Erin Stephens/Old Gold & Black
Erin Stephens/Old Gold & Black

Dorm Decorating: Tips and Tricks for your First Year

Every popular blog site has droves of articles and lists with ideas on how to organize and decorate your dorm room, but these generic articles are often expensive and impractical.

Trunks? Futons? Moon chairs?

Have these writers even seen Bostwick and Johnson dorms? You’re not squeezing any extra furniture in there. Internet closet hacks don’t work in the long, shallow storage spaces in Collins’ rooms, command hooks often fall off the painted walls and un-bunking beds often leaves enough floor space for a runner, not a huge area rug. And where’s the advice on how to spruce up a Luter suite’s built-in shelving? Even if you’re lucky enough to be given a big open room in South or Angelou, without a little craftiness and finesse, your abode can feel clinical and closed-off rather than cosy.

Right from the start, you’re going to want to make your small space your home with memories and keepsakes. These can come in a lot of different forms, including photos, a blanket from home or even just your own personal style.

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This is where you’ll complete schoolwork, snack, socialize and sleep for the next year, so you want to make your room likeable and familiar. And when things aren’t going right, whether you’re just not clicking with your hall or you’re realizing that high school study habits don’t cut it, it’s nice to have a place that’s “yours” to clear your thoughts, even if you share it with a roommate.

Additionally, when decorating, you’re going to need to think creatively about how to reuse and repurpose items to make them both aesthetically-pleasing and practical. Don’t worry, you have a head start: white and minimal is in!


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Next, remember that little organization tricks matter — clutter kills a small room.

Keep your laptop and charging cords organized on your desk with binder clips, and try to find ways to store small objects where they aren’t visible. Try under-bed storage bins and small containers with lids or small plastic drawers on your desk and dresser. Get a hamper that sits upright, not a bag that lies in a pile on the floor. It will be easier to carry and you can even fit it under your bed.

A little wall art is a great way to personalize your space without taking up any extra room. Poster putty will stick to any surface and is easily removable, so it’s your best bet for hanging decorations; however, it might stick to fabric and paper, so if you’re worried about damaging something you’d want to save for next year, try Velcro command strips, which are often the ones that work the best.

If you don’t find a tapestry that you like, try hanging a sheet or making your own with tie-dye or fabric paint. Student Union also sponsors an annual poster sale you might want to check out. Craft stores like Michael’s, which is near campus, also often have sales on cheap canvases and brushes that are perfect for making custom decor.

Avoid the dreary fluorescent lights in your room by taking advantage of natural lighting or trying some fairy lights, which double as a string for hanging photos if you use clothespins. If you’re a candle person, try battery powered tealights and a plug in air freshener to make yourself feel at home.

It’s very tempting to constantly use red SOLO cups, since they work well for all kinds of beverages, don’t have to be washed and can be shared with guests, but invest in a few cups so you feel less like you’re at a picnic and more like you’re in your bedroom. Reusable cups and mugs are sustainable and more homey. 

There are many easy and affordable ways to decorate your dorm room with max efficiency while making the space feel more at home and less like dirty linoleum, plastic mattresses and white walls with nonstick paint.

And don’t worry about doing everything all at once, which will be expensive and can lead you to buy things you won’t end up using. You can continue to add to your abode as the year continues. By the time you’re a sophomore, you’ll be an interior design pro. 

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