Top 10 dorm room hacks

Ideas to make first-year dorm life easier, from a recent first-year dorm survivor

1. Homemade air conditioning
You’ve gotten your key, met your roommate and now it’s time to start unpacking. You’ll find yourself in one of two situations — either your room is nice and chilly in contrast to the August heat or you can’t decide if it’s hotter inside or outside. If the latter describes you, then welcome to Old Dorms! You don’t have the luxury of air conditioning yet, so you must create your own. Take two box fans and put them in the window, one facing inwards and the other outwards. This will create a circulating air current. Then place a big jug of frozen water in front of the inwards-facing fan for your very own AC.  

2. Decorate with DIYs
Now that your room is at least a little cooler, it’s time to decorate! If you’re not sure what to do or what to use, Pinterest is the place to go. You can find free prints, inspiration for canvas paintings and a million different mason jar DIYs. The Pinterest option is especially great if you’re decorating on a budget or want to add a personal touch to your room. So go out into the world and end up with more washi tape then you know what to do with!

3. Command strips
You can command strip pretty much anything to your dorm room wall, especially those new decorations you made. My favorite idea is attaching your power strip to the wall or table beside your bed so there’s no more fumbling for your phone charger that fell on the ground for the hundredth time. For flimsier artwork, I recommend wall putty instead because it will do much less damage to the back than the command strips. Use command hooks to keep your towel off the floor or to hang fairy lights for a cozy feeling. Go crazy with the strips!

4. Save closet space
You start to unpack and realize you have more clothing than you have room for. For more horizontal closet space, save your soda tabs and thread them on hanger handles to create double hangers. For scarves, hats or necklaces, place shower rings on a hanger instead of leaving them hanging around. Look up ways to create spacers for your sock drawer or ways to fold your shirts to save space because even if you have enough room now, you will inevitably run out when University gear starts creeping into your wardrobe. T-shirts are a college student’s best friend.

5. Microwave meals
Once you inevitably get tired of the dining hall food, you may want to make your own snacks or meals. The only problem is, all you have is a microwave. Don’t worry! There are so many things you can do with a microwave. Pour water over ramen noodles, microwave for three minutes, stir in the seasoning packet and your meal is ready. Crack two eggs in a mug, stir in a little water, season and microwave for one to two minutes, and now you have an omelette! If you want zero to no preparation, there are still Kid Cuisine meals. If you’re without a microwave, lunchables are always the move.

6. Food storage
Since you now know how to hack your microwave, it’s important to keep your food fresh. As a first year, I kept my snacks in my bottom desk drawer. It acted like a pantry to keep the food from going stale because trust me, there is nothing worse than stale Goldfish and pretzels. It’s also a good idea to invest in some food storage containers or tupperware for leftovers and snacks. The containers are also a good way to take snacks with you after you inevitably run out of Plus Dollars.

7. Cultivate good habits
Make your bed every day, wash dishes and make a chore list. Living on your own is great! No one to tell you what to clean or when to go to bed. The thing is, while you have the choice to let your room get as gross as you want, I really don’t recommend it. I made this mistake, and it was even more annoying to clean everything up at once than if I had just handled a little bit at a time. So try making your bed every day, doing your laundry once a week  — and actually putting it away  — and washing your dishes as soon as you’re done with them. It’ll keep you from growing mold in weird places and from having to rush to straighten your room next time a friend wants to come over. Trust me on this one.

8. Staying fresh
A messy room may be unavoidable for some, but the least you can do is avoid the unpleasant odor of old laundry and dried food. If you’re in one of the dorms without air conditioning, place car vent clips on the fans so the smell will get blown around the room. If the smell of air fresheners bothers you, you can purchase odor eliminating beads without a smell. For your fridge, place a box of opened baking soda on one of the shelves in order to absorb smells.

9. Extra storage
Dorm rooms are pretty bare when you first arrive. My room had a captain’s bed, a desk, a chair and a closet. For more storage, I stacked crates to create a nightstand and bookshelf in one. Canvas or plastic boxes are useful for extra storage and they are far more decorative than leaving things lying around or using cardboard boxes. Some sort of extra shelving can also be useful, and there are plenty of DIY ideas on Pinterest if you want to save money.

10. Bring rain items!
I admit this isn’t really a dorm hack, but I think it is so important. You will be getting around mostly by walking or riding the bus, and even a little drizzle can get you soaked when you have a 20 minute walk without rain boots or a rain jacket. The University may have amazing academics, but we have an awful drainage system and puddles are unavoidable no matter how hard you try. So bring a rain jacket, rain boots and umbrella! You will thank me later when you don’t look like a drowned rat.

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