Organizing with Kids

College Dorm Room Essentials + How to Stay Organized During the School Year

August 9, 2018

Hello, I'm Rachel
I’m a busy mom, entrepreneur, and an expert in organizing your home, office, and life. I believe in the profound impact of organizing on every aspect of life. 
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While my girls aren’t heading off to college for many years (thank goodness!), I’ve had a lot of requests for a post focused on organizing for college students. The transition from home to the dorms, along with the schedule and responsibility that comes with being a college student, is a huge transition for both the student and the parent, and with that comes the need to be properly organized. So, whether your kid is heading off for their freshman year dorm or moving off campus to a small apartment, these tips will help to maximize small spaces, create routines, and serve as a guideline for what to pack/what to leave home.  


  • Create a schedule and stick to it. College is the perfect time in your life to work on time management and figure out what type of schedule works best for you. Between social events, internships, and the inevitable workload, it can be a lot to balance. Block off times in your schedule for everything from working out, grocery shopping, and even laundry. Try to be strict with your schedule and get tasks done when you say you will to avoid getting overwhelmed and frustrated.

  • Get creative with your storage. When your living in close quarters (and especially when your sharing a space), make sure to maximize the the storage in your room. The back of doors, under the bed, and wall space are valuable real estate. Storage bins and boxes come in every design under the sun and price point, so find options that meet your aesthetic and add to the design of your room. If you have room there are tons of options to add storage ottomans, vertical shelving, or plastic drawers to keep anything from extra clothing to snacks controlled and contained.

  • Color-code your calendar. Whether you prefer to write everything down in a planner or swear by your iPhone calendar, get into the habit of writing down your to-dos. Assign colors for each category (ex. blue=social events, red=homework due dates, purple=meetings so that you not only stay on track of what’s coming up, but can use it as your daily checklist for how you need to prepare for the day. Nothing is more frustrating than being all the way across campus and realizing that you left something in your dorm room and have to trek back to get it.

  • Create a grab-and-go command center. Use a small pouch or clear zippered file holder to store your most frequently used (and needed) items. Include a couple of “just in case” items, like a $20 bill, floss, and your cell phone charger so that when the inevitable happens you don’t have to trek across campus when you are in need. Not only will it help you organize your go-to items and ensure that you remember the necessities, but it will save you time when those inconveniences pop up!


It may be tempting to bring everything but the kitchen sink to college, but with space seriously limited it’s wise to start small and then add on as/if needed. Similar to packing for a trip, a packing list is key to prevent overpacking and help to visualize what you are actually planning on bringing rather than just loading up the car with everything that seems necessary. So, start by creating a list of the absolute essentials. These will be the items that are necessary in college, like tech, toiletries, and bedding. Then, make lists for everything else ranging from clothing to decor. Give yourself and your kid a limit to what can be brought, and remember that if something is needed down the line it can always be picked up during a school break, be sent to the school, or ordered from Amazon. When it comes to the small dorm rooms you’ll thank yourself for not overcrowding the already tight space!

Not sure what to bring to college? There are many handy checklists online, including this handy guide from Real Simple and this one from Martha Stewart!

add a comment

  1. Heather says:

    This is so awesome – thank you!! Great tips. I tried to pack super lean my first year, which was good in some ways, but ended up having to buy some stuff after I got there. I only brought sheets for my bed but ended up ordering a mattress topper from and had it delivered to my dorm and I’m glad I did. So dreamy/comfy. Definitely going to try your tip for grab-and-go – genius.

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I'm Rachel, founder of Rachel & Company

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