Make the most of dorm rooms

08/09/2014 12:00 AM

08/09/2014 12:16 AM

College remains a balancing act among classes, finances, extracurricular activities and social life, to name a few. For students with an eye toward dorm room style, striking a balance between organization and personalization is on their to-do list weeks before the school year begins.

With proper planning, maintaining order can leave room for creativity.

Use space efficiently

During move-in day, deciding where everything will find its yearlong home in an average dorm room’s 10-by-15-foot space can be harder than you expect. And as many students soon learn, the provided closet and drawers don’t always suffice for all the value-packs of belongings they’ve brought.

The result can be clothes, food and toiletries dumped anywhere and everywhere.

With some organization and the right products, the clutter can be managed.

The key to storing in a small space, said Leah Drill of Bed Bath and Beyond, is to think vertically: stackable boxes, shoe organizers over the door, hooks on the wall for scarves and sweaters.

To manage the closets full of clothes, manufacturers have gotten especially creative and efficient with hangers. Hanging organizers with pockets provide shelf space suspended from a closet rod, while some hangers hold multiple articles of clothing on the closet rod.

Similarly, bedside caddies and style-station organizers are increasingly popular items that allow for easy hanging and convenient access, Drill said.

UC Davis student Mason Ganz, 19, last year found it helpful to keep large plastic bins under his bed to store cleaning supplies, vitamins and miscellaneous items that didn’t fit in the dorm drawers.

Organizing his study space was a priority, said Ganz, who will be a resident adviser this year.

“I think it’s really important to keep organized, especially with papers,” he said. “They can get crazy over the year, so I got these paper organizers for different subjects.”

It may not seem like much, but having a filing system saves a lot of trouble when needing to refer back to old assignments, especially during midterm and final exam season. Also, a plastic desk organizer makes stocks of office supplies easy to locate.

To liven up the study space, Crate and Barrel expanded its college line to include paper trays, dispensers and organizers in aqua, white and blue, said Casey Barangan, sales team leader at the Roseville store.

Indeed, no storage source in the room needs to be dull. Some students drape tapestries and colorful cloth over bulky transparent containers. Others hang decorated baskets off hooks to fill wall space and provide additional storage.

Power strips – once the plain log of white – now come in bright colors and can pivot for easy charging.

An ottoman with a removable top can hide next season’s clothes while serving as décor.

Drill, of Bed Bath and Beyond, said there are other subtle space-saving multifunctional items, especially with electronics.

According to retailers, more students are buying products such as bed risers that double as power strips, charging stations with multiple USB connections in a single port, and Bluetooth-enabled clocks that can charge your cellphone, stream music and wake you up to an alarm.

To tame the tangle of cords that typically comes with owning several gadgets, less is more.

Decorate the walls

The one place where there may be too much space in a dorm room is on the bare walls. With school rules about not damaging walls, a student needs to plan ahead.

“Pictures were my No. 1 thing,” said UC Davis junior Daria Bisharah, a political science major. “I had a lot of family photos, but I also had posters that were of scenes of where I want to go in the world.”

As the year progressed, her collage of photos grew to incorporate captured moments with her new college friends.

Together with her suite mates last year in Davis’ Quarto suite-style dorms, she plastered decal stickers of inspirational quotes on the walls that could be taken down without removing the paint – a requirement of all wall decorations and hangings, according to the offices of residential life and housing at UC Davis and Sac State.

While students can pin photos onto corkboards, there are other creative ways to frame pictures, such as suspending them from an overhead chandelier or hanging them from a clothes lines strung across the wall, either of which can be bought or self-made.

Leila Rodriguez, a graduate of Chico State, is obsessed with do-it-yourself projects. When she was in college two years go, she pinned photos and notes on beaded flower embroideries.

One of her DIY projects, which she discovered through a blog, involved repurposing a garden hook into a jewelry organizer to display her accessories and add color to the wall.

“You can put whatever on your wall; it’s easy to change,” she said.

Plan with a roommate

Although students have access to their rooms’ floor plans, almost no first-year student has a real sense of how much space there is to work with, said Samuel Jones, senior associate director of housing at California State University, Sacramento.

“Typically students think the room is larger than they think,” he said. “Making sure it’s communicated with roommates on who’s bringing what” helps prevent duplicates of bulky items such as refrigerators and microwaves.

CSUS and UC Davis, like most schools, inform students of their roommates ahead of time. Some roommates decide on colors and a theme for their room.

“I think in any small space, the key is to keep organized and choose your colors, and choosing a nice color scheme with a few pops of colors in the same palette will help it look more unified,” Crate and Barrel’s Barangan said.

Ganz knew he wanted a blue room and said it helped narrow his options at the store.

“My mom got really worried as we got into later June that there wasn’t going to be anything when I got to school. But I wasn’t very worried. All these stores still had a bunch of stuff,” Ganz said.

But sticking within a color scheme is no hard-and-fast rule.

“I tried for a color scheme at the beginning – black, white and pink,” said Bisharah. “That didn’t work out but it didn’t look too crazy or overwhelming that my chair was green.”

Rodriguez remembered a joke from college: You know you’re grown up when all your furniture matches. Looking back, she said, none of hers did.

“College gives you that leeway to be super-creative with your furnishing,” said Rodriguez.

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