14 Ways to Cozy Up Your Dorm Room

6 minute read

By Jordana Weiss

If you’re going away for school, chances are you’ll find yourself staring into the abyss of a stark-white dorm room. Don’t fret! If you’re worried about feeling at home, you can make your dorm room comfortable with an online search right now.

Even if you’re on a budget, there are always DIY solutions that will help maximize your space and add in some key personal touches. Read on for a list of our top tips to help you settle into your new dorm room.

Figure Out If You Have to Share

Going to college or university is all about meeting new people and sometimes this starts as soon as you open your bedroom door! It varies from school to school, but generally most schools will have a mix of shared and single room options, as well as some non-traditional dorms that look more like apartments or duplexes.

The first thing to do is figure out which type of room you have, and whether you’ll have to share it. If you’re lucky, the person you’re living with will have the same taste as you, but if not, you may have to compromise.

Start with Personal Touches

The first thing you should do when you’re planning your dorm room is to think about your personal style and what objects from your current room you want to bring with you to school.

Maybe you want to recreate your room from home exactly, or maybe you’re excited for a fresh start and a brand-new design concept. Plan around these things first, so that they fit into your overall design scheme. Having meaningful objects from home around your room can help when you’re feeling homesick.

Leave Room for New Items

It’s tempting to completely plan and organize your new room before you even arrive at school. While it’s great to plan ahead, you should always leave room for new things that you’ll accumulate throughout the year – photos of new friends, school goodies, or mementos from games or events. You won’t regret leaving some room for new ideas and possibilities!

Figure Out the Rules, Then Brainstorm Solutions

You’ll quickly figure out that, although your room is an excellent place for some things, all of your daily needs might not be able to be met there. Most dorms do not allow you to cook in your room.

That means no hot plates, toaster ovens, or microwaves. Figure out what the rules of your dorm are and plan accordingly. Many dorms allow kettles, which you can use to boil water for ramen noodles, and other tried and true dorm room snacks.

Plan Your Big Purchases

The first days of school can be hard if you’re struggling to unpack and plan your room out while also attending classes and going out at night. It’s a good idea to pick up any essentials like towels, bedding, and stationery before you leave for school.

With online shopping easier than ever, you can even get stuff shipped straight to your new address. It could be a nice treat to arrive at your new place with all of the bigger things you need waiting for you.

Define Your Areas

Once you get to school and are faced with the reality of your new dorm room, the best thing you can do is define your areas. Sure, they might be microscopically small areas, but if you can separate your sleeping area from your study area, you’ll probably be a lot more productive and comfortable in your new space.

You can do this with a curtain, some furniture, or even something as simple as using a separate color scheme in each area.

Think Double Duty

In such a small area, you’ll want to focus on objects that can do two things at once, like an ottoman with a hidden storage compartment, or a shelving unit that acts as a barrier between your bed and desk. Try not to bring in too many gadgets as they’ll only clutter up your space.

If you find that you’re continually using the same few things, you can probably let some of your other possessions go. You can make this easier by doing a purge at the end of every semester. When you’re reorganizing your new textbooks and course material, take a few minutes to look around the room and see if there’s anything you haven’t used in a while, and if there is, donate it or get rid of it.

Think Vertical

Most dorm rooms are small, but they tend to be quite tall, so take advantage of any vertical space you have. Stack shelving units on top of each other as high as you can reach, then organize things from lowest to highest according to how often you use them.

Store suitcases and other objects that you don’t use often the furthest out of reach. Even if your storage options are simple, they don’t have to be ugly. Use contact wallpaper or colored tape to temporarily add some color to your plain, standard-issue dorm furniture.

Avoid Fluorescent Lights

Most dorm buildings were built on the smallest possible budget, or were adapted from buildings that were already in existence. This means that not only are they usually small, but the lighting of choice tends to be fluorescent.

It’s almost impossible to make a fluorescent-lit space feel warm and inviting. Instead of using those harsh overhead lights, invest in a few small lamps. One by your bed and one on the desk will allow you to brighten up those areas as you need them, rather than relying on the fluorescents.

Keep an Open-Door Policy

One way to make your room feel more like home is if you have friends there. The only way to make friends in your dorm is to let people know when you’re around. A closed door is a universal sign to keep out. Keeping your door open whenever you are home is a great way to encourage people to just drop by. Make sure you bring a doorstop with you on the first day!

Prepare for Noise

The downside to living in a building with all of your friends is that … you’re living in a building with all of your friends. Dorms can get extremely noisy, especially if it’s a weekend or holiday.

A good pair of noise-cancelling headphones, or even a special headband with built-in earbuds that you can sleep in is going to be an excellent investment. You’ll be glad you have them when it’s Friday night, and the guys above you are having a massive party – again.

Snack at Home

With a little ingenuity, you can avoid spending tons of money eating out all the time by having a supply of small meals and snacks that you can make at home in your dorm room. It’s amazing how much you can do with one or two appliances – there are tons of recipes online for two-minute mug cakes, homemade pizzas, eggs, or even risotto that you can make with just a microwave.

If you’re only permitted a kettle, you can still make amazing ramen with gourmet additions like fresh veggies and tofu, or assemble simple meals like bruschetta (all you need is a knife!), guacamole, or sandwiches.

Make Your Space Visitor Friendly

Encourage visitors to come over by having set places for them to hang out while they’re in your space. A long body pillow quickly turns a single bed into a daybed that people can sit on. An ottoman with a comfy top can double as an extra seat, or you can pick up a small pouf or floor pillow that you can stow away when it’s not in use. These tiny things make your room a lot more inviting.

Put Yourself Out There

New beginnings are exhilarating, scary, and exciting all at once. The best way that you can start your new year off on a good foot is to think positively, and make an effort to reach out to new people. Having a comfortable space to come home to will give you confidence as you navigate your way through the new and exciting prospects ahead of you.

Jordana Weiss