Dorm IQ #8 | How To Maximize Storage Under Dorm Beds

February 13, 2024

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Dorm IQ Maximize Under Bed Dorm Storage

Welcome to Topic 8 of Dorm IQ, an important lesson in measuring and maximizing that priceless real estate below a dorm bed!

If you have questions about this under bed storage article, want to know when our recommendations go on sale or want to learn about all things dorm rooms, please join us in our Dorm Shopping Recommendations & Deal Alerts Facebook community.

Now, let’s get measuring…

A Whole Article On Under Bed Dorm Storage?

Yes! Because a typical double dorm room with 2 Twin XL beds is about 200-240sqft. Your side is half of that, or about 100-120sqft. Your 38″x80″ Twin XL bed is a little over 21sqft of your space, or about 20% of your side of the room.

The best way to create more storage space is to raise your bed and maximize the area below it.

This article focuses on how to plan for that treasured space under a raised dorm bed (the upper right quadrant in the picture below)) using storage solutions like drawers, bins, cubes and bags.

Fully Lofted, Captain Height, Semi-Lofted and Raised Dorm Bed Examples
A Look At Common Dorm Bed Heights

This ARticle is specific to raised bed storage planning

If you fully loft your bed (to a near walk-under height), you will probably put dorm furniture, such as your desk and/or dresser, below your bed freeing up other space in your room. This is a great plan too, but that will result in a different storage plan than we’re planning for in this article.

How To Measure The Space You’ll Have Below A Raised Bed

Measuring the length and width of your storage space

These are the measurements of standard mattress sizes. Many dorm beds are Twin XL, but we regularly see Twin, Full and more Full XL every year.

  • Twin: 38″x75″
  • Twin XL: 38″ x 80″
  • Full: 54″x 75″
  • Full XL: 54″ x 80″
  • Queen: 60″ x 80″

You can plan on having the same size space as the mattress – the bed frame should be just outside the mattress perimeter.

Storage Height – The Clearance Below A Dorm Bed

You need to determine the height of your horizontal bed rail where your mattress rests in order to determine how much clearance you have below the bed.

  1. Start by checking the housing page for your dorm. Are the beds adjustable? Do they list the max height and include the measurement to the floor? If you can’t find this information, here are additional ways to find out details about your dorm room.
  2. If the beds are not adjustable, do they list the height of the mattress off the floor? Are risers permitted?

An adjustable dorm bed raised to the highest level should have between 27″-33″ of clearance below the bed frame. Please check the exact dimensions with your school to be sure.

If you’re using risers, you’ll have to do the math to determine your below bed height for storage. The math comes by determining your height clearance before putting the bed on risers and then add the height of the risers.

If you have a Twin XL bed with 30″ of clearance, you have almost 53 cubic feet of storage space under that dorm bed!

Measurements for space under a Twin XL dorm bed
Measuring The Storage Space Below A Typical Dorm Bed

What Does Your College Provide For A Dresser?

Before deciding what to use to organize this biggest storage area in the room, determine if your dorm provided dresser will fit under the raised bed. (see pic above for example). Not all dorms have these shorter dresser options. My older son’s school had this setup, my younger has a tall 5-drawer dresser that won’t go under the bed, so he has the entirety of 39×80” for storage solutions. But that big dresser has to go elsewhere, as does his roommate’s.

The 3-drawer dorm dressers designed to fit under the raised beds range in size and may be 24”-36” wide, 18-24” deep and up to 30” high. I’m sure there are a few that are outside of this range too. I recommend looking on your housing website for the exact measurements for your dorm so that you can plan around that space.

If your dresser does fit under the dorm bed, it doesn’t necessarily have to go there. For those with open closets, it might work well on the floor of the closet. Or sometimes the roommates decide to stack them one on top of the other and create a TV stand. Not all are stackable, of course.

Options For Storage Under Dorm Beds

The Front Of The Under Bed Storage Space – What You Can See From The Room

Once you know how much available space you’ll have (minus the dorm dresser if you’ll put it under the bed), there are several options to consider to ‘front’ the room. You’ll want to neatly organize this area since it will be visible unless you decide to get a larger comforter size for your dorm bed.

Some examples of dorm storage solutions that will fit under a raised bed include:

Plastic Drawer Towers

Here are 2 of the most popular options to consider based on your decor and preferences. These are both solid front concealing the contents of the drawers.

Sterilite Weave Towers – Woven-look plastic drawer towers.

Target ‘Striped’ Drawer Towers – A little more masculine that the weave towers above. My son uses these wide and narrow towers under his bed as shown in the picture below.

Boy dorm room at auburn university with twin comforter size for a twin xl bed
Target Brightroom “Striped” Towers

Clear Plastic Drawer Carts

If you might need an extra flat surface every now and then to serve as a guest table, game space, etc, consider the plastic drawers on casters that you can easily roll around the room as you need more tabletop space. These are clear and don’t conceal the contents.

Sterilite 3-Drawer Cart – This comes in Wide 15 1/4″D x 21 7/8″W x 24″H and Narrow 14 1/2″D x 12 5/8″W x 24″H sizes.

Brightroom 3-Drawer Carts – This Target brand also comes in Wide 15.38″D x 21.88″W x 24.5″H and Narrow 14.62″Dx 12.62″W x 24.5″H sizes.

Sterilite 3-Drawer Wide Cart

Plastic Stacking Drawers

Another clear option but more configurable and without the wheels.

