20 Best Ways to Save Space In a College Dorm or Apartment at The Container Store

This post is sponsored by The Container Store but the opinions are my own. 

My younger brother is moving into his first college apartment this summer with two friends. He’s looking for ways to store all his stuff and make the space more functional. Think three guys, small space. So, I took him on a shopping trip. 

First stop, The Container Store. As we walked inside, I instantly felt immersed in a world that would bring order to any apartment chaos. The store was well laid out and was calming because everything was set up in a way that just made sense. There was a section for each room he would need: laundry, kitchen, storage, closet, and bathroom. We were drawn to the colorful and creative displays showcasing different ways to make a dorm or apartment feel like home while maximizing a small space. ​​Everyone was super friendly and helpful. 

Everything he needed had to be durable, trendy, and within his budget. He really needed underbed storage items, and we found those and more, as well as so many things I wish I’d had in my college space. Here’s what I would have loved in my dorm or first apartment.     

I found so many great things when I took my brother shopping for his college apartment at The Container Store. (Credit: The Container Store)

Best ways to organize your college dorm or apartment 

Note: We may receive compensation from purchases made through some of the links in this post. 

1. Three-Tier Rolling Cart 

Three-tier cart, The Container store
(Credit: The Container Store)

This is one of the most popular items at The Container Store and it’s not hard to see why. The slender design is an excellent way to keep things in order — without taking up too much space. When I tested this out in The Container Store, it rolled easily and was also slim enough to fit inside a closet.

This would be perfect in a suite-style bathroom for toiletries, or as a snack cart in a dorm. Each tier could also be used for different items such as beauty, school supplies, and more. The optional accessories included clip-on cups for pens, pegboards and even a charging station. Available in seven great colors. Exclusive to The Container Store.  

2. Poppin Box Seat

Poppin Box Seat, The Container Store
The Poppin Box Seat is something I would have loved for my dorm room. (Credit: Madeleine Korn)

This storage ottoman is a win, doubling as an extra seat for friends and a storage box! The dimensions are 16” x 16” x 16” and it is strong enough to hold up to 275 pounds. It collapses flat when not in use, making it super practical for a dorm room or college apartment

This can also be used as a stool for getting into an elevated bed. After my brother and I checked it out, I can tell you that the seat was soft and comfortable to sit on and it had plenty of storage space.

3. Large Tint Stacking Drawer

Tinted storage bins, The Container Store
(Credit: Lisa Heffernan)


There might not be room for a tall dresser in the dorm room, but these lightweight, stackable drawers will do the trick. I stacked several to create the perfect-sized dresser for my dorm room, and then I hung up the rest of my clothing.

The integrated handle makes it easy to grab and carry, plus there is a drawer stop to prevent the drawers from falling out if pulled too far. In addition to clear drawers, they are available in six colors and two sizes. The color ones are transparent as well, making it easy to find things. One idea is to use a different color drawer for different items – blue for shirts, orange for pants, etc.   

$9.99 for small, $19.99 for large 


4. Elfa Printer/Fridge Cart

Fridge cart, The Container Store
(Credit: The Container Store)

One of my favorite things is the Elfa Printer/Fridge Cart. Elfa is The Container Store’s original customizable storage system. A mini fridge is a dorm essential for snacks and leftovers but having it on the floor is not ideal. A cart will elevate the fridge for easy access, plus this one includes drawers below for snacks, disposable dishes and silverware. And the wheels make it easy to move. It can also be used as a printer stand and the drawers are perfect for paper, folders and other school/work essentials. 

Now – 25% savings on all ELfa through 8/5/24.


5. Wide Underbed Storage Bin   

Underbed storage bins, The Container Store
(Credit: The Container Store)

Adding underbed storage is an excellent way to make use of otherwise wasted space. They can use these underbed bins to store off-season clothes, shoes, extra bedding, and towels. To create even more room, elevate the bed with bed risers and then stack underbed bins and drawers below. The Container Store underbed storage bins are durable, slim, and they will last well beyond the four years of college.


6. Acrylic Makeup System

(Credit: The Container Store)

From makeup to jewelry to skincare, this clear acrylic modular storage system can hold it all in one place. There are even slots for makeup brushes, mascara, and lipstick. It’s ideal for a dorm room or college apartment where small items can get lost easily. The modular design makes it easy to create custom organization – just stack and store. Exclusively at The Container Store.


7. Vornado Fan

Vornado fan, The Container Store
(Credit: The Container Store)

One of the most challenging things about older dorms can be the lack of air conditioning, especially if your teen is going to college in a warm climate. The Vornado metal fan creates a cool, quiet, constant airflow with two-speed settings and a pivoting head. This one is small enough that it won’t take up much space in an already-packed dorm room.  


8. Elfa Utility Large Wire Over the Door Rack

(Credit: The Container Store)

This easy, no-tools assembly over-the-door rack will maximize space in a dorm room. The baskets can be easily repositioned to fit your teen’s needs. Use it to store snacks, skincare, makeup, extra soaps, washcloths, and more. This was displayed beautifully at the store and I was pleasantly surprised by how large the baskets were. 

