Welcome to your new digs, university student. Hope you enjoy sharing a tiny space with one (or more) roommates. Before you move yourself in, here are a few tricks you can use to make your little area go a long way, especially in a shared living environment.
Illustration by Sam Wooley. Photos by Crystal, Amy Meredith, pc8plusmore, Joeri van Veen, and Denizen Design.
Use Bed Risers to Give Yourself Extra Storage Space
This trick is useful in any small living space, but it becomes especially handy in student housing. Bed risers give you an extra couple of centimetres of space underneath your bed. Look at all that extra storage space you have now! If the beds in your accommodation allow it, you can also consider bunking your beds to get even more floor space.
In the US you can get these bed risers from Bed Bath and Beyond, which not only give you an extra 18cm of space underneath your bed, but one of them has two USB outlets and two regular power outlets embedded in them. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find an Australian equivalent, but if you’re going to the US to study then these are definitely worth picking up.
Replace Your Bedside Table With a Mattress Caddy to Store Your Stuff
Having a bedside table is nice, but, they also take up a lot of precious furniture space. This mattress caddy provides a slim alternative. A long flap on one end slides in between your mattress and bed spring, leaving the caddy to hang next to your bed.
The caddy comes with pockets for things like books, magazines or tablets. The sides have mesh pockets where you can store your glasses or phone. There’s even a rectangular space sized for a tissue box with an opening on the side. Some customer reviews have suggested that it can take some work to get it to stay in place, but in the worst case you can usesome cheap Velcro to hold it. It’s worth it to give you space for another small table in your room, or free up you bedside table for something else.
Give a Folding TV Tray Double Duty As an Ironing Board
Folding TV trays are awesome in small living spaces. They give you a sturdy place to eat or work, then fold up to disappear into your closet or under the bed. However, DIY site Like A Saturday suggests you give your TV tray a second job. Add a layer of batting and fabric on top, and your tray can also serve as an ironing board.
Adding the batting and fabric is super simple and cheap. Batting can cost as little as $23 for 1.5m and you can find plenty of fabric patterns for even less. Wrap them both around the tray and use a staple gun to keep it in place and you’re good to go. It won’t be a lot cheaper than a small ironing board would be on its own, but it’s definitely cheaper than a TV tray and an ironing board together. Just be sure to avoid making a mess when you eat off of it (or cover the tray) so you don’t end up transferring spill stains to your nice ironed clothes.
Put Your Dresser In Your Closet to Save Living Space
Dressers take up a lot of precious space. If you want more floor space, try shoving your dresser in the closet, if you’re lucky enough to have one. You can let your shirts and shorter clothing items hang over or next to it, while you still have access to the drawers underneath.
Obviously, this one is dependent on the size of the furniture and the closets you have access to. If you have a really small closet or a big dresser, you can also look into closet organisers. These can be used to store shoes, towels, books, accessories or any other miscellaneous junk you have sitting around. You may even want to get rid of the dresser entirely for more compact storage like an over-the-door shoe holder that can be repurposed for all kinds of uses.
Keep Seasonal Clothes In Vacuum Bags When You’re Not Using Them
If you live in your student accommodation all year long and don’t have space at a parents house to keep seasonal clothes, they can take up a ton of space sitting around waiting for the weather to change. Vacuum bags can dramatically cut that space down. Simply fold your clothes up, place them in the bag and use a vacuum pump to suck the excess air out. The result is a bag that takes up a ton less space.
Vacuum bags aren’t ideal for clothes that you’ll need to access every single day, but they’re perfect for swapping out summer and winter clothes, storing nice clothes that you only need on special occasions, or just for keeping extra clothes around so you can change up your rotation during the semester. The bags also help protect them from getting dirty, wet or otherwise damaged while they’re in storage.
Use Seating With Built-In Storage Wherever Possible
You may not have a ton of space for chairs or couches, but the last thing you want to do is choose between seating and storage. When you can, get the best of both worlds by getting benches, ottomans or chairs that have built-in storage. Your guests are probably going to end up sitting on the storage boxes in your room anyway. May as well get one with a cushion on top.
If you can’t afford furniture with storage built into it, storage containers that fit in the empty space beneath seating is the next best thing. Modular drawers can fit beneath benches, beds and in all the other small areas that aren’t being used.
Bring Combination Cooking Appliances Where Your Housing Allows
Some student housing has pretty tight restrictions on what kinds of appliances you’re allowed to bring with you. When you can bring appliances, anything that can do multiple jobs can be a lifesaver. Electric kettles, for example, can be used to heat water for soup, make coffee and even boil eggs. If a slow cooker or rice cooker is permitted, they’re a must have.
The fewer appliances or kitchen gear you have to bring to your accommodation, the more storage space you can use for the things that matter. Depending on how your rooms are set up, you may also be able to make use of shared kitchen space to eliminate the need for your own appliances at all. Take a look through your university’s housing restrictions to see what you can bring.
More than anything, if you want to save space in your room you have to adjust your thinking to look upwards. With a little creativity, you can stack storage as high as the ceiling (or at least as high as you can reach) to give yourself extra room.
Even if your housing doesn’t allow you to mount things on the wall, you can get adhesive-based shelves to add extra storage to the walls. Stackable storage drawers come in all shapes and sizes. You can even hang hammocks from the ceiling to store soft and light stuff like clothing. The more you can use up the space above you, the more you can move around in your housing without getting in anyone’s way.