Ask A Washington DC Expert: Essentials When Dorm Shopping

July 23, 2013 8:00 AM

Photo Credit: Sara D. Davis/Getty Images

Dorm living can be tough without the proper essentials. Maximizing space in a dorm room is extremely important. Students want to have all the luxuries from home, only in a tiny room, and this is possible with space-saving techniques.

Photo Gallery: Must-Have School Supplies

Jill Lawrence is the first Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization in Washington DC. Her DC-area organizing firm Jill-of-all-Trades has been in business since 1996. Lawrence gives her expert advice on organizing the shopping trip to buy dorm gear. “There are many dorm room lists available for free on the Internet,” said Lawrence who added, “The key is that the student needs to divvy up the items on these web lists according to the store they will get them from. The basic stores would be Container Store, Bed Bath & Beyond, Office Depot, Walgreens and Strosneiders. So, type out a separate list for each store.”

Certified professional organizer Scott Roewer of Solutions By Scott suggests reaching out to one’s dorm mate before shopping. “Keep in mind, you may be sharing the space with someone else,” said Roewer. “If that’s the case, reach out to your new roommate before you move in so you can figure out if some of the organizing items can be used by you both.”

Lawrence stresses the importance of keeping space open. “To keep space open, flowing and functional and to not feel too claustrophobic, don’t block access to door openings or door-swing movement. Keep paths clear to closets, shelves, drawers, beds and windows. The biggest bugaboos to this flow are giant bins and trunks. They are lumbering, cumbersome blockades to sanity in a small shared room.”

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Lawrence explains that “climbing the walls” serves dual purposes. Wall space must be taken advantage of. Installing shelves generates extra storage.

“A full supply of command hooks is a must for hanging almost anything. Many dorm facilities do not allow you to put hooks in the walls, so command hooks will allow you to hang art, clothing, accessories and pictures – generally anything under five pounds,” said Roewer.


Closet organization is necessary to starting your day without a hitch. An unorganized closet, whether it is too full or unkempt, does people disservice. 

Utilizing the closet door is a smart way to gain space. Hang hooks over each closet door, and even on the back of the door to a room. The hooks can hold bags, belts, shirts or just anything with a loop. To store shoes, hang a clear shoe bag, which can hold up to 20 pairs, over a door. 

Using the correct hangers is ideal for easy movement and cleanliness. Lawrence recommends Real Simple space-saving hangers with hooks to chain a couple of similar tops together. Also, ladder hangers can hold up to four pairs of slacks or skirts. An additional closet rod doubles the amount of space for hangers.


“Look for free-standing storage options – I highly recommend the Elfa free-standing system from The Container Store. Easily expand and customize your storage space without putting holes in the dorm walls. If you need drawers, no problem,” said Roewer.

Lofting a bed is another option when determining the amount of bins to purchase for storing extra items like out-of-season clothing or extra supplies. Risers, plastic or wood, are easy to find. 

Doors, which tend to be overlooked as useless, provide optimum storage. Add racks for towels, DVD or book storage or accessories that you have no other place for.

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A dorm room serves as a study lab of sorts. College students are slammed with homework and upcoming tests and need appropriate workspace to get in hours of studying in a comfortable setting.

Necessities including lights that swing and clip to things like bedposts, a caddy for school supplies, a portable desk pillow that allows one to work anywhere and a bookshelf large enough for a growing collection of text.

Other products that must be purchased include a durable laundry basket, bathroom caddy and cleaning supplies.

Glover Park Ace Hardware
2251 Wisconsin Ave. N.W.
Washington, DC 20007
(202) 333-6378

Glover Park Ace Hardware will have many of your dorm room needs. 

Kelly Johnston is a freelance writer living in D.C. She graduated from the University of Alabama with a degree in Fashion Retail and Merchandising and a minor in Journalism. Her work can be found at

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