The Container Store Stacking Drawers – 4 large drawers will total 32.5″ tall and are 15.75″W and 19.75″D. These come in various colors creating different amounts of opacity.

Sterilite Stacking Drawers – 4 large drawers that would total 41″ height if stacked, so you would probably not use all 4 in one tower under your bed. Each drawer measures 17″D x 14.375″W x 10.25″H inches.

Clear plastic drawers under a dorm bed
Sterilite Clear Plastic Stacking Drawers Under A Dorm Bed #goals!

Dressers With Fabric Drawers

Metal frame dressers are another option for under bed storage that is growing in popularity. These do tend to be a bit less deep than the drawer options above (both of these are about 12″ deep), and they also are a bit more awkward to move with the metal frame. If you have the vehicle to move these though, these are a good option to last throughout college as a storage solution in off-campus housing too. You can pack the drawers full and tape them closed for moving.

31″H Fabric 6-Drawer Dresser – It looks tall but will fit under 32″ of clearance. This is 31.5″ wide, and you can place low profile shoes in the space between the floor and bottom of the dresser.

27.4″H Fabric 5-Drawer Dresser – This height should fit under most raised beds. This is 33.5″ wide.

Cube Storage – Wood

Target Cube Organizers – The Room Essentials (Target brand) hold 11″ fabric bins and are less expensive than the Brightroom (Target Brand), but the Brightroom organizers which hold 13″ bins and are a thicker wood material.

Walmart Cube Organizers – Walmart has an extensive selection of wood/wood like cube organizers as well. Be sure to look at the ratings and the bin sizes. The items linked here are limited to those sold directly by Walmart and not in the 3rd party marketplace. For ease of return and sureness of quality, I would stick with these.

8 cube storage organizer with baskets

Cube Storage – Adjustable Wire Cubes

Wire Cube Organizer – Each cube is just under 12″ per side, so you can easily stack 2 high and 3 across under a bed and fit 11″ fabrics bins in each cube if desired. These can always flex into different configurations for future use. The only downside to these over the wood organizers is that they are a little less sturdy.

Fabric Bins For Cube Organizers

Fabric & Plastic Bins – Target’s Selection – Fabric is a nice option because they can usually fold away when not in use. Plastic is sturdier and probably best for continuous daily use.

Fabric Bins – Walmart’s Selection – Be sure to get the correct size to fit your cube organizer (either 11″ or 13″ typically).

The Back – The very usable space Hidden behind the Neatly organized front


Many of the “front” under bed storage options above are 12-18” deep. Your bed is 38″ deep, maybe 40″ considering the frame, so that means more than half of your space is still available behind your “front” storage. This is a great place to store off-season clothes, shoes and bedding. Or in my boys’ cases, golf clubs. 🙄 Ugh, they take up so much space!

Off-Season Storage

For the bedding & clothes, you can use your moving bags, or if you want something with windows, you can use these folding storage bags with clear windows.

For shoe storage, you can use fabric shoe storage organizers or consider the plastic stacking shoe boxes with doors which were very popular with 2023 dorm shoppers.

Locking Storage

Another option to consider is locking storage. Maybe your gaming system goes in there when you leave for the weekend, or your favorite jewelry or iPad that doesn’t need to make the trip. This is one of the most affordable larger locking storage trunks. This is the same storage trunk available in pretty colors. It has wheels and a handle for easy moving – just add a padlock through the center opening. You can also add a cable lock to attach it to the bed frame if you’re concerned it could be removed from the room.

Locking dorm storage footlocker
Locking Storage Trunk – Just Add Padlock

Catch All

We decided to also add a large catch all bin under my son’s bed. A place for things to go when you don’t know where else to put them. He said he uses it a lot when people are coming by to neaten up the room a little bit.

Other Large Storage

My older son is a baseball player, so he keeps some extra baseball gear and his golf clubs under the bed, in the back.

My younger one’s bed does not have a wall on the side, only at the head of the bed. So his golf clubs are under the side that you can’t see from the door, but it is easier to access them without having to pull them out from behind the front storage. You can see his bed above under Target Striped Drawer Towers.

Other items I’ve heard stored in the back space under the bed are art supplies, musical equipment, ski gear and the dorm-provided desk chair. Some store that chair there and opt to bring their own more comfortable desk chair. Most schools won’t allow any furniture to be removed from the room, so putting the chair under the bed and stacking storage around it is often the solution.

Storage For Other Parts Of The Room

We have more Dorm IQ topics coming to cover closet organization, food/kitchen storage, first aid storage and more locking storage.

For now, you can find all of these and more in our Full Dorm Shopping Guide: https://positivelysquaredaway.com/the-complete-dorm-room…/

There are so many under bed storage options out there, hopefully this has helped you narrow down ideas so that you can put together a plan!

Conclusion

Choosing the right headboard for your dorm bed is a balance of style, comforter and budget. I hope the information above has helped you to narrow in on which direction you go with your dorm bed. I hope you’ll join our Facebook group and show us your dorm move-in pictures!

Have Questions?

Still have questions? Please comment below, or come ask us in the Dorm Shopping Recommendations & Deal Alerts Facebook group. So much great info in the group along with hundreds, maybe thousands, of move-in pictures from 2023 to give you ideas and inspiration.

=> Please share this article with your dorm bound friends and their parents. I would love for everyone to understand the topics in Dorm IQ before they start dorm shopping!

Next Topic

Coming soon!

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Important Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, a lawyer or a financial advisor. Please use this content as informational only and as only one input as you consider what options are best for you and your family. This is not professional advice.

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