Moving away from home is tough, and as I’ve worked on making my dorm room my home-away-from-home, I have gained a deep appreciation for the abundance of dorm room hacks on Pinterest. After all, I’m on a tight budget and don’t have the time or money to run to Wal-Mart every time I need something. Plus, I don’t have a car, so it would be difficult to get to the store even if I wanted to.
But since all colleges students are tight on time and money, and transportation can become a common issue (even for students that do have cars), I can’t say that I’m the only student in this situation. That’s why I’m not surprised by the numerous dorm room hacks that abound the internet these days. For many students, creativity reigns king when finding solutions to problems that arise in college. How could we not when we are low on both money and supplies?!
That’s why I put together a list of some dorm room hacks that I’ve been using to survive dorm life, and I’m sharing it with you all!
1) Hang up a Curtain Rod Using Over-the-Door Hangers
Although we all dream of living in a super-nice, new dorm, that’s not always the case. My 1st freshman dorm was the oldest on campus, and it was definitely outdated. However, it did have one major selling point: a ginormous window (about 5 feet wide) that was perfect for the natural light. However, I instantly realized how much of an issue this was when I continually woke up at 7 in the morning due to the bright morning sunrise. I needed curtains ASAP.
One trip to Wal-Mart later, I was the proud owner of the largest tension rod that they sold…which was just two inches too short of fitting my window, even when extended to its longest length. Since I didn’t have any way of making the distance shorter between the walls shorter, nor the tension rod longer, I decided to solve the problem by placing two over-the-door hangers on opposite sides of the blind box. When I did this, I could rest the curtain rod on the upturned pieces, allowing me to hang up my curtain rod and curtains without needing the tension rod to be attached to the walls.
2) Cover Up the Built-in Closet with Curtains
Now for a décor hack:
The closets in every dorm are going to be different, but from what I have seen, they are usually built-in wardrobes without doors. While some people rock the door-less wardrobe look, I am not one of those people. My clothes and storage just don’t have the aesthetic, not to mention that the general hodge-podge of my clothes and storage makes my room feel a lot smaller and messier, which I find it extremely distracting while studying. To solve this problem (no, not the studying one), I hung a curtain over the wardrobe (with another tension rod) to hide it, as well as to add a splash of color to the room.
3) Re-Purpose a Bedside Caddy as a Fridge Storage Caddy
If there is one thing I regret buying for college, it’s my bedside caddy. Not only was it expensive ($20+!!!), but I never used it. I tried so hard to find a purpose for it, but I would rather throw stuff on my bedside table, where it was not only easier to put stuff, but to see whatever I wanted to retrieve.
Unfortunately, however, it was too late to return the caddy, so I decided to re-purpose it.
After a bit of thought, I realized that the caddy, which was full of multiple pockets and dividers, would be the perfect thing to keep my paper plates, towels, and utensils in, keeping them easily organized and accessible. Even better, the flap of the caddy (the piece that would usually go under the mattress to hold it in place) could easily be placed under my mini-fridge, which I set on a small table. Now the caddy hung over the side of the table, easily allowing me to just reach in and grab whatever I needed.
4) Cover Noisy Chair Legs by using Felt
Let’s be honest, unless you are living in some high-style dorm room, your furniture is going to be extremely old and the floor is going to be even worse, especially you move the furniture.
At least, this was how it was for me in my 1st college dorm. I could never re-arrange my furniture–or even move my desk chair–without it sounding like Chewbacca was in the room.
In order to not disturb my roommate and neighbors with my Wookiee-speaking desk chair, I got a cheap 25-cent piece of felt, cut it into four pieces, and placed it on the bottom of the chair legs, securing it with rubber bands. If you can find cheap felt pads somewhere, that can work as well; but on a college budget, a 25-cent piece of felt serves the same purpose; the downside was that it made the chair look like it had a pair of socks on each leg, so if you’re going for a fancier room, this might not be the dorm room hack for you, but it can work in a pinch.
5) Create a Picture Frame out of Washi Tape
Here we go for décor hack #2:
One common way of decorating a dorm room is with pictures. Although this is great, these pictures can easily begin to be messy, unstructured, or isolated on the great expanse of your dorm room wall. That’s why one of my dorm room must-haves is rolls of washi tape.
For me, I have four strands of pictures that I surround with a “picture frame” made out of washi tape, which made the pictures look a lot more structured and nicer than that it did without the frame. Using washi tape, instead of an actual frame is also better for your wallet, as it is not only extremely cheap and comes in multiple designs, but that you don’t have to worry about damaging the walls of your dorm. (Which, as you may know, can get expensive!) If you’re interested in reading more of my essentials for the college dorm, just click here.
6) Use Washi Tape for Problem Spots
While having an adequate amount of storage can be a problem in the dorms, being able to actually use that storage can be an even more complicated one.
In the first dorm I lived in (re: oldest dorm on campus), I had a medicine cabinet above the sink, which I initially loved because it helped free up what little counter space I had, but I quickly realized there was a problem: there was rusty spots covering portions of the cabinet, which made it hard to use.
To fix the problem, I once again sought the use of washi tape, which I used to cover the entire interior of the cabinet, which not only covered up the rust, but also decorated the cabinet in a colorful pattern.
Washi tape can become a cheap hack to cure some problems that you run across in dorm rooms, and this was one of them.
7) Need a Safe for Your Valuables? Use a Suitcase.
One of my primary concerns when moving to college was how I was going to keep any valuables I had safe. After all, it’s not like I could just go out to the store and replace anything that got stolen.
Well, I could, but it definitely wouldn’t be cheap.
Whether it is your laptop, tablet, or spare cash, having a way to keep your valuables safe is a must, but finding a dorm room safe big enough to store these valuables–while also staying on budget–is extremely hard; believe me, I tried.
However, I realized that I could use my suitcase as a safe by placing my valuables in there and then securing it with a TSA lock. A suitcase provides a HUGE amount of space to use, and it never looks out of the ordinary.
8) Use Calendar Pages As Posters
We begin each new year with a new calendar, and the old one gets thrown out, never to be thought of again.
However, what if you could re-use the pictures from that wall calendar? Years and years ago, I realized that I could do this, and began putting them up on my wall using wall putty. My friends often clamor over how much they love this idea, and it made my dorm room look amazing, while also re-using something that many people think is trash.
9) Tie Clothes Hangers Together by using Garbage Bags
When moving to college, some people buy their clothes hangers brand new and in a box, ready to go. Others, like me, do their best to save some money by bring their old ones from home. But if you’ve never packed clothes hangers before, then you know it is hard. They get tangled easily, slide around everywhere, and make the process of moving in or out much more frustrating. To stop the hangers from doing this, I tied them together with plastic grocery bags by twisting the bags into a rope and looping them through the center of the hanger. Doing this kept the hangers together and made moving in and out of the dorms much easier.
10) Use a Curtain as a Tapestry
Everybody loves tapestries; after all, they’re like a ginormous fabric poster with your favorite characters, quotes, movies, or designs! The only downside is how expensive they are. Instead of breaking the bank for a regular tapestry, think about looking online or in-stores for curtains (shower curtains or regular curtains) with a design that you like and hang this up instead! This is not only much cheaper, but if you’re looking for animated movie characters or common themes (such as the ocean) they can also be easier to find.
Hopefully you can take advantage of some of these hacks and tricks in your own dorm room,and I would love to hear how they work out for you! Plus, if you’re looking for some ideas for your own dorm room, check out my tour of my freshman dorm room and suite!