(Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Purchases made through the affiliate links will provide me with compensation at no extra cost to you, and help to support me and my blog. If you would like more information about my disclosure policy, please click here.)
In my freshman year of college, I did a lot of moving around on campus. A LOT. (Three times, if we want to be specific.) Between all of that moving, not to even mention the number of dorms that I’ve lived in over the previous years (because of high school summer programs), I’ve truly experienced how different dorms can be, and how that can affect what you take to college. However, I have found that there are some items that are essential to having a great living space, no matter what dorm room you live in. That’s why I’ve rounded up a list of 15 items that you should highly consider purchasing for your dorm room so that you can make the most of your dorm room experience!
I’ve grown up having a wall clock in every room of my house, so when I moved to college, I constantly found myself looking up at the walls for the time. (Spoiler alert: There wasn’t one, so I had to look at my phone instead.) While you may not think that this would be an issue, this can be if you’re trying to do homework or study for an important exam and get distracted by it.
Just imagine: You’re working on a critical paper for your least favorite class when you look at your phone to get the time. You see the time, but you also see that you have notifications from Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, and YouTube, so you decide to give yourself a quick break from working on the paper. Before you know it, five funny YouTube videos, a new Instagram post, and a series of SnapChats later, you glance at the time again, only to find an hour has passed and your running behind on that paper because it’s due tonight. Oops.
To save space, I recommend getting a wall clock, like this one. For me, a wall clock was one of the best presents that I received in my freshman year, and is an absolute essential tool for time management in college.
2) Posters and/or Tapestries
One of the best parts about moving away for college is getting to decorate your room however you wish, and in order to do that, posters and/or tapestries are essential! For my dorm room, I got a packet of “mini posters” and wall calendar pictures that I arranged in a checkerboard pattern that worked really well, but some other options include creating a gallery wall or a photo collage.
Tapestries are another great option because they come in a variety of sizes, and you can also switch up where in the room you want to place them. You can pin them on the ceiling, hang them at the head of your bed, or just pin them up on the wall. Tapestries are also great because you can choose what size you want them to be, and therefore how much of the wall you want them to cover.
If you want the best of both worlds (posters and tapestries), then you can even use your tapestry as a curtain!
One of my favorite items that I got for my freshman dorm room was a set of string lights. Although this may sound like a very stereotypical dorm room purchase, they’re popular for a reason.
Not only do string lights provide a bit of extra light and personality to your dorm room, but there are so many ways to use them. You can clip photos on them, hang them on your ceiling, or drape them behind a curtain or tapestry; the possibilities are endless. When purchasing them, it’s important to take into account what you’re using them for in order to get the correct length. After all, I wouldn’t need as much to hang them behind a tapestry as I would need if I wanted to string them across my ceiling a few times.
My marker board was very therapeutic for me in my freshman year of college. Hanging right next to my desk, I would divide it up into two sections: my short-term and long-term to-do lists. Paper due tomorrow? Short term list. Present for a friend’s birthday next month? Long term to-do list.
Every time that I accomplished something, getting to erase it off the marker board and watching it have less and less on it was the best feeling in the world. Not only did it give me an easy way to see everything that needed done, but it also helped me to stay on top of it all.
Of course, to-do lists aren’t the only things that marker boards can be used for. Many students hang them up on the outside of their door and write jokes, quotes, and messages for other students who live in their hall.
As for cork boards, I had two cork boards in my room (one was half-cork board, half-marker board) and I absolutely loved it. It gave me a place to hang up birthday cards, pictures, business cards and Disney trading pins, and it’s helpful because you can change these out throughout the year. A cork board also gives you a great place to hang up a calendar, rather than on the wall, where you might be charged for damages.
5) Washi Tape
In case you’re not familiar with washi tape, it is a non-damage tape that is easy to stick on and peel off. What makes washi tape so appealing is that it comes in many different colors, patterns, and styles, and can be used to decorate any room or piece of furniture. My sister used it to decorate her light switch, whereas I have used it to decorate the inside of a dorm room medicine cabinet (and cover up the rust that was in it), create “photo frames” on the walls, and decorate the edges of marker boards.
Washi tape is a really cheap, easy way to help decorate a room, and can help bring a color scheme together. It is one of my favorite items in my dorm room, and it probably won’t surprise you to hear that I had several different roles of it, each in a different color and style.
In one of my previous posts, I mentioned that a mirror is something that you should wait to purchase until you move in (in case the room already comes with one), but it is definitely something that you shouldn’t go without.
Not only can a mirror help you do your hair, put together your outfit, and let you take your #ootd selfies, but it can also add more light and space to the room.
No, I’m not kidding when I say that. If you strategically place your mirror in a spot where it will reflect light, it can help make a room seem brighter and bigger (since it would reflect space). I utilized this trick myself in the dorm that I lived in. Since I had a little “study corner” in my room, I placed my mirror so that it would reflect the light from the window, as well as the space of my study corner, making the small area seem lighter and bigger.
While it may take a bit of trial and error to find the perfect spot to utilize this trick, a mirror is an absolute must-have for your dorm room.