Now – 25% savings on all Elfa through 8/5/24.


9. Fine Lumens Plat Wireless Charging Lamp

(Credit: The Container Store)

A charging station and dimmable desk lamp all in one — the top surface works as a wireless phone charger while a side USB port can power up an additional device. This stylish lamp is available in three pretty colors. 


10. Hollywood Mirror

(Credit: The Container Store)

Give your student a Hollywood-style setup with this mirror lit up by nine long-lasting LED bulbs. The professional-level lighting includes touch-button settings for brightness and color. Dorm lighting is often not great, but with this, your student will have the perfect setup for doing makeup or getting ready in the morning, instead of having to use a crowded shared bathroom.


11. Over the Door Mirror

(Credit: The Container Store)

Dorm rooms or college apartments typically don’t come with a full body mirror, which means your student won’t be able to see their outfit before they dash out for classes, meetings or social gatherings. My roommate and I used our over-the-door mirror every single day. This one is a beautiful combination of practicality and style — made with durable materials so it’s built to last and can be used all four years of college. With hooks designed to fit most doors (up to 1.875″ thick) it’s very easy to install. 


12. Calpak Expandable Tote

(Credit: The Container Store)

Tote bags are useful in college and beyond — for class, workouts, grocery shopping, the beach, or work. The organizer pockets include a 15″ laptop sleeve and a zippered exterior side pocket. The expandable base unzips to create an extra four inches of packing space and there is a luggage sleeve which makes it a great option for travel, too. Available in three versatile colors. 


13. Hanging Closet Organizer

(Credit: The Container Store)


In a small college dorm or apartment, utilizing every bit of space is absolutely crucial – especially in closets. This hanging closet organizer does just that by maximizing your closet’s vertical space for folded t-shirts, sweaters, handbags – even an extra sheet set. For concealed storage – you can add optional drawers. And it’s something your teen can use in future apartments. No tools or assembly required. 


14. Weathertight Tote Clear

(Credit: The Container Store)

These totes are a great way to store towels, snacks, medication, extra bedding, and bulky clothes. They can be put under your student’s bed or in their closet. The clear exterior makes it easy to find things. They are available in multiple sizes so try to find out if your student has a lofted or conventional bed if you plan to use them under the bed. The New York Times product review site, Wirecutter, gives the Weathertight Tote top reviews. 


15. Hydro Flask 24 Ounce, Standard Mouth

(Credit: The Container Store)


A durable and insulated water bottle is a must-have for every college student — and something your teen will use for all four years of college and after. Hydro Flask insulation keeps beverages cold for up to 24 hours and hot for up to 12 hours and they have 10 pretty colors. 


16. Three-Drawer Rolling Cart w/ Power

Credit: The Container Store

This rolling cart offers three pull-out bins which are ideal for storing clothes, accessories, office supplies, makeup or hair products. It’s the perfect size for a nightstand, makeup organizer or all three. A built-in power adaptor keeps devices charged up while the wheels make it easy to use anywhere in your room.


17. Three-Tier Metal Shoe Rack

Credit: The Container Store

Think vertically to store multiple pairs of shoes in minimal space in a closet or entryway. Made of steel, this rack holds up to 60 lbs. and comes in black, white, and juniper. 


18. Brightech Aria Shelf Lamp

Credit: The Container Store

This is one of the coolest ways to add lighting, storage, and charging power to a dorm room or apartment. With five open shelves, it can be used to showcase photos of friends and family, organize essentials, or display plants. The middle shelf serves as a wireless charging station.

The built-in LED light illuminates the space, plus the brightness is adjustable (ideal for if a roommate is sleeping and you want a softer light). Smart home compatible through Alexa, Google, or Apple when used with a smart outlet.


19. Ten-Pocket Overdoor Storage

Credit: The Container Store

With ten pockets, this shoe organizer keeps things sorted and easy to grab. It’s finished with a protective coating that wipes clean, so it won’t stain easily. It can even be used to store snacks or other small items if you don’t want to fill it with shoes. It holds up to 30 lbs.


20. Bamboo Bedside Shelf

Credit: The Container Store

Having a bedside caddy was a lifesaver my freshman year when there was not enough space for a nightstand. I always kept my ChapStick, water bottle, tissues, and phone on it. This bamboo shelf attaches tool-free to the bed’s frame, creating a strong ledge. No assembly required.

Prices accurate at time of publication. 

About Madeleine Korn

Madeleine Korn is a recent graduate from the University of California, Santa Barbara. After graduating, she worked in marketing for a cybersecurity company for a year and a half. For the past year, she has been traveling the world while volunteering in hostels. Starting this fall, she will be teaching English in Spain. To learn more, here are her social media accounts: TikTok and Instagram. She loves writing and creating videos and really enjoys working for Grown and Flown!

Read more posts by Madeleine

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