30 Dorm Room Ideas for First-Time Dorm Dwellers

Updated: Apr. 19, 2024

Moving into a dorm room for the first time? Check out these dorm room ideas for what to buy, how to organize, what styles and decor to choose, and more!

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shower caddy supplies for college
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Dorm Room Shower Supplies

Every new student needs a shower caddy for their shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant, etc. It needs to be waterproof and have drain holes of some sort. What many forget is a pair of shower shoes (inexpensive flip-flops work great). You don’t want to walk around barefoot in a dorm bathroom.

Choose an unusual color or pattern for towels so it’s easy to tell which ones are yours, but stay away from really dark, vibrant colors which will bleed. And be sure to practice sorting laundry before leaving home.

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college dorm Bedroom
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Not Sure About Style? Pick One Color

Don’t stress out over the infinite number of dorm style guides – we’ll make it really easy for you. Pick one bright color – a blue, green, yellow or other common shade. That’s it.

Coordinate your bedding and decor so it includes or complements that color, and you’re done. This makes it easier to match whatever your roommate chooses, and easier to maintain your style when you inevitably move around to different living spaces in the coming years.

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electric fan and book
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Choose a Silent Fan/Heater

There are plenty of things you don’t need for the dorms, but you will need some temperature control. Cold dorms need heaters and hot dorms need fans. Because noise can be an issue, it’s important to find a silent version.

While a little pricey, we suggest this quiet Dyson hybrid model that can heat and cool a dorm room as needed. However, before purchasing, be sure to check out your dorms specific regulations about space heaters.

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Weave Rug For Dorm Room
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For Rugs, Go with a Traditional Weave

Dorm rugs are still trending toward faux fur and shag, but we advise against these styles. They’re difficult to clean and easy to damage without constant care. Instead, go for a traditional weave or braid. These rugs are durable and match most other dorm patterns.

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Girl creating collection of instant photo memories on bulletin board for college dorm room
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Put Your Walls to Work

Wall decorations, especially colored tapestries, are common in dorms and make a good choice for decoration. But save a spot to put up a bulletin board where you can tack important papers, reminders, messages and more.

Bulletin board squares are fun to space out along your wall, but a whiteboard hybrid may prove more useful over time.

Also, explore these dorm room decor ideas for the upcoming academic year.

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Modest bedroom from the working area
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Go Modular with Shelves and Storage Cubes

Choose dorm room storage ideas that are easy to stack and re-organize as needed. Wire cubes or pieces like the IKEA Kallax system are particularly popular because they can be stacked in any shape and used for anything from dress shoes to sports equipment. They’re relatively easy to decorate or hide behind a curtain if necessary.

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Photographs Hanging On Strings Against White Wall
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Got Photos? Make a Picture Garland

While the collage is timeless, the new dorm trend is a picture garland, essentially an artful swoop of string that lets you attach rows of photos with something as simple as a clothespin. This makes it easy to switch out photos as new life events come along.

Bring photos of your friends and family to help you feel less homesick, and leave space for pictures with new friends.

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floor lamp in the corner of the room
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Choose a Long-Reach Floor Lamp

Floor lamps are perfect for dorm rooms. Choose one with a long reach so you can place it in a corner and then swivel it around to control the light more easily. Put it up in a corner opposite your windows to brighten up the whole room.

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college dormitory room (wireless connection)
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Always Save Some Wall Space

Don’t fill up all of your walls with shelves, picture boards and posters as soon as you move in. You will come across art, photos, school-pride items from the bookstore that you’ll want to hang up, so save some room for them.

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Charging Smartphone Using Wireless Charging Pad
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Forget Chargers, Use a Charging Mat

Chargers are important pieces of back-to-school tech. But chargers are annoying. Instead, use a charging mat that lets you just put down your mobile device to immediately start charging it wirelessly. Most Qi-enabled mobile devices have chargers that can do this, so set one up by your bed or desk.

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Stylish room interior with comfortable knitted pouf, wooden furniture and plant near light green wall, space for text
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Replace Floor Pillows with Poufs

The dorm pouf is a versatile pillow-cushion in a round or oblong shape. They come in lots of styles and serve as footrests, chairs, hug buddies, back supports, and many other roles. Instead of throw pillows, invest in the much more versatile pouf.

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Bedside Storage Organizer for dorms
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Recruit Hanging Pouches Everywhere

Hanging pouches are super useful dorm room products. Put a hanging pouch on your bed for convenient storage of tissues, books, earbuds and more. Attach hanging pouches to your door for clothing or show storage. Use one in the bathroom for hygiene products. So versatile!

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Fairy Copper LED dorm room Lights
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Bored with Overhead Lighting? Try Copper LEDs

These copper wire LED lights look great and can serve innumerable purposes in any dorm setup. Buy a couple of LED strands and let your imagination do the rest.

