To Make Even The Most Spartan Dorm Room Feel Like Home

7 Ways To Make Even The Most Spartan Dorm Room Feel Like Home

Make your dorm room a place you love.


Most of today's college students will look back with fondness on their time spent in the dorms. What you might not be quite so fond of, though, is the dorm room itself.

From the cinder block walls to the poor lighting and musty air, practically everything about the typical dorm room simply screams "institutional housing." Your dorm room will be your home for the next several months – so make it feel like home.

No matter how Spartan and uncomfortable your dorm room may seem, these 7 tips will have you feeling more at home in no time – no matter how tight your budget may be.

1. Upgrade The Seating

If your dorm room is like most, you'll probably get just two seats that you can call your own: a bed that feels like a layer of cheap foam on a concrete slab and a chair that's even worse. You can significantly upgrade the seating in your dorm room for less than $100 by picking up a cheap office chair along with an oversized beanbag chair for the floor.

A high-quality mattress topper made from latex, memory foam or feathers might add a significant amount to your dorm room upgrade bill, but you can afford it if you forgo a few of those Sunday night pizzas – and you'll be infinitely thankful for it every night. If you have a little extra money to spend, give your bed another major upgrade by picking up a couple of cheap throw pillows.

2. Improve The Air Quality

There's nothing quite like attending a college with generations of history. Attending a school that's been around since the 1800s, though, also means that your dorm room has seen generations of students romancing, smoking, eating, exercising, forgetting to shower and doing heaven knows what else. That strange, musty smell in your room? It's the smell of decade after decade of student life.

Thankfully, improving the air quality in a small space isn't that difficult. Plants are natural air purifiers that filter impurities out of the air and replenish the room's oxygen supply. Aloe vera requires little care and is also useful for treating burns and other skin problems. Spider plants are also good choices for dorm rooms as they don't require a great deal of sunlight. If you smoke, buy a vape kit from a company like Savory Vapes and make the switch to vaping. Your roommate will thank you.

3. Build A Loft

The typical college dorm room is barely over 100 square feet in total area. It's hardly enough room for one person – let alone two. Building a loft for your bed instantly makes the room feel twice as large and gives you extra space for items such as a couch or refrigerator. You could even move your desk under your bed for a cozy and out-of-the-way study nook.

If you don't have the materials or skill to build a loft, there's no need to worry; every major university has at least one local company that'll do the work for a reasonable fee.

4. Get An Area Rug

One of the most uninviting aspects of a typical dorm room is its tile floor. In a space as small as a dorm room, there's no such thing as a low-traffic area. Within the first week, you'll be fighting a never-ending battle against the dirt and dust from the bottoms of your sneakers – and don't even get us started about how cold those tiles will feel during the winter. How could a dorm room possibly feel like home if you don't want to walk on the floor with socks or bare feet? Nothing works quite as well as a good area rug for instantly making a dorm room feel more inviting.

5. Bring A Lamp From Home

The typical dorm room has an overhead light with a bright, cold fluorescent color so off-putting that you'll never want to use it. If you're lucky, you'll also get a reading light – and that'll most likely be it. The reading light won't be bright enough to light the room at night, so if you want to avoid using the harsh overhead light, you'll want to bring a lamp from home.

You'll appreciate having a warmer light that you can use at night. If you don't have a lamp that you want to use, string up some white Christmas lights instead. If you're feeling really creative, you can wrap the lights around a few of your favorite pictures or posters.

6. Get Your Music On Point

If you have a large stereo system at home, you're probably not going to want to bring it to college. Big speakers take up too much space in a small dorm room, and they're also magnets for theft. Don't assume, though, that you'll be happy listening to nothing but your laptop's tinny audio for the entire school year.

Even a cheap Bluetooth speaker sounds better than most laptops, phones, and tablets – and nothing makes a dorm room feel like home quite as quickly as some rich mood music. If you have a few extra dollars to spend, an inexpensive surround sound system will make your dorm room the most popular place on the floor on movie nights.

7. Decorate The Walls

Nothing says "cold and unfeeling" quite like four off-white cinder block walls. How can you make a dorm room feel like home when it looks more like a jail cell? To make matters worse, the walls in the average dorm room do a poor job of deadening sound; they give speech and music an off-putting echoey quality.

Thankfully, there's no shortage of companies today manufacturing temporary stick-on wallpaper for dorm rooms. You'll be surprised by how quickly a good wallpaper can make a dorm room feel like an entirely different place. Don't feel like going through the work of putting up wallpaper? No problem; get a wall tapestry instead. Even just a single large tapestry will provide a major upgrade to your dorm room's appearance while deadening echoes significantly.

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12 Dorm Room 'Essentials' That Are Actually A Waste Of Money

If three years of college has taught me anything, it's that I wasted a lot of money and space on things for my dorm room that I never used.