Let’s take a little trip down memory lane…
I began my freshman year, like most students, with dorm move-in day. It was exciting and packed with activities for everyone to do. After a long day of unpacking and eventful evening of freshman activities, I finally got to go to bed…only to be woken up extremely early the next morning by the sun streaming through my broken blinds.
To say the least, I was not a very happy camper, especially since this happened several days in a row until I finally had the time to go to the store and buy some curtains.
If you value your sleep and sanity in college, then having curtains is a must. Whether you use regular curtains or a tapestry, having something to block the sunlight is a necessity to help you get the sleep you need in college. It was only after I purchased a pair of curtains that I finally could get a good night’s sleep.
One of my biggest regrets of my freshman dorm room was not having a carpet. While this was not a huge problem in my first two dorms, where the rooms was too small awkwardly shaped to have a carpet, it was a huge problem in my third (and final) dorm room. My floor was a hard, cold, tiled floor that wasn’t the most preferable in the cold winter, and even when the floor wasn’t cold, it felt hard and unwelcoming. Not the greatest feeling when you’re living there for several months, am I right?
Although lamps are something that you should wait to buy until after dorm move-in (because of sizing), they are definitely something you should purchase for your dorm. Lamps can help illuminate dark areas of a dorm room, give a bit of extra light when working at your desk, and can help solve the problem of one roommate wanting to sleep, while the other wants to work on homework. I absolutely love this desk lamp (which is the same one I have) because it has a spots for me to put knickknacks, pens, pencils, and an electrical outlet to charge my phone.
10) Wall Putty
Without a doubt, wall putty is a must-have item when it comes to your dorm room because is a reusable adhesive that you can use to hang up photos, posters, and other items. The great part about wall putty is that it is reusable and easy to take on and off, so if you decide to re-arrange your decorations, you don’t have to worry about getting a new piece or putting more holes in the walls.
11) Velcro Command Strips and Wall Hooks
Although wall putty is great for hanging up posters and pictures, command strips are necessary for the heavier items, such as mirrors and canvases. When it comes to command strips, I highly recommend getting the velcro ones for several reasons. The first (and foremost) one is because it is easier to re-arrange decorations just by peeling the decoration off one velcro wall strip and sticking it on another. Velcros strips are also great because you can have several attempts to hang something up straight (and not crooked) with velcro; if you get the regular kind, you’re just stuck with whatever angle it’s at unless you take it off and get a new command strip.
Another reason that I love the velcro command strips is because I found that they were easier to remove from my wall at the end of the year than the regular kind. In addition to the velcro command strips, I also recommend their wall hooks to hang up your towels, jackets, jewelry, and other items.
12) Desk Calendars
Although I have loved wall calendars in the past, I just never wrote anything on them because I am terrible at writing on vertical surfaces. (Do school teachers take a class in this? Because their handwriting is always so beautiful.)
However, when I was going dorm room shopping, I made the decision to purchase I desk calendar instead, and I could not be more happy with my decision. It not only helps me keep track of dates and deadlines, but I never need to search for a notepad whenever I need to jot something down, because there is always a huge one on my desk!
One of the most common “must-have college items” that you will see on any list is a reusable water bottle; when you eliminate the need for plastic water bottles, you are not only saving the environment, but you are also saving money! While I totally agree with having a reusable water bottle (after all, I have one too), many students forget to also purchase a bottle brush for it. That’s why a water bottle brush was something I made sure to buy when I was dorm room shopping, and it made cleaning out my water bottle so much easier throughout the year.
We have all heard the stories of how uncomfortable the dorm room mattresses are. They’re old, they’re cheap, and for all the talk that colleges make about how important it is for students to get a good night’s sleep, they sure don’t make it easy for us.
So when I was dorm room shopping, one of my biggest (both in size and cost) purchases was a foam mattress topper. While these can be a bit expensive, believe me, they are well worth the money; this is not an item that you want to pinch pennies on, because it really is worth the extra cost. I tried sleeping on my bed without a foam mattress topper for a few nights, and let me just tell you, it was terrible. It was hard, uncomfortable, and I regretted not having it with me. (I was staying in interim housing for a few nights, which was why I didn’t have it.) Needless to say, I was glad when I was finally back in my old dorm room with my mattress topper again.
15) Mattress Pad
Along with my awesome foam mattress topper, I also had a mattress pad. (Hey, a girl needs her beauty rest.) This is an extra cushion, along with the mattress topper, that just helps the formerly unbearable dorm room mattress to become much more comfortable. In fact, I didn’t notice any difference in comfort between my dorm room mattress (with the foam topper and mattress pad) and my mattress at home. I 10/10 recommend these, and you can even try out the same one that I had by clicking here.
Dorm room shopping can be extremely overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be as long as you focus on the essentials and then go from there! All of these items were extremely helpful for me in my dorm room. (Except for the carpet, of course, since I didn’t have one but always wished for.). All of these items cannot only help make your dorm room a great place to live, but also a great home-away-from-home. In fact, if you want a tour of my dorm room (and suite!) to get more inspiration, you can do so by clicking here.
P.S. Have any questions or comments for me? Or perhaps you want to suggest a dorm room essential yourself? Let me know in the comments, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear from you!