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It’s dorm move-in time across Arkansas! For incoming college students, getting ready to move on campus can be overwhelming. A new chapter of life is right around the corner, and that is exciting, but there’s an endless checklist of things to get done before move-in day. One of the more fun things on that list—though still maybe a bit stressful—is decorating the dorm room. And on move-in day, you really need a strategic plan. Trust me, you will thank me.
As a college freshman in the late ’80s, we showed up with a bed in a bag, usually in dusty rose and blue floral, a crate or two for a nightstand, our clothes, at least one old movie poster (James Dean stuck to the wall with that blue tacky stuff which made the poster corners smudgy and which actually did not come completely off the wall, despite what the packaging said); a boom box with many, many cassette tapes, and a lot of hairspray (our hair was very big back then).
Times have changed, and things are a bit more detailed, so I asked my college friend (and one of my baristas) Madison Mourot about her freshman dorm experience. Madison has served as a tour guide, resident assistant and orientation leader at Arkansas Tech University.
Photo of Madison’s first dorm room at Arkansas Tech University.
The first step in getting your dorm room ready is deciding on a theme. While your dorm room may feel temporary, it will be your home away from home. Deciding on a theme and color palette and sticking to it is important and helps the room really come together. Whether your style is preppy or bohemian, make it your own! Start by finding a cute comforter. I suggest going with a neutral color, such as white or gray, so you can choose fun sheets, pillows, or wall art to go with it. There are also many Velcro headboards you can find to attach to your bed.
University of Arkansas freshman Cambry Brown adores Miranda Lambert and chose this print as the inspiration for her room decor.
Find fun wall art to coordinate with your bedding. Wall collages are super popular on college campuses. Combining pictures, canvases, and prints above your bed and on other walls can add a personal touch to the room while making the space feel vibrant and welcoming. Etsy has tons of prints you can customize, print and frame.
Command™ strips will become your best friend through the decorating process! I suggest double-sided strips to hang any wall art. Command hooks also come in handy to hang your backpack, purses and keys.
Elevating the bed allows extra storage space for items that don’t fit in your closet or drawers. After elevating your bed, use a long dust ruffle to hide under-bed storage while enhancing the space. Another option is to elevate your bed but put your desk or a storage unit under the bed. This allows for extra space in your room. Another storage tip is purchasing a small ottoman to put at the side of your bed. An ottoman is multifunctional and can be used as a step stool to get on your bed, seating for friends and as extra storage! A great way to disguise your closet is to hang curtains on your front closet rods. To tie the room together, you can find curtains that match your bedding and hang them in your closet to hide your clothes.
Windows are usually pretty bland with standard-issue white blinds — so adding drapery panels or a Roman shade is a way to inject some softness into the room. These can also have blackout lining for those mornings when the sun shines just a little brighter than normal. Drilling into walls is not allowed, so Command™ brackets or a tension rod will be needed. Just don’t put a lot of weight or pressure on them. Basically, hang them and leave them alone.
A microwave and mini fridge are great for making meals on the go and storing leftovers and snacks. Make sure to coordinate with your roommate since only one of each is allowed in the room. Madison said, “as a part-time barista, a coffee maker is important in my world. It will also save you money making coffee in your room.”
While you’ll likely frequent the library and other study areas on campus, a clean and organized workspace can be one of the most important areas of your dorm room. You want to make studying for your courses as easy as possible. Creating an organized and functional workspace can help eliminate the stress of trying to find the materials and supplies you need to take notes and keep up with coursework.
Once your space is organized, add any decorative touches you think will help you stay motivated, like an inspirational image or quote or a reminder of your goals.
While certainly not a necessity, an inexpensive rug can help warm up an impersonal dorm room and make the space feel a bit cozier.
Whether you opt to go with one bigger rug or layer smaller pieces for a more textured look, make sure you choose rugs that are easy to clean and maintain. Indoor-outdoor rugs are a good bet, as those you can shake out outside – or throw in the washer if needed.
Decorating Tip: You don’t have to spend significant dollars to make a basic dorm room look cute. Local thrift shops for furniture and lamps, plus many home décor stores, have things that are cost-effective.
Check these pendants out for sale here.
Some guys are in on the dorm room trend too, with more rustic themes and lots of plaid and stripes. Then there are some who unpack everything, set up their television, attach a college flag and bulletin board on the wall, hang some twinkle lights and call it good. To each his own.
Photos courtesy of our college friends from Arkansas Tech and the University of Arkansas.
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