Now approaching my senior year of college, there are so many things that I have experienced in my three years away that I either look back at and smile just at the thought of or immediately regret. With a younger sister going into her freshman year of college, I hope to teach her as much of those lessons I learned in advance so she doesn't make the same mistakes as me. One of the most important things I learned after moving in and out of dorm rooms and apartments for three years is what should and shouldn't come with you to school. Because, let's be real, as much as we want to pack away our entire lives and fit them in our minuscule dorm room, not everything is necessary.

However, knowledge is power, and I don't want to just save my sister from making those mistakes. That's why I'm here to share the 12 things that aren't necessary for you to bring to school:

1. A Keurig/coffee maker

While living in an apartment and having all the space in a kitchen for a coffee maker and the time to make my own hot drinks, having a Keurig was a godsend. But I'm going to be completely honest, as someone who wanted a Keurig so badly before freshman year...I rarely used it when I lived in the dorms. Between having meal points to buy my own coffee and just never having the time or energy to make it in the morning and then clean the dishes afterward, it just wasn't worth the waste of money and space.

2. A giant television

You may see pictures of dorm rooms and see students with giant televisions along their window or squished onto their desks. But unless you're living in a larger apartment, having a huge flat screen TV has no purpose for a small dorm room. There are TV's usually all over campus, especially in the common rooms that are free for you to use. If you really do feel like you need a TV in your dorm, a smaller one will suffice, because anything larger is going to take up some much-needed room.

3. Any type of hot plate/mini grill, etc.

Besides the fact that these are banned in most dormitories anyways, it's not smart to sneak one of these into your rooms. I can't tell you how many people I know that have accidentally started a fire in the dorm room from using a toaster they snuck in or a special "grilled cheese grill." The dining halls will have everything you could possibly want and need, and most dorm rooms come with a mini fridge and microwave to supplement anything further.

4. Candles

I'll admit, I am guilty of using these my sophomore year of college. Do I regret the millions of times I freaked out because I almost lit my dorm room on fire? Absolutely.

It's not worth it. Your RA will probably catch you, it's not worth the risk of accidentally setting your shoebox-sized dorm on fire, and the smoke detectors in those rooms are so sensitive that you're bound to set them off.

5. A printer

Unless you're living off campus in an apartment, there really is no reason to have a printer in your dorm room. There are tons of printers throughout the different buildings of every university, and most allot a certain amount of sheets for you to do your printing. Printers are big and clunky, hard to store, and the ink is very expensive. Don't consider buying one unless you plan on moving off campus.

6. An iron and ironing board

Take it from someone who absolutely hates wearing wrinkly clothes, the whole iron and ironing board duo was not a smart move my freshman year. It took up way too much room and when I did actually want to iron, it was so annoying to find a spot to do it in my small room.

If you're really obsessive about having non-wrinkled clothes like I am, you can invest in a mini steamer, which is super cheap, stored extremely easily because they're so small, and work just as well as an iron. I ended up swapping out for one of these my sophomore year and loving it so much more.

7. Bean bag chairs/Folding chairs

Any extra seating for a dorm room is honestly unnecessary besides the standard desk chairs that come with the dorm. The floor space is so limited that taking it up with any other large items is going to make it extremely difficult to navigate around your room. Also, when your friends come to hang out, they usually will end up just sitting on your bed or your desk chair anyways.

8. A body pillow

I don't really know what the use of these things are. I had one freshman year, and it laid against my bed the entire year and I never used it. I just found laying on it extremely awkward and uncomfortable and it was just so big that it took up too much room on my already tiny Twin XL bed.

9. A laundry hamper

A stand-up laundry hamper is just going to take up way too much space that you don't have. Instead, invest in some nicely made laundry bags that you can put your dirty laundry in and just easily carry over to the laundry room. A lot of stores even make special bags that differentiate between lights, darks, and delicates so the sorting is already done for you before you do your laundry.

10. A vacuum

While the idea of having a vacuum is nice, and I myself have had one all three years, it just took up way too much room in my dorm and I later found out you could just rent one from the commons whenever you wanted to clean your floor. Most universities do have cleaning supplies for rent, such as brooms, swifters, vacuums, etc., so there's no need trying to fit all of those in your closet.

11. A million throw pillows

While they'll make your bed look cute, making your bed every single morning and remembering where to put the millions of decorative pillows can become very annoying, not to mention finding a place to put them whenever you turn down your bed.

12. Picture frames

While having tons of pictures in your dorm room is nice, and I say the more the merrier, bringing physical picture frames is just a waste because there's not much shelf or desk place to place them. Instead, find a cute wall decoration that holds photos or clips to hang them from your wall. It'll save a ton of space and also cover up those bare, ugly dorm room walls.

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