Nothing brings about stress more than moving, and the start of college makes the list of all-time stressful moves. When you first step into that small dorm room—arms full of cardboard boxes, lanyard on your neck—you may be tempted to book the next ticket home. However, once you begin to unpack, adding personal items to the wooden desktop, your dorm will soon start to feel like a place of comfort. Here are some tips and decor ideas that can help a small dorm room feel more inviting.
Keep it clean
Perhaps the most obvious tip, be sure to regularly clean up after yourself. Not only will your roommate be appreciative, but tidiness also makes a small dorm room appear larger.
While cleaning can mean collecting dirty clothes from the floor and dusting neglected shelves, it also comes in more subtle forms. A clean room typically has plenty of surface space; jam-packed rooms often appear small and cluttered. Shopping for dorm decor may be one of the most exciting pre-arrival activities, but try not to splurge on decorations you don’t need. Sticking to a few pieces to place on your desk (perhaps a frame, organizational display and personal item) keeps a space looking polished and cohesive.
Add a mirror or two
One year, I was rearranging parts of my room and had to remove some of the items on the wall. After placing the photos and shelves back on their proper spots, I looked around, feeling as though my room had shrunk overnight. I soon realized that by not hanging my mirror back up (a task I left for a motivated, future me) my room appeared much smaller.
First and foremost, adding a mirror to your room allows you to skip the trip to the communal bathroom every time you need to check an outfit. But mirrors can also create the illusion of space. Though decorative mirrors, fit with gold borders or lattice work, can cost hundreds of dollars, you don’t need to splurge to expand your room. Target offers more affordable options, in full-length or wall varieties.
Add a rug
Rugs can add a more personal touch to those carbon-copy carpets every dorm has. However, the rug you choose can either clutter your room further or create a cozy vibe.
When selecting a rug, opt for a minimalistic one, ditching the cyan shades and chevron patterns. In contrast to mirrors, rugs can overwhelm a space if they draw too much attention. Unless you prefer your rug to be a focal point, try to pick a rug with neutral tones (ideally colors that pair well with your bedding).
Reorganize the dorm furniture
Think of your dorm room’s layout as just the suggested way to arrange the furniture. Adjusting the position of the desk, bed and wardrobe can uncover a feeling of openness. According to Justine Hand, a contributing editor for Remodelista, leaving a “little air in between the sides of your furniture and the walls” can establish an open-flow concept. However, she makes an exception with the bed, noting that a “queen placed between two walls… creates a cozy sleeping cave.”
Following Hand’s advice, instead of leaving your desk pushed into the corner of your small dorm room, adjust its position so that there is some space between the walls and desk.
Consider furniture purchases carefully
Hollywood fuels the fantasy of spacious dorm rooms flooded with mini fridges and bean bag chairs. However, before you purchase an additional piece of furniture for your dorm, consider how much use the item will actually get.
Most mini fridges have just enough room for soda cans and water bottles. Don’t waste your money on this glorified cooler, and make use of those dining dollars. Bean bag chairs, stools and extra seats will likely go unused and make your room feel cluttered.
Use the wall for storage space
Don’t limit yourself to the storage cabinet/wardrobe your dorm provides. Command hooks should be at the top of your dorm shopping list, and they can be used to hang hats or bags on your walls. Accordion hook racks (a collection of hooks joined by diamond patterns) offer even more opportunities for storage.
Attaching a shelf to your wall with command strips can also be used to store small items or decorations. Though this may seem like a major purchase, you can find shelves for under $20 USD.
The biggest storage area…
Of course, the biggest storage area is the space beneath your bed. Try to designate a box for shoes that you don’t wear on a weekly basis—those pairs shouldn’t take up room in the wardrobe or clutter the floor. Finding a large bin for off-season clothes will also free up organization space in your drawers.
Light it up
Both natural and artificial light can make a room appear larger, and lamps should therefore be one of the few add-on furniture pieces you purchase. Hanging string lights on your walls can also enlarge the room while creating a peaceful ambiance.
Plants (but not just succulents)
Succulents may be most college students go-to, but cacti and aloe are not the only plants you should consider for your dorm room. For those without a green thumb, orchids may be a plant worth investigating. Often lasting over eight weeks, orchids brighten up a room in fuchsia, purple and yellow hues and require minimal care.
Upcycle when you can
Buying dorm decor adds to the already hefty cost of college expenses. Try to look around your home to see if there are any items you can upcycle, or turn into repurposed creations.
While that neon, polka dot frame may not be to your taste any longer, repainting the frame can save you a trip to the store. Spare cylindrical containers can be used to hold pens and office supplies on your desk.
Creating your own artwork is another way to save money on generic canvas prints. Plus, pictures you painted yourself will add a more personal touch to the room.