When transitioning into independence, most new college students must first live in a dorm before moving into their own residences. The small, boxy cell isn’t a year-long sentence to a cramped lifestyle as long as you use every millimeter of space appropriately.

Whether you’re living with an old friend or a complete stranger, you should be on the same page when deciding how to furnish your shared living space. So before moving in your personal items, evaluate what you’re working with.

Rearrange It & Plan It

Photo Credit Thinkstock

Photo Credit Thinkstock

Most dorms are fitted with two extra long twins and two desks. First, you must position these items in the most practical manner in order to to accentuate the provided space. A lot of dorms offer the opportunity to either stack your beds on top of each other as bunk beds, or may even provide additional add-ons to make your beds into lofts. Both of these options are ideal if you’re trying to maximize your tiny space.

Bunk beds, though reminiscent of your early childhood with siblings, are a great way to free up floor space. Although, based on sleeping preferences, it may not be a comfortable situation for everyone. On the other hand, if your own bed is a priority, then loft beds may be a preferable option. By utilizing the extra space under the bed to put your desk, mini fridge and even dresser, you will free up space that can be used for other items.

Once you have decided how to arrange the furniture in a way to create the most open space possible, you will now need to find a place to store all your personal items. This can be a great bonding experience with your new roommate as you can both decide how the common space will be used. Decide how to arrange the remaining furniture and appliances so you can then identify the dead space (not used for any purpose) and also determine how to split up the closet, wall space and other storage areas.

Back To School Season means every store in the area will no doubt be pushing color coordinated and space-saving goodies to help organize your tiny living space. Now that you’ve arranged your space in a way that is aesthetically pleasing to you, it’s time to maximize the storage space so you can fit in your essential items.

Over-the-Door It, Wall It or Hang It

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There are an awful lot of items positioned to help you free up floor and closet space, one of the most useful being “over-the-door.” Being that you may only have one door (or more if you have an in-room bathroom door or closets), this will be a tough decision. This may very well be one of the last things you should buy once you have identified your problem areas. From over-the-door shoe racks to over-the-door hampers, find the best item to use this otherwise useless space to its most practical potential.

Bed, Bath and Beyond and Home Depot have a wide selection of over-the-door products.

Much like the door, the walls can be used for other purposes than hanging your high school prom photos. Keep in mind that most dorms have rules about using nails and screws in the walls, so find out what you’re allowed to affix to the walls before you buy. With a large assortment of hooks, hangers and even shelves, with a little creativity you can use your extra wall space to your advantage. Peel and Stick Dorm Hooks are a cute and non-permanent option.

Though your closet will most likely be full of all your fashionable clothing choices, it is also wise to purchase a few hanging storage options to maximize the space. Hanging drawers, shoe racks and other space saving hanger options ensure your closet space is as outfitted as you will be for your Psych 101 class.

Desk It, Hide It, Stash It or Stack It

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Even if you can’t put shelves on your dorm walls, there are other ways to use these space-saving tools. By simply placing a shelving unit on top of your desk you have now opened up much needed desk space along with allowing room for books or other items. Another way to use your desk space to its full potential is by placing storage items on it. Some desk lamps even come with built in storage.

When you’re using every inch of space, don’t forget under the bed can be an untapped resource. With a wide variety of under-the-bed storage options, use this hidden space for storing out of season clothing or linens so these items stay out of your way.

Many chairs, ottomans and even bean bags come with built in storage. When you are selecting your comfy chair or couch, try to find one equipped with storage options so that you can stash your remotes, magazines or even blankets when you aren’t using them.

Using every inch of space should be a priority in order to keep your life and essentials organized. Stackable baskets and boxes make sure that anything that goes on the floor should also double as a storage option. Target has lots of cool options to stack.

Lastly, Leave It

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The easiest and most cost effective way to maximize your new room is to minimize. In other words, leave it at home. Rather than bringing every outfit or collectible, leave some of these items with your parents or give away unneeded items. The less you have, the more space you can use.

If you take the time to do some evaluating and planning, you can make the most of your tiny space all while expressing your individual tastes.

Nicole Cormier is a hip-hop head with business ambitions who stumbled awkwardly into journalism in 2007 as Colorado Music Buzz’s hip-hop editor. Nicole quickly became infatuated with Colorado hip-hop and devoted thousands of words to creating awareness of the inconspicuous yet insanely talented community. Nicole is the publisher and editor of the Colorado hip-hop e-magazine, http://www.HipHopRollCall.com and is also the Colorado Hip-Hop Examiner