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Boxes for separate storage of linen in a drawer.
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Organize with Drawer Dividers

Drawers aren’t always easy to keep organized, especially after a few early morning classes. To help out, make these simple dividers and dorm room storage ideas to help sort smaller articles of clothing. Other drawer dividers are a great way to sort supplies, cosmetics and other small items that tend to rattle around.

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young person looking in a mirror that is hanging on a door in a dorm room
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Use Mirrors for Two Purposes

A mirror is important so you can always do a quick check for bedhead before you face the world. And a mirror reflects light which creates a more spacious feel in your (tiny) dorm room. Full length body mirrors that hang on the back of any door are also a great option.

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Dorm Room with Brick Fireplace and Wood Floor
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Lift Up Your Bed – a Little or a Lot

If your dorm’s management allows you to lift the bed, then do it! Simple bed lifts can prop the bed up by a couple of inches and give you enough room to scoot bins underneath for under-bed storage. Some people prefer to convert to a full loft bed for even more space.

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Students At Kutztown University Move Back To Campus With Precautions Against Spread Of COVID-19 / Coronavirus
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If You Need a Refrigerator, Make it Do Double Duty

A dorm mini-fridge isn’t necessary, but it sure is handy. So if you get a fridge, why not try a model with extra features, like a built-in dry erase board?

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college dorm laptop computer on bed
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Get at Least One Plant

Plants aren’t just about adding some green growth to the dorm – although that’s a plus! Leafy plants also help to keep the air fresh. If you don’t think you’ll remember to care for a plant, choose a cactus or other succulent that only requires occasional watering.

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organized desk
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Put Up a Mail Organizer

A mail organizer is a smart addition for the back of the door or wall space next to a desk. Use it to sort papers, store textbooks, and organizer your school supplies. You can also build your own!

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cleaning spray bottle on windowsil
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Have a Bottle of All-Purpose Cleaning Spray Handy

It’s easy to whip up a spray bottle of lemon cleaner with a little citrus oil or citrus peels and a dash of vinegar. Keep the spray handy and you’ll find that you can use it for just about everything. Don’t try to drink it, though.

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above door storage shelf
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Above Door Shelf

The space above a doorway is an overlooked storage bonanza! It’s the perfect spot for towels, blankets or a small suitcase. Consider adding a shelf or cubby over the doorway, as long as it’s OK with your dorm’s management.

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clothes in a dorm closet on tiered hangers to save space
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Tiered Hangers

To get the most out of your closet space, use a lightweight piece of chain to stagger hanging clothes. Just loop the first link of the chain over the first hanger, and hang subsequent hangers on every other link after. Hang up to six shirts for the rod space of one.

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over the door storage pockets for dorm closets
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Storage Pockets

Don’t forget the door when counting your closet space! Try an over-the-door shoe organizer on the back side to organize scarves, belts and other accessories. Or, of course, shoes too!

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neat dresser drawers after organizing
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Maximize Drawer Space

By folding shirts and sandwiching instead of stacking, you can fit more into each dresser drawer and have a better visual of what’s inside. This folding technique is perfect for T-shirts, tanks and workout gear.

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add on closet rod organization storage
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Add-On Clothes Rod

Here’s an easy way to add space for hanging clothes (or at least clothes that don’t require a tall space). Hang a second clothes rod from the upper rod with lightweight chain. Attach the chain to screw eyes directly or use S-hooks or carabiners. Carabiners make adjusting the height of the extra rod a snap.

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clothes pin hat and mitten drying rack
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Closet Glove and Hat Rack

If you go to school in a cold climate, finding a good spot to dry wet hats and mittens in a dorm room can be tough. Tossing them into a plastic bin gets them out of the way, but they never dry and it’s no fun putting on damp mittens.

This simple back-of-the-door storage rack allows wet things to dry and keeps easily misplaced items organized.

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Belt Hanger

Where do you store your belts? How about on this inexpensive and easy-to-make belt holder? All you need is a wooden hanger and some cup hooks.

If some of your belts have unusually thick buckles, just widen the cup hook slightly with needle-nose pliers. This is a great way to hang small handbags, too.

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Reuse and Recycle Food Tins pen organizer
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Reuse and Recycle Food Tins

Before you throw out empty tea, coffee and cookie tins, give them a quick rinse. Reuse them to store office supplies, photos and junk drawer items. The square shape is harder to tip than a round pencil cup.

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Still life of black coffee, headphones and laptop
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Coffee Storage Cart

A storage cart is a perfectly versatile way to organize your coffee supplies. This storage solution will make your early morning routines a breeze. You can also store lots of other dorm supplies on this cart, like your toiletries, laundry detergent or any type of kitchen supplies.

Consider a cart with wheels. It’s much easier to reorganize or clean your space if the cart rolls easily.

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Home Interiors
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Versatile Storage Ottoman

A storage ottoman is an incredibly versatile way to create extra storage in any dorm room. A dorm ottoman can be used as a footrest or extra seating, as well as a place to store anything from clothes to snacks. Look for one in a neutral color, or in the accent color you’ve picked for your room to keep things looking cohesive.