Opening the door of my new dorm room, I wasn’t sure what to expect. This was the first time I had ever lived away from my parents, my sister, and the comfort of my room. When my eyes fell upon the bleak scene that I was to call home for the next year, I wasn’t ecstatic. The bare plastic mattress and the plain wooden furniture weren’t much to look at. The tan floor tiles were sure to chill my feet, making getting out of bed unbearable. I didn’t let the dismal area break my spirit, though. I had been planning for months, and I brought all the accessories I needed to make my new room feel just like home. Here are ten tips that helped me make my dorm room comfortable and cozy!

1. Bedding

Making your bed comfortable is the most important step to making your room comfortable. Many dorm room beds are stiff, and I could feel the springs in my bed. Purchase a foam mattress pad for a plush layer between your mattress and your sheets. My roommate has two of these, and her bed feels like a cloud. You can bring your sheets from home if you have a twin bed, and your duvet or comforter should work as well. I like having lots of colorful pillows on my bed because it reminds me of my room at home. Target and Walmart have plenty of options when it comes to bedding and pillows. Your bed should be inviting and cozy, so pile on the pillows and blankets!

2. Curtains

Our windows were shaded with metal blinds, which made the room feel more like a cell than a home. We took the blinds down and replaced them with white curtains, which we put up ourselves. We got these curtains for free from someone else in the building, so all we needed was the hardware to install them. Curtain rods are inexpensive and can be found at most hardware stores. We installed the curtains, and they instantly gave the room an airy and clean vibe.

3. Plants

Plants to brighten up the dorm room | Chelsea Hafer

Keeping plants in your room is one of the best ways to freshen up the space. I can never seem to keep plants alive, so I have an array of fake plants all over the room. I bought a few strings of fake ivy on Amazon and tacked them up in the corners of the room. This makes the room feel like a greenhouse, which I absolutely love! You can also run the ivy along the edge of your wall or display it in a container. We occasionally get real flowers for our room, which brightens things up. Plants are a great way to make your room feel less confined, because they make you feel like you’re outside.


4. Lighting

It’s impossible to overstate the importance of good lighting in your room! My room came with just one overhead fluorescent bulb, which cast an eerie white tint on the whole room. I don’t think I’ve ever used that light after the first time I switched it on. Instead, I brought in a cute lamp from home, and my roommate and I strung up eight strands of twinkle lights all over the room. Each wall is lined with lights, and we have some hung on the ceiling and around the door. These lights are the best purchase we have made for our room, because at night we are able to change the atmosphere of the room depending on which lights we turn on. We bought different colors and sizes of bulbs, so each one has a different feel. If the lighting that comes with your dorm room is creepy or dismal, make sure you invest in some lighting that makes you feel good!

5. Creative Storage

Creative Storage | Chelsea Hafer

My room has a decent amount of storage, but I needed a bit more. My roommate hung up a shoe hanger on the door, and we keep our smaller shoes in it. I have a shoe hanger on my closet door, and I keep hair bands and nail files and other little things in it. This was one of the best decisions I’ve made pertaining to my room, because I have a lot of miscellaneous things that I keep in each pocket, which decreased the clutter in my desk and on shelves.


6. Rugs

I have a rug from Urban Outfitters, and it really helps tie the room together. Getting a rug that matches the style of your room will really help your room feel like home. It is helpful in the mornings because it keeps my feet from getting cold, and it also makes the room look cleaner because it hides dirt and dust better than the white tile floor. However, I still shake the rug out every few weeks and sweep the entire room. You can avoid having to clean often by taking your shoes off before you enter the room, especially in winter months when snow and mud collect on your boots.

7. Bulletin Board

Bulletin Board filled with memories | Chelsea Hafer

My room came with a bulletin board, and I put up pictures of my friends from home, letters, and cards that I have collected from my friends and family. If your room doesn’t come with one, it’s always a good idea to bring a bulletin board. It is a great way to make the most of your wall space and display moments that make you happy when you’re missing home.

8. Mementos

On my desk and bookshelf, I display a variety of little knick knacks from home, like shells, candles, and picture frames. This gives your room a much homier feel. Think about your room at home: what items did you display? Bring some of them to school with you. You will likely have space for them on your desk or dresser.

9. Fill in the Blanks

Filled with personal items | Chelsea Hafer

Try to avoid empty spaces, because they will make your room feel more impersonal. Display as many of your things in a useful and creative way as you can. I put my earrings on a ceramic plate, and I hold my pushpins and safety pins in a small pot I made. All of my pencils and art supplies are in aluminum cans I wrapped in yarn, and I have a few picture frames on my desk. The goal is to imitate your space at home, so keep it as cluttered or neat as you are used to.

10. Work Together

My dorm room is probably the coziest one in the building. We didn’t do anything special to it, but we did change one thing that most people ignore: we worked together. Most dorm rooms are split in half; each person decorates their side of the room in a certain way. My roommate and I took a different approach, though. We bought supplies and decorations together, and decorated the room as one space, not two. We even pushed our beds together to form a king bed, which made the room feel a lot bigger. String lights across the room to physically connect each side of the room. When you work together, your room will feel much more connected.

Dorm living can be bleak and dismal at times, but it’s not hard to hack the system. Recreate your room at home by bringing in objects from your past, and decorate the room to your liking. If you can, work together with your roommate to make the most of your space. When you work hard and figure out what you want from your room, it’s not hard to create a home away from home.