Necessities for making your dorm your new home

Maddy Erskine

Madison Rogers sits on her bed inside her dorm room at Newsom hall.
Madison Rogers, a freshman at Colorado State University, poses for a portrait on her bed in her dorm room at Newsom Hall Aug. 27, 2017. (Forrest Czarnecki | The Collegian)

Moving into the dorms can be overwhelming, especially for the many incoming first-year students who have never lived on their own before. For the first time, you have your own place to decorate, keep clean and make home. 

Lucky for you, the dorms aren’t as scary as they may seem. Here are some tips on how to make your dorm comfortable, livable and aesthetically pleasing.  

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First, let’s get the rules out of the way. For fire safety purposes, door decorations need to be minimized. Since doors act as barriers during fires, and posters and pictures are combustible, save your posters for your wall instead. 

Additionally, cloth wall hangings cannot cover more than 20% of the room and need to be treated with fire retardant. Ceiling attachments are also not allowed. 

Now, let’s cover some of the necessities you will need in the dorm. 

Surge-protected power strip: 

There are a limited number of outlets in your dorm room, and since you are likely sharing them with a roommate, you will absolutely need a power strip. Only surge-protected power strips are allowed in the dorms. The surge protector directs voltage away from outlets in the case of a surge and prevents your electronics from burning out. Using command strips, you can attach power strips to your wall, dresser, desk or bed frame if needed.

Lighting:

The ceiling lights in the dorms can be overwhelming and bright, so you are going to want to invest in another, less intimidating light source for your dorm. If you choose to bring or purchase a lamp, keep in mind that halogen bulbs are not allowed in the dorms.

Laundry basket:

I suggest getting a foldable laundry basket. It makes it much easier to carry it when it’s empty and also easy to store and pack in the future. Do not leave your laundry basket unattended, even if it’s empty. 

The best advice I can give is to do your laundry in the middle of the night. Oftentimes during the day, especially on weekends, the laundry room is busy and chaotic. People lose all morals when they enter the laundry room, and they will move your clothes out of the washer or dryer the absolute second the timer is out, if not a few minutes before. 

Shower caddy: 

Whether you share a bathroom with your roommate or the whole hall, you will want to invest in a shower caddy. It is a super easy way to keep your shower supplies together and prevent your roommates from “borrowing” your unnecessarily expensive face wash. If you’re in a suite-style dorm, this also makes it easy to avoid Colorado State University Environmental Services skipping your bathroom on cleaning day because you forgot something in the shower. You will also want to invest in a pair of foam flip flops or sandals, especially if you are using a community shower. 

Mini fridge, microwave, coffee maker: 

The holy trinity of making food in your dorm. Mini fridges are pricey, but you will want to be able to save and reheat your leftovers. You can occasionally find cheaper mini fridges at local thrift stores or on Facebook Marketplace if you’re on a budget. There is a community kitchen where you can make food, but if you’re lazy and antisocial like me, a microwave in your room is your best friend. 

Luckily, the dining halls do have coffee. However, using a meal swipe to get a cup of coffee is never ideal, so if you are addicted to caffeine, I suggest investing in your own coffee making device such as a Keurig or French press. 

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Command strips: 

These will be your best friends for hanging up anything in the dorms. Thumbtacks will damage the wall, and you’ll risk being fined.

Once you feel like you’ve got the necessities down, you still want to make your dorm feel like home. While it’s tempting to hang up a giant beer flag and call it good, I suggest you take the time to make your dorm cozy. 

Frame decoration:

Framing pictures and posters is one of the most underrated and easiest ways to spice up your room. All it takes is a few frames for your room to go from an unorganized mess to your own personal art museum. 

My suggestion is to go to one of our many thrift stores in town and find unique frames there. Make sure the back of the frames are flat and that they aren’t too heavy so that they can be hung up with command strips. 

Fake plants:

Live plants can be a bit difficult to keep in the dorms. Not only do you have limited sunlight and window space, but I promise your roommate will never remember to water it, and you will bear the responsibility of trying to revive the sad, dying cacti your resident assistant gave you. 

Fake plants, however, require no sunlight, water or responsibility. One option is to buy flower vases to fill for an elegant addition to your room. Another option is to hang fake vines on the wall, creating your own personal jungle. My favorite way to decorate with fake flowers, though, is with wall baskets and wreaths. 

CD wall: 

There are two ways to approach the CD wall. One way is to take the CDs out of the cases and stick them to the wall so that they reflect light. This is especially cool if you have color-changing LED lights. The other way to do this is to find CDs with cover art you enjoy or of artists that you like and use command strips to attach the cases to the wall. 

The easiest way to get free CDs is visiting Rocky Mountain Student Media’s very own radio station, KCSU. KCSU is located in the basement of the Lory Student Center and regularly has a box of free CDs set out. This is a good way to learn about local music while decorating on a budget. 

Maddy Erskine can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @maddyerskine_.