Dorm decorating and organization is fun and easy once you know how. For most college freshmen, living in a dorm means trying to fit all the essentials of life into a relatively small space with the added challenge of sharing that space with a new roommate. As millions of college graduates have come to know, community living can be a lot of fun, but it requires some preparation and planning. Learn how to make your dorm space fun, functional and a place to call home with these handy tips.
Do Your Homework
Dorm Dimensions: Find out all you can about the dorm dimensions including total square footage of the room, available wall space, size and type of bed, closet space and availability of shelving or other furniture.
Tally the Total: Once you have measurements for the room and furniture, calculate total available wall space, closet space and floor space available for your side of the room. Don’t forget to measure under the bed.
Prohibitions: It is also important to find out what is and isn’t allowed in the dorm. For example, many colleges forbid microwave ovens, coffeemakers and hot plates in the room but may allow small refrigerators.
Coordinate: Whenever possible, save space by coordinating the purchase of larger items like dorm-sized refrigerators with future roommates before purchasing.
Repurpose & Recycle: Look around the house to see what is available, then make a shopping list for what is still needed. The money you save can help you afford something a little more decorative or just a bit of cash to stash away in case of emergency. It is also a great idea to read the college classified advertisements for kids leaving the dorms or relocating — it’s a great way to save a bundle on all kinds of items!
Eliminate the Institutional Look
Living in a dorm doesn’t have to look like an extended stay in someone else’s den. Eliminate the institutional look by creating a living space that is comfortable, functional and inviting.
Tame Wires & Avoid Fires: Many colleges are going wireless, which helps reduce the unsightly appearance of wires running up and down walls or behind furniture. Whenever possible, go wireless for media, computer, stereo and even communications, or purchase inexpensive wire ties and sleeves to manage the mess. Avoid fires by keeping the room clean and avoid using prohibited items like coffeemakers, microwave ovens or other potential hazards. Not only is it safer but cleaner and more attractive.
Less Is More: Visually, a room appears cleaner and more spacious when the eye encounters a shelf consisting of several large boxes instead of piles of small items. Use bright bold patterns, contracting solid colors or sophisticated metal containers for a great look that adds interest to the space and decreases the appearance of clutter.
Think 3-D: Although college dorms are typically small, chances are there is more room than meets the eye. Think three-dimensionally when it comes to decorating and organizing. In addition to shelves on the walls other available space often includes:
- Under the Bed: Large storage boxes, luggage and even sports equipment easily slide under the bed for quick and convenient access.
- Overhead / Ceiling: Ceiling racks are highly functional ways to store lightweight items like extra clothing, blankets and pillows.
- Stacks & Organizers: Look for a wide variety of containers in convenient sizes for stacking on top of dressers, organizing the desk and keeping small items handy. Almost every surface in a dorm room can be transformed into more space by stacking containers or adding baskets and other organizers.
- Hooks: Bring a variety of large and small hooks that can be placed in convenient locations to hold bags, hats, sports equipment and more.
- Hangers: Bring a variety including multiple hangers for pants, extra heavy-duty hangers for jackets and quilted hangers for robes and delicates.
Use every bit of available space by buying items that perform double duty. Common examples include:
Media, Music and Movies: Computers are versatile, especially if you purchase the right equipment. Instead of buying a plain computer monitor, look for one that doubles as an LCD television and play movies and music via the computer. Use flash drives whenever possible to reduce the clutter of storing music and movies.
Practical Measures: Use a laundry basket as a clothes hamper and shower caddy to store cosmetics and bath products. Whenever possible, purchase items that serve a dual purpose.
Take a Seat: Spend a little extra on a nice office chair that can double as an occasional chair when you have company, or splurge on a great looking comforter with plush pillows to turn a single bed into a comfy couch or daybed. In fact, with a little creativity it’s easy to transform a boring dorm room into a cozy living space perfect for entertaining. Use brightly colored boxes for under-the-bed storage that can be pulled out to double as a coffee table with the daybed, or add a cushion to the top of each box for instant seats.
For Convenience’s Sake
One final rule to remember is that form follows function, especially when it comes to sharing a small space. Here are a few additional tips to help stay organized and make life simple during your stay.
- Learn to Label: The first lesson to learn is how to label everything. It’s easy to misplace items or confuse them; nothing says “yuck” like putting on the wrong sneakers before leaving to class. Avoid confusion by labeling or color-coding everything. While you are at it, take time to visit the campus police department to have larger items like bikes and computers numbered and recorded. It reduces the risk of theft and helps in recovery efforts should anything be stolen.
- Bring a Clothesline: There are several models available, but look for a portable drawstring clothesline that attaches to the inside of the closet wall. It keeps clothing from being scattered across the room but it also does double duty for organizing and viewing documents / papers or other projects during late-night brainstorming sessions.
- Keep It Clean: One of the best ways to organize a dorm room is to have a place for everything and everything in its place. Make it a rule never to procrastinate putting away items or keeping the room clean; a clutter-free and clean room makes it more enjoyable for everyone.
- Quick Communication: Whether you use a bulletin board or add a computer widget to the desktop, find a communication system that works. A tried and true cork board or simple chalk board often works best since it doesn’t rely upon electricity and is easily viewed at a glance.