When it comes to memorable lifetime achievements, tossing your high school graduation cap in the air is right up there with buying your first home and finally figuring out how to tie your shoes correctly (hey, for some of us, that took a long time). Point is, it’s a big deal. Stepping across that graduation line is symbolic: You’re stepping into the next chapter of your life. A life that will no longer primarily take place in your childhood home.

Yes, the dorm life awaits, and it can be quite an adjustment for new college students. Going from a three-bedroom home to a 180 square foot room — one that’s typically shared with a roommate — is a shift, but it can be an exciting one when you use the right dorm room ideas to style your new space.

What should every dorm room have?

Your dorm room is more than a bedroom. It’s got to serve as a kitchen, study area, dressing room, entertainment spot, and more. But don’t let its multifunctional purpose fool you into packing more than you need.

When you’re working with a small space, it’s important to keep clutter to a minimum and focus on efficiency. With that in mind, here are some basic dorm room essentials for handling everyday needs.

  • Sheets and pillowcases
  • Pillows, blankets, and comforters
  • Mattress cover and foam topper
  • Laundry hamper
  • Shower caddy, flip flops, towels, and washcloths
  • Bathrobe
  • Clothing hangers
  • Power strips
  • A few plates, cups, and silverware
  • Storage containers (more on this later)

Obviously, there’s more you’ll want to add to your list, but this is a great place to get started. To keep track of your items, we suggest making a packing checklist. The PODS Blog has tips for creating one, along with some other lifesaving college moving advice.

A young woman placing a small flowering plant on a shelf to add a splash of green to her dorm room.

How can I decorate my college dorm room?

Now that we have the dorm room essentials out of the way, let’s get to the fun part — putting your personal stamp on the place. Here are some decorative dorm room ideas that will have your room looking chic and comfy in no time.

  • Go green: No, we’re not talking about recycling (but you should do that, too). Adding a small plant or two to your desk or bedside table will add a little spark of life to your room.
  • Make a photo wall: Take your family and friends along for the ride when you stack special photos on one of your walls. There are several inexpensive photo collage kits that can help you space out the shots and perfect the design.
  • Hang tapestries: Looking for artistic wall decor? Turn to this bohemian favorite, which can be placed on the wall behind or beside your bed. It’ll make your sleep space instantly warmer.
  • Get reflective: Mirrors aren’t just for checking out your #OOTD; they’ll make your dorm room look and feel bigger. Don’t be afraid to add a large mirror to a wall or door. It’ll only open up the cramped space.
  • Add a stylish headboard: Most dorm beds don’t come with headboards, and leaning your head against a concrete wall isn’t very comfortable. A tufted or upholstered headboard adds some color and comfort.
  • Bring an area rug: Ditch the drab carpet that comes with your door room and put in a bright area rug. Be sure to measure the space before you select a size.
  • Stick to two decor colors: If you want to incorporate some cute dorm room ideas but don’t know which decor pieces to choose or what color to select, make things easier on yourself by selecting two complementary colors, like pink and white or blue and yellow. Once you choose, it’ll make picking out throw pillows, wall art, bedding, and a bedside lamp much easier. Plus, the look will be tidy and sophisticated.
  • Add some wall art: Wondering “How can I make my dorm room unique?” Adding some wall art is the cheapest way to give your drab room a touch of fab. Etsy is a great resource for connecting with local artists and finding original prints. Beats hanging up some movie posters (although we’re not saying that’s out of the question).
  • Think of your bed as a blank canvas: The bed is likely the largest element of your dorm room. While classic white comforters and sheets are timeless, now’s the time to make things a little more exciting and explore bright color options. Look for sheets with geometric prints or add a quilt with some textural elements, like fringe or pompoms. Don’t forget the throw pillows!
A PODS truck delivering a PODS portable storage container to a secure PODS Storage Center to be stored while the customer is away at college.

How can I store all of my stuff in my dorm room?

Because of your dorm room’s small size, it’s not a great idea to bring all of your worldly possessions to college with you. However, you can fit more into it than you think by using a few space-saving tricks.

  • Choose furniture that does double-duty: Think that ottoman is just for foot propping? Think again. You can store shoes or school supplies in a clever storage ottoman.
  • Loft your bed: Make the most of your floor space when you loft your bunk bed. Add a desk or futon underneath to create a fun but functional nook.
  • Invest in storage containers: If lofting isn’t an option, long, flat containers can be used for under-the-bed storage. Hide the boxes with a lengthy bed skirt. You could also mount your bed on top of IKEA kitchen cabinets. If you need extra closet space, use a hanging organizer for shoes and some cube closet organizers for sweaters and shirts. Don’t forget to stock up on a few space-saving closet hangers!
  • Put your mini fridge on a drawer stand: Usually, mini fridges are directly on the floor or put on top of desks. Put yours on top of a rolling stand with shelving underneath for snacks and dinnerware.
  • Try a headboard with shelves: If you want a small spot for books, pictures, and maybe a clock or little lamp, try a headboard that has built-in shelving or cabinets.
  • Use a desk organizer: Books, papers, pens, and other supplies can pile up. Keep things tidy with file racks, desk shelves, or even a rolling cart that can be easily stored underneath your table.
  • Consider alternative storage solutions: Another great option — especially if you’re only going to be in this dorm room for a year — is to store your extra belongings in a local and secure PODS Storage Center. Your things will be there when you need them, without cluttering up the precious square footage in your dorm. The best part? After graduation, PODS can ship your container to wherever your next step takes you. Now that’s flexible moving and storage!

You don’t have to be majoring in interior design to master the art of dorm room decoration. All it takes are a few cool dorm room ideas, a touch of creativity, and some clever space-saving tricks to transform an uninspired room into your home away from home.


LB Gabriel is a freelance writer who lives with her husband, daughter, and Golden Retriever in Memphis, TN. A frequent PODS Blog contributor, she’s a sucker for any tip she can find on downsizing, cutting clutter, or minimalist living. When she’s not on a deadline, you can find her on a tennis court or golf course.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.