Moving away from home is tough. Not only are you leaving your family behind for (usually) several months at a time, but you’re learning how to live with a roommate–who you may or may not already know–in a small room with limited space. As much as we may have dreamed for independence and the chance to finally have our own space, the problems that come with dorm life definitely weren’t one of them. From noisy neighbors to limited storage space, college students must come up with creative answers to tackle the problems that go hand-in-hand with living in a dorm; this is where dorm room hacks come into play.
Dorm room hacks prove that creativity reigns king when it comes to innovative solutions to dorm room problems. How could they not, when we’re all low on both time and money? This list pulls together several dorm room hacks that have helped me survive dorm life, and I’m sharing them with you
1) Hang up a Curtain Rod Using Over-the-Door Hangers
There’s a lot to consider when choosing your college dorm, and although we all dream of living in a nice, spacious dorm with bright walls, clean floors, and natural light, that’s not always the case. Dorms hold so many people that are constantly moving in and out, and are often open for decades at a time with little/no renovations to update them. In fact, my freshman dorm was the oldest on campus and was definitely outdated. (The entire building of people actually had to move out 3 weeks into the term due to a mold problem.)
However, the dorm had one major selling point: a 5 foot window that flooded the room with natural light throughout the day. Although I loved this (especially as an art student), I quickly realized how much of an issue this would be when I was woken up by the sunrise at 7am everyday. The thin blinds just weren’t cutting it. I needed blinds 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 a Curtain or Tapestry
Now for a décor dorm room 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.
Along with hanging up a curtain, this is also a great way to hang up your tapestry, almost making your wardrobe like a hidden closet!
3) Re-Purpose a Bedside Caddy as a Fridge Storage Caddy
There are several things I regret buying for college, and one of them is my bedside caddy. Not only was it expensive ($20+!!!), but I never used it, which is why I strongly believe it is 1 of 10 items you should delay purchasing until after dorm move-in.
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 and a tab meant for sliding under a mattress, 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 top of 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) Use Felt to Stop Furniture from Scraping the Floor
Let’s face the facts: dorm furniture isn’t as a durable as it needs to be. It goes through constant wear-and-tear in a small space, dozens of residents, and years of use. Although some things are easy to fix (like buying a chair cushion for the awful desk chair), others are a bit harder, like desk chairs that scrape against the floor every time you move them.
There are several different options to solve this issue: (1) you can buy some felt pads to put on the bottom of the chair’s legs, or (2) you can cut up a piece of felt and place it underneath the leg chair, securing it with a rubber band or some adhesive.
I’m going to be completely honest, in this situation, it’s better to just invest in the felt pads for the furniture. Although placing felt on them does work, it’s harder to make it stay on, which can become a cause of constant annoyance if you have to re-apply the felt every other day.
5) Create a Picture Frame out of Washi Tape
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. Not only is a great for organizing and decorating school supplies and agendas, but it’s a great non-damage way to decorate your walls.
For example, if you hang up pictures on your walls with layers of string, you can surround them with a “picture frame” made out of washi tape, which can make the organization of the pictures look more structured.
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 your college charges for room damages!) If you’re interested in reading more of my essentials for the college dorm, just click 1 of 10 items you should delay purchasing until after dorm move-in.
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 were rusty spots covering large portions of the cabinet, which made it hard to use.
To fix the problem, I once again used of washi tape, covering up the entire interior of the cabinet. This 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.
To check out ten more items you never thought to bring to college, just click here.
7) Use a Suitcase as a Safe
A primary concern of many students when moving to college is how to prevent theft in a dorm room. Although we all hate to think of it happening, it’s easy for someone to sneak into your room (especially if you forgot to lock it) and steal valuables like laptops, wallets, and jewelry while you’re in class.
However, 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. This is an extremely important dorm room hack and you most likely already have all of these items on hand!
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 by hanging them up using wall putty. My friends often clamor over how much they love this dorm room hack, as it’s helped me fill in the empty space on my dorm room walls without expensive tapestries or picture frames, 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 ever packed clothes hangers before, then you know it is hard. They get tangled easily, slide around everywhere, and make the process of moving in and out so much more frustrating.
To stop hangers from doing this, align them together in piles of 10, then twist the grocery bags into a tight rope. Loop the bags through the center of the hangers, then tie them together. Do this on all sides of the hangers. This will help them from sliding around while moving, plus give you some disposable bags you can use in the trash bins during move-in!
10) Use a Curtain as a Tapestry
Tapestries are a common item on student’s dorm shopping list; 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 fabric curtains (shower curtains or regular curtains) with a design that you like and hang this up instead! There are many that have globe designs, quotes, etc. that could easily pass off as a regular tapestry but at a much cheaper cost. This is one of my favorite dorm room hacks just because of how much money it can save students.
Living in college dorms can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be! By following these dorm room hacks, you can easily save time, money, and stress while at university. Don’t forget to comment below and let me know how they work out for you, or if you have one of your own you’d like to share!