Use organization to make the most of your space

Kaitlin Miner

With all the tests, papers, textbooks and other items college students collect in their years at Iowa State, it’s hard to find enough space in an apartment to keep everything.

With the limited space available in most apartments and the unlimited amount of clutter that college students tend to accumulate sometimes, some organizational techniques go a long way in making the most of space available to you. Cigdem Akkurt, associate professor in interior design, has several ways to keep your space organized.


Murphy bed

Akkurt believes that Murphy beds — pull-down beds that are stored upright against a wall — are one of the best organizational items in an apartment-style space. Murphy beds also provide storage space in the wall units that border the bed.

They can often be used as bookcases or other organizational systems, including a television and entertainment area. This wall can be the organizing area in the space, and can be used as a work area and serve many functions in the room, Akkurt said.

“If you’re ambitious enough and efficient enough to take [the bed] down at night … and put … it back again in the morning, you’ll have this small space all to yourself during the day,” Akkurt said.

Sofa bed

Sofas that become beds are another good option if a Murphy bed is too cumbersome or expensive for students.

“It looks like a nice sofa, and it’s nicely upholstered, but if you move a few things in the back, it becomes flat — almost like a full bed,” Akkurt said.

Storage bins

Storage bins are another option to create an organizational wall space similar to that a Murphy bed would offer, Akkurt said. The kind you can stack up are creative, inexpensive ways to create a wall unit.

“You can get a lot of modular furniture from Target, Walmart or even online, and they cost hardly anything. That allows you to be creative and design your storage space. It allows you to expand your storage space, and it’s a nice thing to do because it’s not static; it expands with your needs,” Akkurt said.

Furniture with storage compartments

Once you’ve decided on what type of wall storage you use, whether it’s a Murphy bed or other form of storage system on one wall, you can begin deciding what furniture best fits your space. Akkurt suggests a chaise lounge or an armchair with an ottoman that also contains storage space inside — and it can double as a coffee table. 

Be careful of the amount of furniture and the scale of the furniture you have in your small space, Akkurt warned. It can take up too much of your area, hinder traffic in your space and cut out your conversation area. Make sure your furniture is comfortable, but not so big that it overwhelms the room, Akkurt said.

Furniture that does double-duty is also a good organizational tool.

“Places like Crate and Barrel have these nice, soft armchairs that actually become sleepers, so that’s another option to have if you’re going to have guests in your small space … and they’re comfortable too and not very expensive,” Akkurt said.


Benches are also a good option, and not only as a place to keep magazines, books and the like. They can also be used as footrests and are easy to move, Akkurt said.

Nesting tables, like benches, can be used for multiple purposes, too. Akkurt said that nest tables — tables you can stack under each other and can be pulled out for use — are very handy as eating surfaces and work surfaces. They can be nested when you’re not using them, minimizing the space they take up.

Making areas for clothing is an important part of your space, as well. Akkurt suggests making a long space for hanging clothes, and open shelves for the clothes that you prefer to fold. You’ll also need some drawer space to store clothing, as well.

Work space

A working area is especially important in a student’s space. If you can find a way to build your work space into your wall unit storage, it will help streamline your room and allow for more open space, Akkurt said. A hard-surfaced ottoman also works well as a desk table, as well as the added storage space inside it.

Comfortable bed

A few items are particularly important to a college student’s space. Akkurt said having a comfortable bed is the most important thing in a student’s space. College students don’t get enough sleep, said Akkurt, but having a good bed for those few hours of sleep students do get will make them feel more rested. An ergonomic chair that is supportive is helpful for all the time students spend on the computer, said Akkurt. Comfortable armchairs are also important.

Using these tips will help better organize your space and make for a more functional living area.

“If you have a space for everything, and if you’re tidy enough or you discipline yourself enough, then you’ll put things away and you’ll have a nice storage space,” Akkurt said.