As summer comes to a close, many parents are nearing that bittersweet time of sending a child off to college.  It is easy to focus on the overwhelming list of things to do, but I hope you can relax, make some precious memories, and enjoy the process.

After helping my own children, many friends, and hundreds of Container Store customers get ready for college over the past 8 years, I have developed some tips that I hope will spark creativity and make this upcoming month less stressful and more of an adventure for you to prepare a fashionable and functional space.


  • Visit Jean’s Favorite Dorm Ideas for pictures and links I have collected.
  • Space is limited – plan your purchases carefully and don’t overbuy!  Your dorm room may be smaller than your home bedroom, and many of you will be sharing a room for the first time.
  • Look for flexibility & quality to last 4 years & more.
  • Think vertically – doors, walls …
Under bed storage and a board spanning across the dressers to create an extra surface for the TV.
  • The farther away from home you go, the trickier logistics can be … what to take, what to ship, what to buy there.  When possible, ship or pick it up near your college.
  • Get details & dimensions from your school.  Most colleges have a lot of information on their website.  If you can’t find an answer, call the Housing Department.
    • Bed size – will you have a regular (39″ x 75″) or XL (39″ x 80″) twin mattress?
    • What is the height of clearance under the bed?  Is it adjustable vertically?  Are you allowed to loft the bed, use risers, or bunk your beds?  Plan out your space!
    • Appliances & Electronics – What are the school’s guidelines & limitations?  Refrigerator, microwave, coffee maker, TV, computer, etc.
  • Coordinate “shared items” with your roommate and negotiate what each of you will bring – rug, appliances, TV, printer, etc.


  • Intermetro Shelving – a great solution for various shelving needs.  Available in silver, black & white, 3 widths, 2 depths, heights up to 75″.  Shelves can be spaced exactly where you want (1″ notches).  Pieces are easy to transport and assembly is fairly simple.  Can be reconfigured for other uses later.
  • Elfa Drawer Units – customize with white or platinum, 3 heights, 4 widths, 2 depths, 3 drawer sizes.  Can add tops, wheels or foot protectors.  Much more durable than plastic drawers and can be reused in various combinations.
  • Elfa Door & Wall Racks – customize with white or platinum, different baskets, media racks, utility board with hooks, or gift wrap holder.  Easy installation over the door – no drilling.  Most dorm doors need the thicker commercial hook.


  • Command Hooks – Damage-free hanging to avoid dorm fines.  Use them everywhere!  Here’s an inexpensive jewelry solution – 2 Command Hooks with a cabinet shelf turned sideways!


  • Durable Laundry Basket – Consider the logistics of how you’re going to get TO and FROM doing laundry & how you are going to bring your folded laundry back to your room.  A lightweight basket with handles is a good way to transport it.


  • Desk Organization – Do you need a hutch?  Chair?  Drawer organizers?
  • Mattress Encasement – money well spent!  I also recommend a gel or memory foam topper and soft mattress pad or heated mattress pad with auto shutoff.

WHERE TO SHOP – Check-out these stores’ college-bound websites for inspiration and checklists.  Some offer reference guidelines for specific schools and special savings for college students.  Take advantage of in-store pick up near your college and free shipping options.