By Nick Kania • July 15, 2015
So you’re spending this summer preparing for the big event – you’re going to college, and you’re moving into a dorm room, completely unsure of what to expect. This is your chance to design your space however you want, but decorating can be expensive, and you may not know what you need. Not to worry! We’ve come up with an inexpensive list of both helpful and fun things to think about when stocking your room for the semester.
You don’t realize how much space you take up until you try fitting all your stuff in one dorm room! Try looking for thin bins that can fit underneath beds and dressers. For clothes and other things, find stackable bins. These can also be used to add color to your room. Walmart and Target both sell them in a variety of colors for around $10.00 a piece.
If you’re like I was before college, you might be thinking, “What the heck is a shower caddy?”. Shower caddies are plastic baskets with compartments for your toiletries. Skip out on shelves that occupy corners or hang from the showerhead – they take up space and get dirty quickly. A shower caddy can be had for $5.99 from Target, and you’ll never have to worry about being “that roommate” who leaves all his things in the shower (trust me, that guy gets obnoxious).
Sad-but-true story. In my suite, we split two bathrooms between six guys. We each assigned ourselves one of the bathrooms to use, that way cleaning was made easy. In my bathroom, all three of us had shower caddies. The place was spotless, and cleaning was super easy. In the other bathroom, all three kept their stuff on shelves and on the floor. Needless to say, it was a real pig sty. There were debates over who made what mess, and who had to clean what. The point is, keeping your stuff out of the bathroom keeps you out of the mess.
Another thing I didn’t know about before college was command hooks. Maybe I’ve been sheltered from the world of storage, but if you also don’t know what I’m talking about, command hooks are little plastic hooks with adhesive backings that you can stick anywhere. Since they don’t damage surfaces, they work in dorms and apartments, where you must keep walls pristine. They’re great for hanging towels, garbage bags, or anything else you can’t find floor space for.
Having a bunch of crooked and poorly taped posters is a classic dorm room staple. Unfortunately, chain stores at the mall usually overcharge for theirs. Check out Amazon to find sweet deals on posters of all kinds; shipping prices may be high but they’ll still cost less than going to the store. If you want something even more unique, browse Fathead.com for awesome wall murals of all different sports and entertainment icons. They’re big and bold, and will likely be different from the decorations of anybody else on your floor.
Seriously, go outside average tastes and buy something cool or weird for your dorm room. You’ll be happy you did. My suitemate from rural Pennsylvania picked up a rusty gong from his local flea market. We all laughed at first, but by the end of the year it was a vital part of our room. If you’re a nerd like me, you can check out Thinkgeek.com to find unconventional memorabilia for all of your favorite shows, video games, comics and more.
Comforters and bedding are a subtle way to add more color to your room. You’d be surprised at the difference that a tasteful comforter makes when compared to a plain white one. Inexpensive bedding can be found all over, but I personally like the designs at Kohl’s and Bed, Bath, & Beyond due to their bright colors and striking patterns.
The mini-fridge is an iconic part of the college dorm room. You can stash leftovers, food from home, and anything else you may need to keep cold. My school had a yearly mini-fridge leasing program, but it was quite honestly over-priced when compared to the quality fridges you can just buy. Walmart sells a sleek black unit for $66.00; split amongst a few roommates, it’s a steal.
Another quick note – make sure your mini-fridge either has a well-separated freezer compartment or none at all. My suitemate bought a cheap fridge with a freezer box inside. It was attached loosely and ended up freezing everything in the fridge, not just things in the box. Great for ice cream, bad for anything you wanted to stay liquidated.
The best way to show your floor how masculine you are is to blast your music loudly at all times of the day with the door open. Okay, I may be kidding, but you’ll probably encounter a room or two like that. It’s admittedly fun to have a constant soundtrack to your dorm life. While many big stereo systems require money and space (which as a college kid is hard to come by), there are compact systems that work perfectly for dorm rooms. Some good ones, such as the Panasonic SC-H27, can be found on Amazon. The Beats Pill is also relatively popular because of its compact size and stylish design. It can run a bit on the expensive side, but not when you use one of our many coupons! As a final suggestion, Sony offers a moderately-sized stereo for only $97.99 through Overstock.com.
At the beginning of my freshman year, my roommates and I were all wastefully spending money on packs of disposable water bottles. Those run out quickly and break down into arguments about “he took this many bottles and hasn’t bought a pack in this many weeks!” Save yourself the money and the stress – buy a good refillable water bottle and use the fountains on campus to stay hydrated.
Most college students are understandably strapped for cash. Even with a job, it’s hard to get enough hours while balancing your classes and study time. However, your room doesn’t need to look like a neglected storage unit. If you split the big purchases and research the smaller ones, you can have a dorm room you’re proud to spend your year in.
Nick Kania Nick is our summer editorial intern who attends St. John’s University and lives in Brooklyn, New York. You’ll likely find him drinking his third cup of coffee somewhere, thinking about faraway places and how to get there.