Getting ready for back to school will be a bit different for the thousands of students who will be moving into dormitories in just a few short weeks. But before packing up your entire room, or shopping for all new things, we got tips from an expert that can save you time, money, and space.
According to Statistics Canada, more than 2 million students were enrolled in colleges and universities across the country in 2017 and trends show this number continues to increase. For many post-secondary students, the campus becomes home for the year, but unlike prepping for just another school year with the classroom essentials, moving into dorms will require a bit more homework.
A dorm room designed by Stephanie Fryer, from Catherine Staples Interiors, for her daughter who attends Queen’s University.
“Lack of storage is one of the biggest issues in a dorm room, so do your homework before you start your packing list. Find out exactly what will be provided in the room and what you cannot bring,” says Sarah Mandell, Interior Designer with Catherine Staples Interiors.
“If you have a roommate, check with them to see if you can coordinate some of the bigger items that you’ll both want to use like a TV or microwave.”
Most dorms come furnished with a bed (usually a twin) and a desk, and depending on the size, some campuses will ban small appliances and certain types of lighting. Each school is different, and Mandell says it’s best to check what will be provided first before spending on unnecessary items.
To add extra storage, without compromising on space, Mandell recommends adding risers under your bed to lift it a few inches to help create space for suitcases or under bed storage boxes. Rolling storage pieces that look like furniture are also a great addition and create both surface space and extra drawer storage – you can find many that will fit under your desk to keep your floor space clear.
Be wary of storage or organizers that look aesthetically pleasing in-store, sometimes these organizers actually create more clutter if your dorm lacks the space to keep them out of sight. Instead, move in your essentials first and then see what you want or need to add after.
While some students may feel like they need their entire closet, it’s better to be selective and make those trips home during the semester useful.
“Think about the clothes you’ll need and what you won’t and pack accordingly. For example, you may be able to pick up your winter coat while visiting home at Thanksgiving, and by that time you can bring home some of your warmer weather items to make more space available in your closet,” Mandell said.
Even with a small space, you can still make your dorm more comfortable and personal – without sacrificing on budget. Remember, whatever you add or bring to campus has to go home with you at the end of the year.
“You’ll spend a lot of time in your room studying, socializing and relaxing, so make sure to create an inviting space for lounging,” Mandell said.
“Since a typical dorm room usually has a twin bed against a wall, try placing large, comfortable pillows along the wall to create the look and feel of a daybed. Adding a plush mattress topper is also an easy and inexpensive way to improve the feel of your standard dorm mattress.”
Mandell also recommends personalizing your dorm with an area rug, coordinated bedding, and your own drapery can make a big difference in helping create a home away from home. Use tools that don’t have to be hammered in like 3M Command strips to hang light artwork or fabric tapestries for wall décor.
“Add your own lighting too so you don’t have to rely on the harsh overhead lights. A great looking desk lamp and floor lamp are great additions and so are battery-operated string lights and LED candles,” she said.
Students (and mom and dad) can save a ton, Mandell says by thinking of only buying items that not only will last the school year, but post-dorm life too.
“Don’t go overboard spending money on new items – most Canadian students move out of dorms after a year or two, and the bedding you purchase for a twin-size bed likely won’t move with you into an apartment with a larger bed,” she says.
“Same goes for the drapery and area rug – they will likely be the wrong size for your next home.”
When shopping for furniture, décor, or bedding also think about ordering online and picking up at locations closer to campus if possible, to save space in the car or truck when moving.
A dorm room may feel anonymous when you first move in but doing the homework ahead of time to prep your essentials can help you feel like you’re already top of the class.