Off to college! Whoa! Exciting! But even the most raring-to-go freshman may not quite be ready to abandon all the comforts of home just yet. And it's safe to say every college freshman will want to put their own stamp on their surroundings.
By definition, dorm rooms are designed to be bland and utilitarian. Fluorescent lights, cinder-block walls, linoleum floors, and everything in shades of greige: does that sound nice to come home to after a long day in class?
Fortunately, a few simple, inexpensive measures can make a dorm feel like a personal sanctuary - and ease the transition from Mom and Dad's house into life on your own. Quick tip: most dorm beds are Twin XL size.
1. Light your own way.
The harsh glare of overhead lighting can make a dorm feel like a prison. Your own lighting can do wonders for turning a cell into a home. A floor lamp will give you a lot of light while keeping it soft. Christmas lights are a little played-out, but still better than nothing.
2. Sleep comfortably.
You probably won't be getting enough sleep, so it's extra-important to make it restful. That beat-up old dorm mattress and pillows won't do the trick. Give them a boost with a mattress pad or topper, and some extra pillows of your own for supreme comfort. You may not be a baby anymore, but you still deserve to sleep like one.
3. Subtract the ick factor.
Speaking of that mattress... you don't know where it's been. And it's not easy to clean. Bringing along a washable mattress encasement keeps all those nasties in their place, including allergens and mites.
4. Get creative with seating.
If you don't have room for an extra chair, poufs, cushions, and folding chairs can be stowed out of the way until you need seating space for a few extra bodies.
5. Keep your desk sacred.
An orderly desk can actually make you look forward to homework and studying. Figure out now where everything goes, and then take the time to keep it all in place through the year. Also, "I have to straighten things up before I can get any work done" is one of the all-time procrastination classics. If your desk is organized in the first place, you won't be tempted.
6. A duvet cover means easy cleaning.
A removable duvet cover is much easier to haul to the laundry room - or your parents' house - than a comforter, and much easier to launder. And the easier it is to clean, the more likely you'll actually do it.
7. Roll out the red carpet.
Or whatever color you like. The point is, a rug provides an instant power-up to your room's comfort factor, literally from the moment you get out of bed in the morning. It doesn't have to be expensive or fancy, as long it's yours.
8. Go easy on the decor.
Your room should reflect who you are, but it should also be calm and relaxing. Covering every inch of space with pictures, posters, artwork, and decorating projects might result in sensory overload. If you stick with a couple of key touches, they'll have much more impact than if they were lost in the chaos.
9. Frame your favorites.
Once you've chosen that handful of items to put on the wall, frame one or two. You'll be amazed what an impact a frame can have, whether it's an over-the-top gold-painted antique or just a decorative border of washi tape.
10. When it comes to bedding, take two of everything.
Two complete percale sheet sets mean that you'll always have fresh bedding even if you let laundry slip for a day or two. Three sets would be even better.
11. Keep messes out of sight, out of mind.
The sight of garbage, dirty dishes, and dirty laundry can be a drag to come home to. Find a dedicated place to keep these messy things - a bag, container, or enclosed space - so you won't have them dragging you down and killing your mood.
12. Bring one important thing from home.
You might be tempted to just pack up your old bedroom and bring it all. But not only is that impractical, it can keep you from developing your own sense of what a space should look like when it's truly yours. Choose one meaningful item (or, fine, a few) as a connection to home. You could even swap them out every time you go back to visit. That way, your dorm room will feel like both a familiar old home, and an exciting new one.
College can be an overwhelming experience, but these steps should help you (or a loved one) settle in nicely.
Do you have any tips or suggestions for Volume Two?
Let us know in the comments below!