Arranging Your College Dorm Room

Hey yall!

Many of you might be thinking “I have no idea what my room is going to look like and I don’t care until I get there.” But I can tell you thinking like that will end up getting you into some trouble along the way. Why? Because if you don’t want to know what your dorm room will look like or how much space you will have or the dimensions of the room how do you know what you are buying for your room will even fit?? Will you have enough space for all of your stuff? You need to know somewhat of what your dorm room will be like before you get there.

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If you have the blueprint of your room you are able to see how much space you have to work with. Even better is having pictures of the room itself either offline from your university’s housing website or from friends who have lived there previously. You could also take a college tour and take a look at the room yourself in person if that is an option. Either way knowing something before you get there is important.

Do Your Research

Go online to your university’s housing website and search for your dorm. (For these purposes I am using a popular resident hall on my campus that they use for orientations and college visits to show). 

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From this point I can see what amenities are offered at my resident hall such as AC, Laundry Facilities, and MicroFridges-which tells me I no longer have to purchase my own mini fridge or microwave. I can also see a small description of the hall to get a broader idea of the space such as the beds are able to be lofted, there are games in the lobby or basement in the hall, and the front desk is open 24 hours a day for me to check items out. Sweet.

An extra cool thing my university does for many of the resident halls is virtual tours. Here is what I can see from the virtual tour of my sample dorm room.

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I love this feature because it isn’t a virtual tour of an empty room. You can see what it looks like with real people living inside of it with all of their real stuff. It helps you get an idea of the size of the room and what can fit in here and what can’t. So if you are lucky enough to be able to view your room from one of these, do it! 

If you are not able to take a virtual tour of the room there is almost always a blueprint that is available for you to view on the site.

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The blueprint is just as useful as a virtual tour because you can still see what can and can’t fit in the room and you get an idea of the size based off of a scale model. This blueprint is showing both beds being lofted with their desks underneath to create more space but in the virtual tour you saw another layout that could work with the beds bunked and the desks on either side of the wall with enough extra room for a futon. So there are a lot of ways, believe it or not, to arrange a dorm room to fit your needs.

Get Organized

The second step is to create either an online folder or a real folder labeled: Dorm Room and to fill that folder with anything related to your dorm room. I actually have both because some things I find online that I don’t want to print out and other things I draw or write up on paper that I don’t want to scan into my computer. Inside my online folder I keep blueprints, screenshots of the virtual tour, color schemes I like, pictures of dorm rooms I like as inspiration, websites I found college things on, Amazon items I want to order, literally anything dorm room related. I like having everything in one place so it is easily accessible. We will get to my actual folder a little later.

Look for Inspiration

One thing I do keep separate online is my Pinterest Board. Pinterest is easily the greatest invention known to the internet world and if you haven’t discovered its greatness yet I suggest you do it right now! I have a board for my college dorm room filled with other dorm rooms that inspire me in any way. I may not like the whole room but one thing such as the lamp on the desk caught my eye and I pinned it. Search for your own inspiration on how you want your room to look. Pin any and everything that you like from the placement of something in the room to the comforter on the bed to how someone organized their desk drawers. Literally anything!

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Plan Your Room

Once you have the blueprint of your dorm and/or the virtual tour or other pictures from friends, which I have managed to get all 3 for mine, things pinned to your Pinterest board and things saved in your Amazon or store carts then it is time to start planning.

This is where the actual folder comes into play. Use your Ultimate College Packing List so you have everything you will be bringing with you in one list. You will use this list to place things in your room, you’ll see in a second what I mean. This is a portion of my own list that I went off of to make my layout. Picture yours a little neater and without all of the check marks to start off with. *All of these sheets will be put into your Dorm Room folder to keep track of them. 


Now grab some paper and use those blueprints or pictures as a key and draw up any side of the room. Your pictures don’t have to be perfect they are just rough sketches to help you think through moving in. Use those sketches as your own blueprint of your room.

Here’s a picture of my half of the closet space.

