It's that time of year when kids are settling into their new space at college.

One thing that's true of nearly every dorm room in every state in the nation: they’re small!

The average dorm room at an American college is less than 130 square feet, and often that’s a shared space between two students. That’s not a huge footprint in which to study, sleep and generally engage in the business of living and learning.

Clutter is the enemy. It will make a small space look even smaller, and you’ll never be able to find what you’re looking for when you need it.

Making use of the available space and amenities to the best advantage requires a little thought and a lot of organization.

Here are some tips for organizing a college dorm room from Marty Basher, home organization expert at ModularClosets.com.

Use the vertical space

Typically, the walls are bare, so get a wall organizer for desk essentials like pens, pencils, highlighters and so on. It keeps everything handy, but off the limited desk space that you need for your computer and books. Another great option is floating shelves: you can use these for everything from books to coffee cups, and they look great. And for lighting? Try clip lamps. They don’t need a flat surface to be put in place and can be moved around, as needs be.

Stackable bins

If you’re not allowed to alter much in the room, simple additions such as stackable clear plastic bins are great for inside your closet or if you have a closet shelf: you can still see what’s inside but can keep smaller items, like scarves or socks off the floor. Add a shoe holder to the inside of your closet door for even more spots to put odds and ends, including snacks and extra shampoo. Hanging closet organizers are also a great addition if you’ve basically got a closet with a rod and little else.

Rolling file cart

Keeping all your notes and papers organized in a rolling file cart. You can color code your file folders by subject and move the cart, as needed. So if you’re studying on your bed just roll all your files alongside. And if you’re having a dorm room gathering of friends, you can roll it out of the way under your desk. Easy and tidy.

Double duty

If you have a little extra space for some furniture, make sure that whatever you bring in is pulling double duty. So a bench for visiting friends to sit on is even better if the top flips up and reveals a storage area inside for bedding or cushions.

Use the dead spaces

Maximize your use of otherwise dead spaces. The corner closet that has only a rod across the top and nothing else, for example, is difficult to use as it is. However, the single rod probably leaves you with space toward the floor, unless you’re hanging a lot of pants or dresses. Make use of that dead space by adding some shelving, or roll in drawer sets, to put shirts, socks and other smaller items away. Add some removable hooks to make it a functional space for hanging hats and bags, without altering it dramatically. Also, don’t forget under the bed. Storage boxes or bags will fit and be a great spot for out of season items or sporting equipment.

Add a hutch

Depending on the type of desk you have, add a hutch to it, and you make use of vertical space while keeping all necessities close at hand. You’ll be glad to have access to what you need, including that all-important coffee maker, without even having to reach.

College is a unique experience for many, not the least of which is the living quarters. Finding ways to make it more organized, less cluttered and with a few creature comforts from home is the key to a good year.

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