Organizing isn’t typically taught at colleges, but honestly it should be. Because your dorm room is more than just a place for sleep — it’s also where you’ll study, eat, socialize, get dressed and ready for the day, and the night. Which means everything you need for those disparate tasks needs a place to go. And to make matters trickier, dorm rooms are typically very, very small.
With those problems and more in mind, we consulted experts Caroline Moss, the host of the popular product recommendation podcast “Gee Thanks, Just Bought It!“; Kaylen Fields, a brand manager at DormCo, a specialty retailer dedicated to finding the best dorm-centric products on the market; and Alex Rush, a professional organizer whose company, Spruce NYC, specializes in small spaces. We asked these experts to help us pick out 20 of the absolute best dorm room organizers, all priced under $20.
Room Essentials Storage Ottoman ($17; target.com)
Moss picked this storage ottoman because, as she points out, “Dorm seating is hard to come by — and how many people do you really want sitting on your bed, anyway?” This storage ottoman has a flat upholstered top, so in addition to creating extra storage space, it can be used as seating or an end table when entertaining people in your dorm room.
DormCo Underbed Folding Box ($18.58; amazon.com)
Underbed storage is an essential when it comes to maximizing small spaces, especially for storing bulky items like extra bedding or towels. Fields likes these sturdy boxes that help to keep your underbed storage organized because, she notes, “they are roomy enough to store almost anything inside while still fitting under your dorm bed.”
Bare Home Dorm-Sized Bed Skirt ($14.99; amazon.com)
Sometimes part of organizing is finding decorating solutions that hide items while they’re not in use — especially because visual clutter can make small spaces feel claustrophobic and messy. A dorm-sized bed skirt will help to hide underbed storage, allowing you to take advantage of that space without always having to see what’s under there.
Room Essentials 3-Drawer Cart ($12; target.com)
Extra drawer space is so clutch in a dorm room, and this lightweight plastic three-drawer unit is super versatile. It can be used to store smaller items of clothing like socks, underwear and PJs, freeing up space in larger, dorm-issued drawers for bulkier items like sweats; it can be turned into a rolling vanity if you’re a person with a large collection of hairstyling tools, makeup, nail polish, etc.; or it can serve as a nightstand in which to store all those items you like to keep right by the bed.
Keepjoy Hanging Laundry Hamper ($13.96; amazon.com)
Having a place to toss dirty laundry is crucial in a dorm room, but hampers can take up a lot of space. This hanging hamper can be hung on the back of the door, where it won’t take up valuable floor space but will still be convenient enough to keep you from tossing your dirty PJs on the floor.
Dourr Felt Bedside Caddy ($12.59, originally $13.99; amazon.com)
Typically, dorm beds don’t come with a bedside table, and most rooms aren’t set up to accommodate one. Rush picked this caddy to solve that problem. “Whether your dorm setup is bunk beds, or you’re lucky enough to score a single, the reality is there won’t be room for a nightstand,” she says, “so a bedside caddy will be your new BFF.”
DormCo Headside Caddy ($12.94; amazon.com)
Fields picked out this slightly different take on the bedside caddy, which attaches to a headboard rather than sliding between the mattress and the bed frame. “It stores all of your bedside necessities without taking up any space in your dorm room,” she says, “making it a great choice for small dorms that don’t have the space for a nightstand.”
DormCo The Cookin Caddy ($14.88, originally $19.99; amazon.com)
If you plan to have a mini fridge in your dorm room, Fields recommends a different kind of caddy to turn the unit into storage. The Cooking Caddy, which has pockets that can hold plates, utensils and even nonperishable snacks, “saves space by holding everything you need to dine in your dorm room while it fits right over your dorm mini fridge,” Fields says.
Ewei’s Homewares 3 Floating Shelves ($14.99, originally $17.99; amazon.com)
Using vertical space for organization is key to maximizing a small space. Your dorm doesn’t allow you to drill holes in the wall? No problem! “These adhesive floating shelves can save your life,” Rush says. “Since they are adhesive, stay away from filling them with heavier items (i.e., chemistry textbooks). But they’re great for things like beauty product organization, lightweight paperbacks, photos of your mom, etc.”
Command Hair Dryer Holder ($11.40, originally $18.40; amazon.com)
For the most part, multipurpose storage solutions are the name of the game when it comes to picking products to keep your dorm room organized, but sometimes a specialty item is exactly what’s needed. This inexpensive hair dryer caddy uses 3M’s Command adhesive strips to secure the unit to the wall, allowing you to take advantage of vertical space without damaging the walls.
Korlon Mesh Shower Caddy ($8.99; amazon.com)
Moss urges dorm-dwelling students to “forget plastic shower caddies, which are ripe for gunk and dirt and weird smells,” in favor of a quick dry mesh caddy for holding toiletries. This tote-style caddy has nine pockets in various sizes that can hold everything from shampoo and conditioner to a toothbrush and toothpaste.
iDesign 9-Inch Divided Lazy Susan ($18.99; containerstore.com)
Rush calls this turntable “the most crucial and versatile piece for dorm room organization.” It has many, many uses, Rush says, offering a few ideas. “It’s perfect for both desktop organization and also beauty product organization — especially if your dorm desk doubles as a vanity.”
Whitmor Slim Rolling Household Cart ($18.59; amazon.com)
Rolling carts are a favorite of organizers and small-space design experts who love the slim footprint, deep storage compartments and portability. In a dorm room, this cart can be used to store everything from toiletries to clothes to school supplies.
Advantage Adhesive Hooks, 40-Pack ($17.99, originally $21.99; amazon.com)
“These babies are great for hanging jewelry, keys, your student ID lanyard, etc.,” Rush says. “They’re aesthetically pleasing and also adhesive, so no drilling/rule breaking is required.” Rush points out that hooks are a good way to utilize as much vertical space as you can.
Ella Wall Hook ($6; urbanoutfitters.com)
Moss is also a fan of hooks for organizing, and if you are allowed to mount items to the wall she recommends this inexpensive but very stylish model. “This wall hook (and you’ll def wanna buy more than one) may look unassuming, but it’s perfect for hanging an umbrella, tote bag or even keeping your necklaces organized,” she says.
Amazon Basics Slim Nonslip Hangers ($16.49; amazon.com)
College dorms are not exactly known for their ample closet space, which is why investing in a set of slim hangers is such a smart idea. They take up less space on the rod, allowing you to hang more clothes than traditional plastic hangers do, and the no-slip velvet surface helps to keep clothes from sliding off the hanger and ending up on the floor of the closet.
Room Essentials Adjustable Closet Rod Extender ($12; target.com)
If switching to slim hangers still doesn’t leave you with enough closet space for all your fashions, a closet rod extender is what you need. Moss picked out this adjustable version that she says will “double your closet space.”
Umbra Skinny Sleek & Stylish Small Garbage Can ($13.98; amazon.com)
Even if your dorm room comes with a trash can, this slim wastepaper basket can be a great organizer. Use it to stash oddly shaped items that might otherwise end up on the floor, like exercise mats, umbrellas or extra tote bags.
EntiretyGoods Under-the-Table Drawer ($8.99; etsy.com)
“Dorm desks are standard issue, so jazz yours up by making it a little more inviting to all of your materials,” Moss says of this inexpensive desk accessory that adds storage to an otherwise unused space, freeing up valuable desk surface area.
Threshold Small Milk Crate With Handles ($12; target.com)
This small open-topped crate can be used to store books, crafting materials like yarn and knitting needles or even an extra blanket — and its stylish industrial design and copper handles make it look much more expensive than it actually is!