Some of us have changed apartments over the summer, others have moved to entirely new towns and some of us are heading into Dorm Life Part X. You organized your stuff to move, it’s spectacularly labeled and everything, but now you have to figure out where it’s really going to fit in your new space.
Dorm rooms and small apartments are harder to organize because their dimensions are smaller and the space must be multifunctional!
Apartments can be tricky if you have to share it with someone else because you may only have one space for just your things but you still have a common area to relax in or study. So what do you do?
Know Your Space – Before you start moving anything anywhere or rearranging, know the space you’ll be using. What are the dimensions? Are there closets? What are those dimensions? Is it carpeted or not? What furniture has to fit in the space? What is already in the space? Are there built in shelves or rods? Where are the electrical outlets? What is the lighting? Where is any built in lighting? Where are the windows and doors?
Once you know all of these things your job becomes easier mentally, if not physically, to draw out the space and imagine in your head where you think you want things. Desks should be nearer to light sources if you don’t use lamps, and they aren’t usually something that sits in the middle of a room. You don’t want something to impede your access to the door or windows in case of an emergency.
Know Your Stuff – You know your belongings better than anyone else can. You know what can be out in the open and what can’t. You know what’s OK to store and what’s not. Once you’ve figured out a general idea of where you want everything and you’ve drawn it out, move the furniture items into place first. This might involve putting boxes in the hallway for a short while (if you’re in a dorm, move the furniture before you move your stuff in – and don’t forget – you might need a friend or two to help.
If the furniture doesn’t work exactly how you want it, be a little flexible. Leave enough room for your desk chair to be used (general rule of thumb about 3 feet back from desk give or take). If you want to loft or raise your bed, this is the time to do it.
If necessary, sort all of your belongings again. If you come across things as you are pulling them out that you really meant to leave somewhere else or you meant to throw away or you meant to give away, don’t put them up now. Make a box for Goodwill, one for trash and one for sending somewhere else. Put things in these boxes as appropriate and then do what they say.
One Thing at a Time – Once your furniture is arranged to suit you, start with the other stuff. I like to start with the closet. If you’re anything like me, your things aren’t “exactly” organized by where it should go, so we’re working on general premise right now. Hang up all the clothes that should be hung up. Put all the shoes and folded clothes where they should go. Whatever you had your clothes in has to be stored, but we’re not storing things yet, so put them back in the hallway.
Next, I like to do my desk area. Put all your desk items and computer, etc, where you want it and set it all the way up. Put the items that need to go in drawers or on shelves in their respective places. You don’t need 50 pens in that mega pack at once! Put some in the drawers. If you keep the desk uncluttered you’ll have plenty of space to actually use it as a desk. Whatever you transported these items in go in the hall, too.
Now, it’s time to do the bed area. Make your bed and then put the rest of your sheets on top of the bed (still folded). Also place your towels or similar items there (unless you have them in what you plan to store them in for the rest of the year in which case you can put that in the closet or under the bed, which ever is your preference).
Decorate the Walls – My ultimate problem besides not enough book storage is the need to hang things up. I love 3M’s poster tabs and their hooks. They also make some nifty tabs for hanging photo frames. I make my own hook for my towel and toiletries and enough hooks for my jackets and backpacks or gym bags.
Store Everything Properly – You will no doubt have bags or containers that need to be stored or that you will be storing things in. Crates and other under the bed items go under the bed. If you’ve got room in your closet, you can store things there. Small shelving units may be used in the closet for things such as bath items (especially if in a dorm).
I generally keep luggage under the bed with things like winter clothes or sheets and towels in them. It’s storage you already have, why buy more? I also keep a footlocker with other clothes or things I want to keep secure. My younger brothers keep one in their room with their food to keep roommates out of their stash. While your closet might be tempting to put food in, it’s a bad idea. If you inadvertently have open food and there are ants or other bugs they will be all in your clothes. If you have roommates, but you have a personal small fridge, under the bed is another good place to put that. It’s out of sight and still accessible.
Bookshelves and plastic twenty gallon totes two great resources for storage. I actually used twenty gallon totes in the closet for my t-shirts instead of sticking them in a drawer. At the end of a week they were an easy thing to throw my laundry in and take it down to the washers. I still use a 20 gallon tote for laundry even though I’m in an apartment – they don’t tear up as easily as bags and can hold a lot of stuff. Plus they’ve got handles, so none of that annoying hand numbness. Store cardboard boxes only if you need them on a short term basis. If you mail a lot of things in boxes, keep a few on hand but especially if you’ve got a premium on space, keep the number down. If you have the luxury of having plenty of space for them, store as many as you want, but break them down first.
Hide Unsightly Blemishes – All walls were not created equally. If it’s allowed, put up posters or tapestries or flags, etc to cover the walls and make the space feel less boring! They also work on doors, tables, etc.
Trash – Know the rules about tossing boxes and other garbage. Recycle if it’s available and don’t toss anything with identifying marks on it (like your name and address) without marking through them or taking that part off completely and shredding.
That’s it folks! Of course it is far easier said than done, but if you do things step by step and do it slowly, you will really have things as you want them in your new space!
HarriMac enjoys a well lived life with a large serving of soul. Her special feature, Welcome to Soulville, appears every Thursday.