Dorm Room Essentials

While everyone’s list of dorm room essentials will be slightly different, there are a few tried and true items that just about every college student will need. Because some items are subject to circumstances, this list is broken down into essentials and recommendations with the focus mainly on organization products and space savers. 

top 10 Dorm Room Essentials

command hooks

Putting holes in dorm room or apartment walls is generally frowned upon. Command hooks come in a variety of shapes, sizes and specialized functions. They’re easy to install, easy to remove and they do not damage walls. Consider what items you intend to hang and let that be your guide in selecting the perfect option to meet your needs. Be sure to take into consideration the weight of the object you wish to hang. You can find the hooks weight capacity on the package.

space saving hangers

Space saving hangers come in a variety of forms, and they are a must for college students. Dorm room closets are not known for their spaciousness. Choose from an assortment of tiered pants or skirt hangers and cascading hangers, all designed to hold multiple items in a fraction of the space.

When it comes to regular single item hangers, slender space-saving hangers are a dorm room essential. These high-quality hangers are less than half the thickness of the typical white plastic hangers. Spread over an entire hanging rod, they can save several inches of space.

The tank top organizer shown above* is perfect for storing tank tops, camis, strappy dresses, bathing suits, belts, scarves and bras - it's great for freeing up limited drawer space. It can also double as a drying rack; just hang it over the shower head.

*affiliate link

over-the-door shoe bag

A sturdy shoe bag is quite affordable and can serve a variety of functions. Use it to hold toiletries and hair care products, school supplies, kitchen utensils, snacks, t-shirts, socks, underwear, and, oh…shoes.

If your closet doesn’t have the right kind of door to accommodate a shoe bag, you may need to strike a deal with your roommate and offer to share some of the pouches in order to hang it over the bedroom door.

basic office supplies

My list of essential office supplies includes a three-hole punch, a stapler and a sturdy pair of scissors. Pretty much everything else depends on your personal preferences or the requirements of your individual classes. Just be careful not to overbuy as storage space will be limited.

ear plugs

While not a space saver, ear plugs are a definite dorm room essential. Whether you live on campus or off, things can sometimes get a little rowdy. A set of ear plugs comes in handy when others around you are making noise and you need to study - or sleep!

Mini sewing kit

Even if you're not a seamstress, a small sewing kit is highly recommended. You’re not likely to do more than sew on a button here and there, but this is a great item to have on hand for those crucial moments when one is needed. Be sure to include safety-pins in your kit.

first aid kit & basic medications

Few things are more frustrating than needing a band-aid or a dose of Ibuprofen and not having any on hand. A small but well supplied first aid kit that includes basic over the counter medications is a dorm room essential. Store your kit in a small art supply box like the one shown here*.

Laundry hamper & supplies

Depending on your mode of transportation, hauling a heavy jug of laundry detergent home from the store could be a real pain, so I recommend bringing one with you (unless you have a car). A single container will probably be enough to see you through the semester. Also worthwhile to have on hand is some sort of stain remover, and of course you'll need a hamper for storing and toting dirty clothes. I personally love the one shown below*. It's sturdy yet foldable and has two compartments for separating whites and colors.

a Supply of Quarters

If you’re fortunate enough to live in a dorm or apartment complex where the laundry facilities are free, you can disregard this dorm room essential. Otherwise, I highly recommend you start collecting quarters to use for laundry.

My third child is currently attending college. I recently sent him a care package in which I included a baggie full of quarters I had been collecting over the course of the semester. When he called to thank me for the package, the thing he was most excited about was the quarters!

amazon prime student

Prime Student* offers all the benefits of Amazon Prime, but with a greatly reduced price tag. Sign up for a free trial and pay nothing for the first six months! After that then it’s 50% off so long as you’re a student (up to four years). In addition to free shipping on all Amazon orders, membership includes unlimited photo storage, streaming of over 2 million songs, unlimited streaming of thousands of movies and TV shows, access to Twitch Prime, as well as exclusive discounts and deals for students.  It's a definite dorm room essential.

A Note About Textbooks

Amazon has a huge selection of textbooks at up to 90% off the cover price, so it’s worth checking there before paying full price at the campus bookstore. They also offer textbook rental which provides significant savings over purchasing a book. In addition, many textbooks are available as eBooks. 

Dorm Room Recommendations

While not necessarily dorm room essentials, the items suggested in this segment are highly recommended methods for maximizing the storage space in your dorm room or apartment. Depending on the configuration of your room, some of the following suggestions may not work for you.

under bed storage

The area beneath your bed is prime storage space. It's out of the way and out of sight yet fairly easy to access - especially with the right type of storage system. There are many different organizers on the market designed specifically for under bed storage. Personally, I prefer hard sided to soft sided versions. In my experience, the soft sided ones get floppy over time and don't hold their shape very well.

Some college dorm rooms or apartments have beds that are raised well above the floor. In such cases, plastic drawers or bins could be used for greater storage capacity. Better still, fill lidded plastic bins with seldom used items and place them at the back; then put plastic drawers or open storage bins in the front for storing items you use more regularly.

bed risers

If your bed is too low to the ground for storing items underneath it, consider placing it on risers* for added height. You may want to check with your apartment manager first to make sure there are no objections to raising the bed, just to be safe.

plastic drawers

If space permits, consider using plastic drawers in the bottom of your closet for extra storage. They're great for storing light weight clothing items and accessories. Smaller versions are available to sit on the desk top. Use them for storing makeup, nail and hair care items or school supplies.

plastic caddy

A caddy is a great option for storing personal grooming products. It allows you to keep all your supplies in one location and transport them easily. This is especially useful if you live in a dorm or apartment with shared bathrooms.

drawer organizers

Drawer organizers are available in a variety of styles. They're perfect for utilizing drawer space to maximize storage capacity. Use them in your desk, in the kitchen (if you have one), in the bathroom and in your dresser drawers as appropriate.

magnetic board

A magnetic board is great for storing small stuff in little metal tins or magnet backed plastic bins. It works for everything from office supplies to nail polish and cosmetics. See the example below.


adjustable hanging rod

If hanging space is what your really need, and you don't have enough, try an adjustable hanging rod designed to double your hanging space.

hanging closet organizer

A hanging closet organizer is another great way to maximize your hanging space. The best versions have pockets on the outside in addition to the 'shelves'.

Whatever your college living arrangements these dorm room essentials can help you maximize storage and utilize your space.

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