By Maria Martin
The words “spacious” and “dorm room” do not belong in the same sentence. The adjectives that will spring to mind when you see your child’s first home away from home are more likely to be “cramped” — or “cozy” if you’re an optimist.
And, more likely than not, your teen will be sharing space with at least one other roommate.
To keep peace in those tight quarters, the words “less is more” should be repeated often, the pros say.
“When you live in a really small space, even the slightest visual mess can have a huge impact,” says Sarah Welch, cofounder of Buttoned Up ( www.getbuttonedup.com ), a national organization committed to helping busy people get organized. She says something as simple as making a bed, or even pulling the duvet up over messy sheets, will go a long way toward making the small space look neater.
Most teens tend to get a little emotionally attached to their possessions, but it’s important for your teen to stick to the essentials when packing for college, she adds.
“Leave the stuffed animals and the guitar she rarely plays,” Welch says. “If she decides she has to have it, she can grab it during the next trip home.”
That’s not to say that you can’t add a bit of character to your dorm room, notes Sabrina Sota, Target’s home style expert.
“Choose accessories that reflect your personality,” she says. “Add textures and patterns to add visual interest. Just because a room is small doesn’t mean you can’t mix things up.”
It’s essential to be inventive to save space, according to Sota. Hanging shelves, for instance, will help the college student create order.
“They provide display spaces for books and picture frames while keeping floors clutter free,” she says.
Storing T-shirts and jeans in under-bed storage boxes is a fairly obvious space-saving technique, but don’t overlook less obvious spaces, says Leah Drill, Bed, Bath & Beyond spokeswoman.
“The door is a great place to hang a mirror, a cap storage rack, an extra rod or a hamper,” she says. “And use slim-line hangers in the closet as well as a double-hanging closet rod to add space in the closet.”
Sota, Drill and other pros suggest a few essentials to help your college student fit snugly into dorm life:
— Sit and Store folding storage ottoman ($19.99, www.bedbathandbeyond.com ). You can’t go wrong with a compact place to sit and do homework. You can tuck electronics and magazines in an exterior pocket, and store your essentials inside.
— Natural Rococo cork board ($24.99, www.containerstore.com ). We love the Container Store for all kinds of dorm needs. When it’s time to keep important information in plain view, every college student needs a display board, and this winner, with its ornate frame, will ensure that class schedules and homework reminders are easy to spot.
— Room Essentials wire lamp ($17.99, www.target.com ). Add a bit of interest to the room with these translucent, wire-frame lamps. They’re small enough to fit into tight spaces, but big enough to brighten up the room.
— The Dazz over-the-door hamper ($9.99, www.bedbathandbeyond.com ): Keep clutter off the floor with this hamper, which features an over-the-door hook and room for up to three loads of laundry.
— Xhilaration paisley pouf or square pouf ($24, www.target.com ). Pouf (OK, poof, grammar students)! It’s instant personality when you toss these whimsical seats in your dorm room.
— 36 Pair over-the-door shoe rack ($29.99, www.bedbathandbeyond.com ). If she can part with her favorite stuffed animal, but not a single pair of strappy sandals, consider an easy-to-assemble rack that hangs over any standard door.
— Room Essentials branch bins ($5.99, www.target.com ). You might not have space to hide the trash bin, so why not show it off? Scatter a few of these colorful bins from Target around the room to help cut down on the clutter.
— 8-inch Power Bed risers ($24.99, www.bedbathandbeyond.com ). Here’s a fix for two of your problems. If your teen needs more storage space in his dorm, these will raise beds 7-inches off the floor, increasing under-bed storage space. And each riser features twin 110-volt grounded power outlets, as well as twin USB outlets. Multitasking isn’t just for students.
— Madras four-drawer tower ($69.99, www.worldmarket.com ). Whether the new college student is sharing a bathroom with one roommate, four or an entire floor of people, it’s essential to organize those toiletries. A tiny bathroom sink crammed with makeup, toothpaste and all manner of hair products will lead to turf wars. Solve them with this pretty but compact tower, big enough to hold washcloths, towels and products. Drawers can be easily pulled out and toted away if the bathroom is down the hall.