First-time college students are usually excited, nervous, and Pinterest-happy, all at the same time. I know I was before my first year (it was almost 10 years ago, and I don’t want to talk about it)!
There are a lot of suggestions out there on what students should and shouldn’t bring to their dorms, and dorm room shopping lists are often long, and full of unnecessary items. Ultimately, your choices will depend on your needs and budget—you can go all-out and turn your dorm room luxe, or you can keep it simple and basic.
To help you along, these are some of our favorite dorm ideas that, based on our own experience, will make the biggest difference while living in your home away from home. Some of the ideas are seriously so smart they can be applied outside of dorms—in small apartments, dorm-style lodgings or any other version of co-living space.
If you live in the northern part of the country, a good portion of the college year will probably be chilly and potentially, even snowy. After my freshman year in New Hampshire, I totally understood why some of my friends decided to go to school in Miami…
Anyway, the point is you’re going to want to make your dorm a cozy spot to spend snowy weekends, complete with warm blankets, fun accent pieces, and lots of ambience.
After a tough exam or a wild weekend, there’s nothing better than crawling into bed and curling up with a super-cozy blanket. This chic jersey comforter is soft and comfy like your favorite worn-in T-shirt.
Getting out of bed in the morning is hard enough when the weather is nice, but once it’s snowing outside and the floors are freezing cold? Forget about it! Make the experience a little more enjoyable by investing in a fuzzy [sheepskin rug].
There’s nothing more relaxing than watching a movie by candlelight, but real flames are a big no-no in dorms. You can get that same effect with these faux candles, and they can be remote-controlled so you don’t have to get up to turn them off.
All about hygge? Then you’ll definitely want this blanket with that thick knitted pattern we love, as well as adorable pom pom accents along the edges.
Late night-study sessions call for energy drinks and a bright task light! You’ll want a product that illuminates your desk without bothering your roomie, and this particular lamp has a wireless phone charger in the base—genius!
Dorms are notoriously cramped, so you may have to be selective when packing—especially if you’re sharing a room with multiple roommates. If you’ve pared down your belongings as much as possible and are still worried about how you’ll fit everything in a tight space, try out one (or all) of these genius storage solutions. I might use a few for my own apartment...
If you’re hemming and hawing about whether to loft your bed, do it. Sure, you may have to jump up to sit on your mattress, but the extra storage space is totally worth it. If you loft your bed high enough, you may even be able to store a mini fridge or laundry hamper under there.
You can keep all your desk essentials organized without taking up drawer space with the help of a customizable pegboard. This one from Ikea has compatible clips, hooks, and containers where you can store small items like paper clips, and even special connectors that let you attach it to a desk or shelf, so you don’t have to put holes in the wall.
We love the idea of using a cube organizer or several sets of plastic drawers to create a whole extra storage location under your bed.
You probably won’t be able to put up real shelves on concrete dorm walls, but you can add extra shelving in other ways. If your school-provided desk doesn’t have shelving, you can invest in a desktop bookcase, which will give you a place to store books and binders while keeping your workspace clear.
When you’re laying in bed on the weekend, you’re not going to want to move to get your phone or laptop… or really anything. Luckily, you can keep all the essentials close by with a bedside caddy. We particularly love this deluxe bedside organizer, which has not one but two USB charging ports, as well as a water bottle holder. Genius!
I’m a finicky sleeper, so it was tough adjusting to a busy dorm (my room was right next to the bathroom, too). If you can relate, there are a number of essentials that will make it much easier to get a good night’s sleep, even on nights when the building is busy.
The mattresses provided for you in college are thin, old, and hard—and who wants to sleep on that?! However, you can make the surface much more comfortable with this mattress topper. Memory foam is a great option, as it provides the perfect amount of cushioning and support.
There’s always something going on in dorms. To block out all the distracting noises so you can get to sleep, you may want to invest in a white noise machine, which will lull you off to dreamland with gentle sounds.
Unless you want to be woken up by the sun streaming in your window at 6am, it’s a good idea to purchase some room-darkening curtains. Trust us, they’ll come in handy!
If you want your dorm to feel like home (and hopefully minimize home-sickness), you’ve got to make it your own!
Yes, Command hooks are a must-have, but you can also think outside the box when it comes to decorating—think temporary wallpaper, live plants, and unique photo displays. Here are some of our favorites.
Dorm rooms are usually a snooze-worthy white or tan, but you can add your own personal flair to the room with the help of this temporary wallpaper. (Why wasn’t this a thing when I was in college?) There are a lot of options available that are easy to put up and mess-free to take down, but check with your roommate first so you don’t ruffle any feathers.
If wall decals aren’t an option, you can also get a macrame wall hanging to display behind your bed and cover up boring concrete. That’s where those Command hooks come in handy!
It’s no secret that I’m a die-hard plant lover, so it should come as no surprise that I think every dorm room needs a few plants. Personally, I’d recommend a spider plant or ZZ plant for your dorm, as they can withstand quite a bit of neglect, just in case you forget to water.
No dorm room is complete without a few reminders of home. We love the idea of using a wire wall grid and mini clothespins as a photo display. Plus, this particular model has little add-on shelves that you can attach for displaying knick-knacks.
I can attest to the fact that the “freshman 15” is all too real, but you can stay nourished throughout your time in the dorm with a little pre-planning.
Whoever thought of using a hanging shoe caddy as a snack holder deserves an award. An over-the-door caddy is the perfect spot to place granola bars, coffee pods, ramen, snack packs, and even utensils.
Should you roll up to your dorm with a full kitchen in tow? Definitely not, but you can definitely pack your own mini Keurig to brew up a cup of coffee before class. Just remember to clean it, occasionally.
There are a whole lot of distractions in college dorms. If you want to make the most of your study time, you have to be able to tune it all out and focus. These might help.
If you like to study at your desk, noise-cancelling headphones will be your best friend. They’ll allow you to focus in on what you’re reading or writing, no matter what your roomie or neighbors are up to.
Can’t seem to put down your phone? You might want to install an app-blocker on your phone to keep yourself off social media. Or, you could lock it away in a time-controlled container.