed, it’s a great way to make additional vertical space available. Rolling bulky sweatshirts and sweaters and storing them in fabric cubes is another space-saving idea.
Problem: Too many accessories.
Solution: Hang purses, jewelry, scarves and hats on the wall with easy-to-remove command hooks. This way, accessories have places to stay and double as décor. Buy an over-the-door shoe rack and hang tall boots with clip hangers instead of just throwing shoes into bulky bins that will just make it impossible to find a matching pair.
3. The Lack of Shelf Space
Not only are textbooks outrageously expensive, but they’re also enormous, so the lack of shelving in most dorm rooms can be a real issue, especially since hanging anything on the walls that could damage them is off limits.
Problem: There aren’t any book shelves.
Solution: Purchase extra shelving that can sit on top of a desk or be placed over a bed. Building shelves instead of buying them accomplishes the same goal and makes the move cheaper for students and parents.
Problem: Make up, hair appliances and products, sports equipment, snacks, and other random items need to go somewhere, but the drawers and shelves are already crammed with books, pictures and clothes.
Solution: Buy a bunk bed organizer (or two), which can be hung over the end of the bed to hold all of those odds and ends. Put command hooks on the back of the door (or buy an over-the-door hanger) to hang towels and shower caddies.
4. The Floor Plan
Here’s where everybody present on move-in day—the roommates, the parents and siblings, the family dog if he managed to sneak in—needs to work together. There are tons of ways to lay out a dorm room, and it can be both fun and insanely frustrating trying to make the best of the small space provided.
Problem: The institutional furniture is so bulky.
Solution: Lofting the beds, if allowed, is almost always the best way to start laying out the dorm. This leaves tons of floor space and opens up the room for vertical storage. Each roommate can put his or her desk, dresser, and extra storage or seating underneath a lofted bed. The top bunk ideas above can be used to help make a lofted bed more comfortable. If the school doesn’t allow lofted beds, but there’s room to keep them un-bunked, put them on bed risers to lift them up for under-the-bed storage. If it’s necessary to bunk the beds, discuss who will take the top bunk and whether or not trading after first semester is a good idea.
Problem: The floor itself is just hideous.
Solution: Split the cost of a big rug to cover the floor. This will make the room look nicer and feel warmer (stepping barefoot onto a tile floor on a winter morning isn’t pleasant).
Problem: There’s no extra seating.
Solution: Buy a couple of saucer chairs that can be collapsed and stored under the beds when not in use. Metal chairs that fold flat to fit between or underneath furniture are cheap and easy to find, and can even be spray painted to match the rest of the room.
The transition from high school to college is a major one and can be stressful, not only academically but also physically and emotionally. For exactly this reason, a comfortable living situation is so important. There’s no need for life in a dorm to cause extra stress and frustration, and being aware of the problems presented by dorm rooms and how to solve them can make first semester a whole lot easier.