  1. I first drew the closet based off the virtual tour I went on of my room and looking at pictures from my friends who have lived there before.
  2. Next I went to my list and looked at my clothes or other items and started writing them in places on my picture. You want to put everything on your packing list somewhere on a sheet of paper that represents a part of the room.
  3. Once you’ve placed an item in the room check it off your list so you know you’ve found a spot for that thing.

You can see everything has a place in my closet. What you can also see is I drew little bins, step stools, and shoe racks in to either hold clothes, shoes, or help me reach the high shelves. I realized I wanted bins because there are just shelves there and I don’t want my clothes just sitting on the shelf for everyone to see, I want them hidden in bins.


Using this method helps you figure out what you’ll need to buy for your room. If I didn’t plan out my closet I wouldn’t have known I would need to get 3 bins, 1-2 small shoe racks, and a step stool to reach the tall shelves. Now I am prepared.

Let’s take a look at another part of my room, see I told you your pictures don’t have to be perfect, I mean look at mine. By looking at my blueprints and the virtual tour I was able to see that I wanted to pick the bed on the left side of the room because it was near the mirror and not the door so it had more space at the foot of the bed (in my case I get to move in early so I can decide this since my roommate won’t be there when I move in and I get first dibs). I figured I would want my bed lofted a little so I could fit some of my stuff under there because if I didn’t I wouldn’t have room for it in the room.


Planning your desk might sound a little weird but it’s a good idea to do. In my case I found out I wouldn’t have any drawers at my desk to store things in so now I know I need to get desk organizers for desk supplies, paper racks, and magazine holders for books, notebooks, and paper to compensate for that. (I know in my picture there is a set of drawers to the left but my roommate and I’s desks are combined and those drawers are in the middle and supposed to be for us to share but I decided not to and just to store my stuff on the shelf above my desk and let her use the drawers). By planning your desk you could find out you have enough room to bring your own printer with you if you would like or find out there isn’t room for your printer and you will need to leave it at home.


Why Do This?

Looking back at my list you can see why I have check marks everywhere. I put every single item that I was bringing with me to college somewhere in my hand drawn blueprints so I know ahead of time I will have space for all of those things and won’t find out once I get there that I don’t have space for something and have to send it back home with mom and dad.

Planning your layout will also save you time come move in day because you won’t have to waste precious time figuring out where you want your bed to be or how to arrange the furniture because you’ve already done that and you’re ready to start unpacking right away!

Since you’re placing all of your items in your room you can see what else you need to buy to accommodate your layout. You can see how many plastic bins you’ll need, what desk organizers you’ll need, and other things you might not notice until you’re unpacking and you think “crap, I need ______”.

Because I planned my room out ahead of time I was able to compile a list of things I still need to purchase to pull my room together. This made it easier to budget my shopping list because I knew what I needed to buy and I could count how many items I needed then divide that among the weeks leading up to move in and buy small amounts. I won’t be wondering down endless aisles at stores thinking “do I need this?” and then unfortunately making the wrong decision and saying “YES!” but then getting to your dorm and realizing there’s no room for it or you don’t actually need it because you’re room has more than enough storage, closet, or desk space.

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Because you’ve planned where every item is going you can pack so much easier now. You can get boxes or bins and label them the parts of the room that you drew up and place the items that are going there in those boxes. By organizing your packing you’re making unpacking that much easier. Now you aren’t having to sift through 20 boxes to find one item all the way at the bottom. You know what is in each box and where you should put those boxes when carrying them into your room. If a box is labeled CLOSET then take it to the closet area not the bathroom. This will shorten your move in time and make it more efficient.


I live on lists and through planning ahead so this relieved so much stress for me about moving into my dorm room last year and this year. I am prepared for what I am going to walk into, I know how much space I have to work with, I know where things are going and I know what I am doing. There is no doubt in my mind that move in day will run smoothly because I did this. This prepared me for so much and got me thinking about what I wanted in the room and what I needed to purchase and what I didn’t need to purchase which saved me time and money.

Have fun planning your room!


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