10 ways to feel at home in your dorm room

1. Plan with your roommate. Don’t be the pair that ends up with two mini fridges and two TVs. Talk about what you need to bring, whether you want to coordinate your decor and what the expectations are for how your room will be used. If you both want your room to be a place where others hang out, you’ll want pillows for sitting on the floor. If your roommate goes to bed early, you’ll want a desk lamp that you can use to keep working when the lights are off. “The best roommate relationships are grounded in communication,” said Stephanie Lynch, assistant dean for residential living at Georgetown University. “Start the conversation before you arrive on campus.”

2. Don’t buy it all before you arrive. As tempting as it is to buy every bright-colored “dorm room must-have” advertised, contain yourself. Find the basics, then see what you need when you get to your room. If you don’t wait, you risk buying items that don’t work in your space.

3. Buy furniture that can be used in multiple ways. As you know (or will very soon discover), dorm rooms are notoriously small. Don’t clutter yours with furniture. “Anything bulky you bring into the space should always be multifunctional,” said Stephanie Hayman, chief product officer at Dormify, a dorm decorating blog and retailer. One of the easiest multiuse pieces is an ottoman, which can serve as storage, seating, a coffee table or a mini-desk if you sit on the floor.

4. Clean first. Dorm rooms are a cesspool of germs. One of the best ways to avoid getting sick from living in close quarters is to keep yourself and your space clean. “When you first arrive, make sure you clean the floor, under the mattress and in the sink if you have one,” said Robin Wilson, an interior designer who focuses on eco-friendly cleanliness. “Before you bring in your things, make sure all the dust that might have been sitting there for five years is completely gone.” Quick cleaning tips for surviving the rest of the year: Carry hand sanitizer, wash your sheets twice a month and keep disinfecting wipes in your room.

5. Then rearrange your furniture. After cleaning your new room, consider its layout. “It’s easier to move the furniture around before you have all of your clothes, books, pillows and such in there,” said Liz Gray, a senior editor at HGTV.com. A few space-making options Gray suggests are lofting your bed, moving your dresser into the closet and putting your desk back-to-back with your roommate’s.

6. Transform vertical space into storage space. Another tip for saving space from Dormify: “Your front door, closet doors and bathroom door can all become storage spaces with over-the-door hooks and shoe racks,” Hayman said. You can also use adhesive hooks along your walls to hang coats, scarves, purses and other small accessories. Less clutter equals more room to hang out with new friends.

7. Buy small necessities in bulk.Most campuses don’t allow freshmen to have a car on campus, which makes it difficult to shop anywhere other than dining halls and expensive university bookstores. Before Mom and Dad head back home, consider stopping at a bulk discount retailer to stock up on items you know you’ll be using all semester, including snacks, pens and toiletries.

8. Decide what you want to share. Lynch says the most common conflicts Georgetown sees in its residence halls occur when roommates don’t communicate. Think about whether you are okay with your roommate eating your snacks, using your cosmetic products or borrowing your clothes. Do you want him or her to ask first? Whatever your preference, make it clear.

9. Beware the bathroom. You already know to wear shower shoes into those dreaded communal bathrooms, but have you thought about protecting your toothbrush? “It’s easy for someone next to you to splash dirty water on your toothbrush while they washtheir face,” Wilson said. Try clip-on toothbrush sanitizers, which usually come in a two-pack, for easy germ avoidance. Remember to wash out your shower caddy often, too. Again: Sickness is coming for you when you live with dozens of other people. By taking steps to avoid it, you lessen your chances of having to miss class (or that spring break trip).

10. Keep your desk clear. Gray recommends not setting anything on your desk that you don’t use every day, “like your phone charger, laptop and writing tools.” That way, you’ll always be ready to study. You are at college to learn, after all.

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Jessica Contrera is a staff writer at the Washington Post.
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