Hey, friends! It’s back to school season, which means back-to-college for lots of you! I lived in a dorm my freshman year, and I found lots of simple tricks for shopping smart and making the most of #dormlife. I’m including my 10 essential items that I used the most my freshman year, along with why I think each item is so important. All my picks for these things are linked (this post contains affiliate links, see Disclaimer for details) at the end of the post if you want to see what I bought exactly, or what I’d buy if I was dorm shopping this year.
Like I said in the video version of this post, I mostly shopped at Target and Bed Bath & Beyond. I found they had the best combo of variety, prices, and style! I still use lots of these items in my off-campus house now, and they’re all practical for college dorm or apartment living.
After living in my own room for so many years, I was worried about the thought of only living in one room and sharing the space with someone I didn’t know well (turns out, my freshman roommate is now my roommate of 3 years, and one of my best friends!). I also just have a lot of stuff (which is something I’ve been working on, in decluttering and reducing my wardrobe by finding my true style)… how was I going to fit in that tiny space?!
My mom and I made it our hobby basically to find the best products for my dorm and first apartment, and our hard work paid off! I hope this post can be helpful to make your shopping a little easier, to make your dorm experience the absolute best it can be! I’d love to answer any of your Q’s about college or dorm life if ya need me! I like to think of myself as your somewhat-cool-Christian-college-gal-pal :).
- Ottoman – Most dorm beds I’ve seen are lofted, and my dorm bed was about 3 feet off the ground. To get on my bed, I used a round ottoman from Home Goods. I recommend one with a lid for storage inside, compared to just a step stool. Smart dorm shopping is about finding things that will be multi-functional, while looking nice in your small space. I didn’t mention it in the video, but Walmart is great for college/dorm shopping as well!
- Shoe & Closet Organizers – I used a few smaller over-the-door pocket organizers from Target and hung them with command hooks on the inside of my closet door. I also used a shoe rack on the floor of my closet. Hanging organizers are great options, too, if you have room for them.
- Shower Caddy – Some people advise these and some don’t, but my roommate and I used ours every single day. Our dorm was suite-style, so we shared a bathroom with another dorm room. We didn’t like leaving anything in the shared bathroom, so we carried our caddies to the shower every day. These are great for keeping all your shower items together, and they’re easy to carry back and forth, even if you have to share a bathroom down the hall.
- Rug – Rugs make a huge difference in the coziness and overall look of your dorm! We had one large 4 x 6 ft rug in the middle of our room (that I still have in my room now) and a few smaller rugs by our beds and bathroom door. Rugs are much softer on your feet than cold dorm tile and they make the small space feel more homey.
- Bedding – This is a more obvious one, but my tips are to coordinate bedding and décor with your roommate and also think about the wear on your bedding throughout the year. My roommate and I opted for a purple and blue color scheme and ended up buying the exact same navy comforters from Target. We decorated our sides of the room with our own style, but the matching colors and bedding helped create the cohesive look we wanted. Because of this, and our ‘fairy’ string lights I mention in #7, we got compliments on our room all year long!
- Pillows – Along with picking cute but practical bedding, I loved having throw-pillows and a back pillow (from Target) to make my bed extra comfy. I didn’t like sitting in the uncomfortable desk chair that came with the dorm, so I spent most of my time using the back pillow on my bed. In a dorm, you basically just have a chair or your bed to sit, so it works to sort of use your bed as a couch during the day. TJ Maxx, Marshall’s, and Walmart are great for buying discount pillows, as they can get pricey!
- Lamp – We ended up using our floor lamp pretty much the entire year instead of the harsh florescent light, and this really helped with the overall feel of our room. I’d say lighting and rugs make the biggest difference! We also had desk lamps by our beds and white string lights (that we clipped our favorite photos to) around the ceiling of our room, which gave off lots of soft light, too.
- Under-bed Storage – This might be my best tip! I had some cube storage shelves under my bed, along with some large plastic bins for storing my off-season and extra clothes. You can’t do much with the space under your bed, so utilize it for storage! I kept the boxes I’d used to move in flattened under my bed, and it was so convenient to use them again to move out instead of going out to find new boxes at the end of the year.
- Decorations – Like I said in the video, these aren’t ‘essential’ to live, but rather essential for being comfortable in your home-away-from-home! I hung some painted canvases, strings of tassels and lights, and decorated a shelf over my desk on my side of the room. Like hanging photos, decorations are an easy way to make the dorm room feel like home and with a little effort, an easy way to bring together you and your roomie’s styles!
- Cleaning Supplies – I was almost stuck at #9 before I remembered just how essential cleaning supplies are in a dorm. My roommate and I are both very similar in liking to keep clean, organized living spaces, so cleaning supplies were a must, and something we used so often. You can easily get by with just some dish soap and all-purpose spray, but I’d also recommend Lysol/Febreeze and Clorox wipes. My bed was unfortunately under the air vent, and that dorm air vent was, and I’m so serious about this, the reason I got sick so many times my freshman year. You have no control over the air that’s circulating through the entire dorm building, and it still disgusts me to think about. I have bad allergies but am not prone to getting sick easily, and I still caught so many bugs just from living in that dorm. We ended up buying a small air filter to help with my allergies by the end of the year. Do what you can to fight the germs in your dorm, for your health’s sake!!
I hope you enjoyed this post, and I hope it was helpful if you’re headed to college this semester! Thanks for reading, friend!