The big move-in — or move-out, for first-timers — of 2015 has arrived.

College students all over the country are on a shopping frenzy as they begin to gather school supplies, which go beyond pens and notepads for those headed for university dorms. According to the National Retail Federation Back-to-College Spending Survey, Americans are slated to spend $43 billion on back-to-college items.

So how do you decide what to bring, what to leave home and how to show off your personality in a dorm room that averages about 225 square feet of shared space?

“We recommend getting organized with the basic six spots in mind: closet, walls/door, desk, laundry, bath and storage,” said Charlie Brown, general manager of The Container Store in Century City. “We’re all about getting rid of chaos and going with organization, which will actually give you back time. The idea is to be creative and look for every bit of space you can and use it.”

Dorm decor goes beyond organizing and the idea of mere furnishing, too. Today’s students want personalized space and that, to some extent, requires some design dexterity.

Experts suggest opting for smart storage solutions and other tried-and-true items such the collapsible laundry hamper and large acrylic organizers for toiletries. Also, don’t forget the space underneath beds where roll-away plastic containers can be stored filled with shoes and clothes. If there isn’t enough space, use bed risers.

For closets, go vertical by using rods or hanging bags, especially those that can be hung over doors like shoe organizers.

“You don’t want your child to be homesick. Once the organization is taken care of, then try to add some flair but with function,” Brown added.

For the best ideas and accessories, stores invite students and parents to browse in-store and order online, arranging to have the items shipped to their respective destinations. Major retailers also offer extensive college registries and services. For instance, Cal Poly Pomona, which is preparing to fill 2,400 beds (including doubles, triples and some suites) before classes begin Sept. 24, invites Bed Bath & Beyond each fall to campus where store personnel set up a mock room so students get a chance to see what might work and, more importantly, what won’t.

“Parents really worry the most about the space. With the students it’s how the room is going to look,” said Devonna Alatorre, a fifth-year mathematics student at Cal Poly Pomona and experienced resident assistant. “At first it can seem overwhelming, but you manage.”

Pottery Barn’s PBTeen, Dormify and, of course, Pinterest are other resources that offer tips, suggestions and enough must-have items to fill a dorm room. But Jeff Gawronski of DormCo, which offers college dorm essentials like Snap Dorm Cubes that can be used for clothes or as a tiered nightstand, emphasized that learning the art of dorm decorating and living can also apply to anyone attempting to maximize space in small apartments off campus and beyond.

“When decorating a small room, choose items that add to your decor as well as provide plenty of storage space,” Gawronski said. “The best storage items for this are tall and don’t use a lot of floor space.”


©2015 the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin (Ontario, Calif.)

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