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How to Design A Minimalist Dorm Room

Some of us have been dreaming about moving out to start college for a long time. However, the initial joy of starting fresh can eventually (and sometimes very quickly) be hampered by the challenges of sharing your personal space with virtual strangers, stressing over the crippling workload of college, and virtually fending for yourself.

How to Design A Minimalist College Dorm Room

Add to that the constant pressure of living in a small, constrained space for nine months out of 12 for the next four years of your life, and things may start to feel a bit daunting. 

You can easily go overboard with packing and end up with more stuff than you need. For many, it becomes challenging to take control of their budget.

But don’t let any of that put you off! Everything is perfectly manageable – yes, even the easy clutter that can make a tiny dorm feel positively claustrophobic at times! 

How to Design A Minimalist College Dorm Room

You must be wondering how, and the answer is quite simple: adopt minimalism.

Small lifestyle changes can go a long way in helping you better manage your time, resources, and, most importantly: your space when you start becoming a minimalist. Living with less clutter (physical and mental) can help your college life become more mindful, easy-going, independent, and less stressful.

Going minimal can help you rediscover yourself and reinvent your dorm room to make the next four years of your life decidedly easier. If you want to know how, here are some great ideas to plan and make use of basic minimalist principles:

What is minimalism?

To plan ahead, you first need to understand the basic concept of what minimalism offers and the essence of this lifestyle.

While initially an art movement that came about in the 1950s, minimalism quickly took a life of permeating architecture, interior design, and even the way people live. 

How to Design A Minimalist College Dorm Room

It dictates that you get rid of every extra and frou-frou object in your life so that every purpose you own can be more meaningful. It dictates that you live with the bare necessities and only the things that you well and truly need. This includes clothes, accessories, and even furniture.

Most importantly, minimalism is not only rooted in the physical aspect of things, but it can also be applied to your mental health.

The gist is, the less cluttery your physical space has, the more open and relaxed your mind will become.

Now that you understand what minimal means being, let’s look at all the things you can do to incorporate this lifestyle in your college dorm room:

How to Plan and Pack for a Minimalist Dorm Room

The first thing you need to do is call the Housing Department of your college and get as much information about your dorm as possible. This may include the size, the layout, the common areas, and even the bathrooms (are they shared or not). 

You can also inquire about the appliances and what kind of items may not be allowed on the dorm list. If you can manage to set up a visit to your dorm before moving day, that’d be great. It can help you get an appraisal of what kind of furniture, carpet, and other accessories are already available (and in what condition).

How to Design A Minimalist College Dorm Room

Once you’ve got all this information, you need to create a packing list. Remember: pick smartly. Just because you’re heading out on your own does not mean you pack your entire room to bring with you.

After that, you can get in contact with your dorm mates. Get to know them and cross-check what they’re bringing so that you won’t move any unnecessary items.

Once you’ve got a handle on all these things, you can start planning the layout of your dorm. It can also help you determine what small appliances you should bring with you. For example, many dorm RAs and supervisors occasionally do a bust-check to see if anyone brought high-voltage appliances.

Other than that, you just need to figure out the bare necessities, i.e., what kind of stuff you need to make your new space feel like a home away from home. These should include clothes, toiletries, medicine, cleaning products, gadgets, your college education essentials (such as books, stationery, etc.), relevant documents, and maybe bed covers. Note that all of these things are absolute must-haves. If you’ve got them, there’s nothing else that you should need.

Pro tip:

The items you do NOT need include random décor and accessories (yes, even wall posters, because of visual clutter). Keep things clean and decluttered.

Minimalist Dorm Room Must Haves

When you’re moving in with a roommate, it’s a given that both of you are going to have their own furniture. Basically, the small space of your dorm will contain as many desks, beds, and dressers as the people sharing it.

If your dorm isn’t already furnished, to begin with, then your first job here is to pick out ergonomic and minimalist furniture. Here are some suggestions:

If you’re shopping for a bed, you can make sure that it’s a foldable design or storage underneath. 

Minimalist Dorm Room - Compact Dressers

You can opt for a small compact dresser instead of the full-scale old-school shebang. You can also go for a standing mirror with built-in storage. These are super trendy and always turn out to be colossal space-saving, accessory arranging lifesavers. 

Minimalist Dorm Room - Desk

There are lots of minimalist desk designs that you can opt for these days. Some of them can even be mounted on the wall and be folded closed when not in use.

How to Design A Minimalist College Dorm Room

Once you’ve gotten yourself smart furniture (and you should suggest it to your dorm mates also), it’s time to rearrange the layout.


It’s okay if the dorm is already furnished. You can always optimize the plan with the existing pieces of furniture.

Many shared dorm rooms feature loft beds, which frees up so much space. The area underneath can be utilized to affix your desk and dresser, freeing up a lot of circulation in the middle.

If your dorm ceilings aren’t high enough, then try going for a wall-to-wall layout. Typically, you’ll have your own side of the room, where the bed will be against the wall. A compact dresser can be added instead of a nightstand, and the desk can be fixed at the front.

Your goal here is to create as much circulation space as you possibly can in the middle.

Pro tip: 

Try to fit in a small storage ottoman in your space so that you can even accommodate guests and have extra room to keep your jackets, leggings, and other stuff out of sight, but within handy reach.

Minimalist Dorm Room Storage & Organizing

While minimalism is all about letting go of the physical objects in life. It can be pretty impossible to give away your educational and everyday necessities when you’re living in a cramped dorm room where you have to get ready, create assignments, and even host if the situation calls for it. Here are a few ways that you can optimize your storage to suit the minimalist lifestyle:

How to Design A Minimalist College Dorm Room
Minimalist Dorm Room - Under the bed storage

You can find many multi-compartment racks that will easily slip under your bed and provide tremendous organizational opportunities. You can find many innovative storage solutions for your dorm at the containerstore website. Although primarily providing innovative office organization tools, many of these pieces can also be used to design a large under-bed storage arena for yourself.

Minimalist Dorm Room - Wall Hooks

You must know that most dorms do not allow their residents to hammer nails within the walls. This is where removable stick hooks come in. They’re very easy to put up and don’t peel off the paint when you take them off.


You can put them on the back of your door so that the hanging clutter on the hooks doesn’t directly affect your space’s ambient quality.

These hooks can also be used to hang stuff on your walls. From prettily adorned curtains to decorative poles, mirrors, and more, there’s a lot of you do with them!

Minimalist Dorm Room - Floating Shelves

If your desk feels too cluttered, you can always go for floating shelves to make the best of your space. However, instead of going for typical vertical files and flat wooden slats, the Perch Magnetic Modular System Components provides an excellent variety of floating containers where you can organize your workspace.


Pro tip:

If you’ve got even a tiny bit of standing room or a narrow wall-space in your room, you can furnish it with IKEA’s smartly designed LACK Shelf to make the best of your college dorm organization.

Essential Minimalist Dorm Room Necessities

If you’re embracing the minimalist lifestyle, you need to know that decorating comes with a functional handicap. Everything must have some ergonomic characteristics, but some visual hacks can also help you out.

Here are some of our suggestions for accessorizing your dorm room with a minimalist flair:

How to Design A Minimalist College Dorm Room

It may be impossible to practice your green thumb in the constrained environment of a dorm room, but you can always rely on beautiful fakes. Tiny artificial planters (especially succulents) can go a long way in making your dorm feel welcoming without adding to the visual clutter.