Clog advice column: maximizing dorm space

Michael Ball/Staff

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Disclaimer: We at the Clog have heard lots of questions from Cal students. While the question below was not actually submitted, we think it captures the spirit of the things we’ve heard around campus!

Dear Clog,

I am a new student who just moved into the dorms. While the people are really chill, my dorm room is figuratively the size of a hamster cage. What gives? I have nowhere to put my things! Can you give me advice on how to transform my miniature jail cell into a Taj Mahal? 


Pack Rat

Dear Pack Rat,

As Napoleon Bonaparte once said, “good things come in small packages.” This adage holds true in your situation. A dorm room can be transformed into a hive of creative, organized expression with a few minor tweaks. Think of your room not as a blank canvas but as a janky ball of clay waiting to be carefully molded into a beautiful urn. Like Schrodinger’s Cat, the physics of your space depend less on what is actually there and more on what you perceive to be there. By using strategically placed visual queues, hiding odd crap and investing in some storage units, your space will look like it came straight out of a Sears Home ad.

First, spend an unhealthy amount of time browsing Pinterest. The people who upload photos to that site have nothing better to do with their time than figure out how to make things look visually appealing, so they’ve gotten freakishly good at it. Draw inspiration from users who get crafty with mason jars, seasonal potpourri and other odd domestic items. However, steer clear of the ambitious artisans — those who claim it’s easy to transform a piece of driftwood  into a light-up bed frame. A DIY project is only worthwhile if you can actually “do it yourself.”

Now that you’ve pinned up the pretty posters you got on “Free and For Sale” and hung your secondhand Christmas lights, it’s time to bury the skeletons — i.e. hide your ugly crap. If you’re the fast-and-dirty type, simply pile up your odd knick knacks and throw a blanket over them serial-killer style. If you’re willing to put a little more effort into the endeavor, get familiar with mankind’s greatest invention: the square box. You can find this relic at almost any office-supply store. Fill it with funky accoutrements, put a lid on it and you’re good to go.

The final step in your extreme home makeover is practical organization. You want some items readily accessible, but you also want them to look neat. Stockpile stick-on hooks from Walgreens or Staples and plaster them in rows on your wall. Invest in a small plastic bookcase or dresser. If you’re feeling really bold, hang an over-door organizer.  Style and arrange your belongings a la IKEA, and when in doubt, ask yourself, “What would Martha Stewart do?”

There you have it — the trifecta of dorm room design. Follow our advice and you’ll be living in the lap of industrialized, public-school luxury. Your new room will be so appealing that you’ll never want to leave the dorms — that is, until you remember the co-ed bathrooms and nasty cafeteria food.

There for you when you need unqualified advice,

Your friends at the Clog


Daniela Grinblatt is an assistant blog editor. Contact her at [email protected].