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30 Dorm Room Ideas for First-Time Dorm Dwellers

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 décor to choose, and more!

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What's Wrong with this Picture?Sean Locke Photography/Shutterstock

What's Wrong with this Picture?

Every new co-ed needs a shower caddy for their shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant, etc. It needs to be waterproof and have drain holes of some sort. So this guy has that covered, but he's missing shower shoes (inexpensive flip-flops work great). You don't want to walk around barefoot in a dorm bathroom. Second, the red towel. When he washes this towel, everything else in the load will turn pink. 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 and other life skills for college students before leaving home.
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Not Sure About Style? Pick One ColorKanashkin Evgeniy/Shutterstock

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 décor so that 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. Plus: Tips for maximizing your closet storage space
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Choose a Silent Fan/HeaterOak_stockphoto/Shutterstock

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 both heat and cool down a dorm room as needed. However, before purchasing be sure to check out your dorms specific regulations when it comes to space heaters.
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For Rugs, Go with Traditional Weave

For Rugs, Go with Traditional Weave

Dorm rugs are still trending toward faux fur and shag, but we advise against these styles: They are very difficult to clean and easy to damage without constant care. Instead, go for a traditional weave or braid: These rugs are designed to be durable and can match most other dorm patterns. Plus: How to Clean Area Rugs
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Put Your Walls to Workpla2na/Shutterstock

Put Your Walls to Work

Wall decorations, especially colored tapestries, are very 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. Plus: How to Hang Almost Anything
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Go Modular with Both Shelves and Storage Cubes

Go Modular with Both Shelves and Storage Cubes

Choose dorm room storage ideas that are easy to stack and re-organize as needed. Wire cubes or the IKEA Kallax system are a particularly popular option because they can be stacked in any shape based on the design of the dorm room, and used for anything from dress shoes to sports equipment. They are relatively easy to decorate or hide behind a curtain if necessary.
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Got Photos? Make a Picture GarlandIVASHstudio/Shutterstock

Got Photos? Make a Picture Garland

While the collage is timeless, the new dorm trend is a picture garland, which is essentially an artful swoop of string that allows you to 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.
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Choose a Long-Reach Floor LampVadym Andrushchenko/Shutterstock

Choose a Long-Reach Floor Lamp

Floor lamps are a perfect for dorm rooms, but 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. Plus: Tips on moving furniture
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Always Save Some Wall Spacehoriyan/shutterstock

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. Plus: How to Repair Damaged Drywall
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Forget Chargers, Use a Charging MatPottery/Shutterstock

Forget Chargers, Use a Charging Mat

Chargers are important pieces of back-to-school tech. 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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Replace Floor Pillows with

Replace Floor Pillows with Poufs

The dorm pouf is a versatile pillow-cushion in a round or oblong shape. They come in many different 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. Plus: How to Reupholster a Chair
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Recruit Hanging Pouches Everywhere

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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Bored with Overhead Lighting? Try Copper LEDs

Bored with Overhead Lighting? Try Copper LEDs

These copper wire LED lights look great and can serve innumerable purposes in any dorm setup, so buy a couple strands and let your imagination do the rest. Plus: Build an Infinity Table
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Organize with Drawer Dividers

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. Plus: How to Line Drawers
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Use Mirrors for Two Purposes

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. Plus: How to Frame a Mirror with Glass Tile
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Lift Up Your Bed – a Little or a LotKsenia Palimski/Shutterstock

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 inches and give you enough room to scoot bins underneath. Some people prefer to convert to a full loft bed for even more space. Plus: Build an Under Bed Storage Box
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If You Need a Fridge, Make it Do Double Dutymagicoven/Shutterstock

If You Need a Fridge, Make it Do Double Duty

A dorm mini-fridge isn't necessary, but it sure is handy. So, if you get a fridge, then why not try a model that has extra features, like this Igloo fridge with a built-in dry erase board for making notes? Plus: How to Fix a Refrigerator
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Get at Least One PlantFabrikaSimf/Shutterstock

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. Plus: Make Your Own Tiered Plant Stand
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Put Up a Mail Organizer

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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Have a Bottle of All-Purpose Cleaning Spray Handyfocal point/Shutterstock

Have a Bottle of All-Purpose Cleaning Spray Handy

It's very 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). Plus: How to Make Homemade Cleaner with Simple Ingredients
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Above Door Shelf

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 okay with your dorm's management. Plus: Build a Shoe Organizer
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Tiered Hangers

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. Plus: Easy Ways to Expand Your Closet Space
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Storage Pockets

Storage Pockets

Don't forget the door when counting your closet space! Try an over-the-door shoe organizer on the back side of a closet door to organize scarves, belts and other accessories. Or of course, shoes too! Would you rather have your shoes out where you can see them? Then consider making this modern shoe rack.
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Clothing Storage Solutions: Maximize Drawer SpaceFamily Handyman

Clothing Storage Solutions: Maximize Drawer Space

By folding shirts KonMari- or military-style 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. Learn about Swedish Death Cleaning to clear out clutter.
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Add-On Clothes RodFamily Handyman

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. Plus: 18 Life-Changing Organizing Ideas for Hard-to-Store Stuff
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Closet Glove and Hat RackFamily Handyman

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 glove and cap rack allows wet things to dry and keeps easily misplaced items organized. Plus: Check out more inside-cabinet-door storage ideas.
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Belt Hanger

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. PLUS: Make a Tie, Scarf and Belt Organizer (Scroll down to see this project.)
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Reuse and Recycle Food TinsFamily Handyman

Reuse and Recycle Food Tins

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

Coffee Storage Cart

A storage cart like this one from IKEA or this one from Target are a perfectly versatile way to organize your coffee supplies. This storage solution will make your early morning routines a breeze. You can also store a wide variety of other dorm supplies on this cart, like your toiletries, laundry detergent or any type of kitchen supplies.
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Versatile Storage Ottoman

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, extra seating and as a place to store anything from clothes to snacks to keep you motivated for all of your late-night study sessions. A storage ottoman like this one from kohl's will get the job done right. Photo: Kohl's

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