There’s no place like home – but your residential college room can come close

For incoming students, trying to condense 18 years’ worth of possessions into an 8-by-10 foot living space can be just as challenging as moving away from home.

Dorm rooms often feel cramped, especially in comparison to the huge amount of space in a student’s own bedroom. But don’t despair yet—there are plenty of ways to make your “home away from home” feel bright and roomy.

First, try lofting the bed. This provides floor space underneath for a desk, a couch for extra guest seating or an entertainment area complete with a television. Bed loft kits can be rented through for $200 for the academic year.

If you don’t want to climb up a ladder to your bed, bed risers are also a great alternative to give your bed some height without raising it completely. With a four-pack of bed risers, you can add several inches of vertical space for storage containers, roller drawers or suitcases. Prices range from $15-$100 per set, with extra outlets, wheels or a range of finishes, and can be found online or in-store at Amazon, Target, The Container Store or Bed, Bath and Beyond.

Don’t overlook the included storage features in the dorms—built-in shelving and hidden storage spaces are plentiful in Hecht, Stanford and Eaton Residential Colleges. If you decide not to loft your bed, check the cushioned panel next to the bed in most freshman dorms to reveal several cubbies, and above the desks are shelves for decor or books.

Try a set of coordinated baskets to keep clutter organized and stash away everything from snacks to extra pencils. Additionally, UM’s dorms offer plenty of closet space. Most rooms include a sliding accordion door to section off the area, or DIY your own version with a fun tapestry. To halve the amount of room your clothes take up, try linking pairs of hangers with all those extra La Croix can tabs you’re sure to accumulate. And in the extra room, loop a few hanging shelves for maximum space usage.

The built-in shelves above the closet are also perfect for storing extra bedding and towels or larger items that would clutter the room. To make the most of your space, and add some much-needed personality to blank walls, removable hooks are your best friend. Hang extra clothing and bath towels or string up some lights and posters with a variety of velcro or adhesive hooks.

You could even hang a mirror or large whiteboard with super strong over-the-door hooks. Most importantly, make sure you’re not over-cluttering your new home with stuff you don’t need. For out-of-staters, be mindful of Miami weather: You can leave the bulky winter coats at home. (Though it’s a good idea to keep one medium-weight jacket for travel days.)

Don’t go overboard buying furniture or decor before you move in; you will soon notice that less is more. If you do decide you need extra storage tools or one more finishing touch for your gallery wall, there are plenty of stores surrounding campus where you can buy anything you need.

This story originally appeared in First Impression 2018 and was written by Contributing Writer Natalie Abatemarco.