Packing for a trip is as painful as any chore, but cramming garments that should theoretically last you an entire school year into a few suitcases? Downright impossible. At least it certainly seems like it when you’re neck-deep in your wardrobe, struggling to decide what to bring versus what to leave at home. How many going-out tops will I wear? Should I pack *all* of my Skims loungewear? What about my winter coats?
Not to stress you out even more, but beyond selecting which apparel and accessories to lug to school, there’s another major factor to consider: how you’re going to store and organize everything — because your dorm room’s small closet probably won’t suffice (and you probably haven’t even seen it IRL yet).
What you’ll need: a solid game plan and versatile storage solutions, ideally from Bed Bath & Beyond. For expert insight, we tapped Allison Berlin, New York-based fashion stylist and founder of the styling consultancy Style Made Simple, to share her most valuable tips for maximizing your dorm closet space. Click through to figure out where to start — and what to add to your shopping cart — ahead of move-in day.
Give your shoes a designated home
A tried-and-true way of storing your footwear while conserving space is with an over-the-door shoe organizer. “If you collect sneakers — or even just have a favorite pair of boots — throwing them in a pile at the bottom of your closet could potentially damage them and create a minefield in your closet,” says Berlin. “Utilizing over-the-door shoe storage means your best kicks are easy to store and dust-free, and you never have to dig for them. Plus, that keeps your closet floor freed up for other types of storage.”
But if you have more of a lean footwear lineup and would prefer to store them in your closet than in an over-the-door design, the bottom of your closet also doubles as a clever spot for a two-tier shoe organizer.
Simply Essential 20-Pocket Over-The-Door Shoe Organizer, $, available at Bed Bath & Beyond
Make extra closet space
Create extra storage space in your wardrobe by adding modular, stackable drawers or a multi-drawer storage cart. Berlin recommends placing either option below your hanging clothes at the bottom of your closet. Either choice is “perfect for storing accessories, athleisure, and handbags, among other closet staples,” she says. Giving everything an established spot also prevents clutter, which you’ll want to avoid in your dorm room at all costs.
Simply Essential Large Stacking Drawer in White, $, available at Bed Bath & Beyond
Choose hangers that save space — and look chic
Slimline hangers are Berlin’s self-proclaimed go-to when it comes to small closets. They allow you to “fit more clothes in your space than wooden or plastic ones.” Not to mention, hangers are also more aesthetically pleasing when they’re all uniform (she says they can easily take a closet from chaotic to zen). What’s more, the flocking velvet texture prevents clothing from slipping off and falling to the bottom of your closet.
Squared Away Velvet Slim Suit Hangers, $, available at Bed Bath & Beyond
Trade the iron and ironing board for a portable steamer
Showing up to classes, events, or career fairs in wrinkled wares is really not a good look. That’s where a portable handheld steamer comes in. It’s one of Berlin’s “essential tools for keeping clothes fresh and wrinkle-free.” Not only is it easy to travel with, but it also eliminates the need for an iron and ironing board, she says. “And let’s be honest, when space is tight, you’re not going to be able to make room for that duo — but that doesn’t mean it’s any less important to show up looking crisp.”
Conair Turbo ExtremeSteam GS54 Garment Steamer, $, available at Bed Bath & Beyond
Take preventative measures to keep your clothing fresh
If you don’t have the option of leaving off-season clothing at home, the next best bet is to pack them in a storage container or duffel until the time is right. To keep everything fresh while it’s stored in your closet or under your bed, Berlin recommends scooping up a scent-neutralizer. She suggests small cedar sachets that you can tuck into your storage bags to repel mustiness.
Simply Essential Zipper Storage Bags, $, available at Bed Bath & Beyond
A full-length mirror is a must-have
And no closet is complete without a full-length mirror. “You can’t rely on bathroom mirrors to do this job, and doing a daily ‘fit check before heading out the door is a must,” Berlin says. “In small spaces, an over-the-door option makes life even easier.” We recommend one that doesn’t require tools so you can hang it over your dorm room door — and save you the stress of undergoing a low-key construction project.
Simply Essential Over-the-Door Mirror, $, available at Bed Bath & Beyond
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