Decorating Your Dorm Room

Moving and decorating into your first dorm

Moving to a new place usually means many things. You have to make new friends, figure out where all the good stores are located, and remember how to get back to your new place.

More importantly, you get to decorate! If you're a student living in a dorm, this might seem like less fun than it really is. There are quite a few rules to restrict your creativity because the building belongs to your school. The list of banned items is longer than your bookstore receipt. The RAs reserve the right to inspect - and fine - at any time.

Don't let all that suck the fun out of your new home, though. These tips will help you create a sweet room without getting into trouble or stifling your creative flow.

First, make sure you know what you can't get away with. For example: many dorms forbid you to even possess candles, much less use them. Check with your RA, the front office, or your school's residence hall guide for more information. Also: if you aren't sure, don't do it. It's better to toss an idea that could get you into trouble than to go with it and pay the fines.

Now, look at your budget. You probably can't afford eighty-dollar lampshades, but can you find a really cool one for ten? Of course you can. Know what you can spend and start shopping around. You have no idea of what great deals - and great stuff - can be found if you pay attention wherever you go, whether it's to a friend's place or the store.

The following suggestions will start you off. Use them to jump into your own ideas and thoughts so that your finished product will be all your own. After that, you can lay on your newly-decorated bed and stare at your awesome ceiling, sighing with relief and enjoying everything about your room.

-Posters can say a lot about you without breaking the budget. You can find them at discount department stores, the mall, or online for decent prices. The images range from inspirational messages to photos of your favorite movie stars. Hint: be sure that you don't use thumbtacks to hang these things. Your RA will probably fine you for it when you move out.

-Decorating your own possessions, such as the mini-fridge or a bulletin board, can personalize your entire room. Use stickers, permanent markers, or poster paints to create drawings, spell out your name, or send yourself an inspirational message every time you look at your stuff. Better yet: get a few of your new friends to help so that everyone can join in the fun.

-Small, knick-knack-type things are inexpensive but very effective. Strategically placed porcelain figurines, decorative tins, and other knick-knacks will offset the inherent blandness of any dorm room.

-An area rug next to your bed is practical as well as aesthetic. You can use novelty bathroom throws, small rugs, or even doormats if you want. Just be sure you don't bring the last in from the front stoop unless you clean it first.

-Use poster boards and double-sided tape to create a hanging photo album. Attach prints of your family and friends (and even your cat if you want), then hang it on the back of your door or a wall.

-Toss a bean bag into the corner so you have a comfortable place to study, hang out, and even take a nap if you're really putting your efforts into your schoolwork. This also makes a great place to lounge around when you're playing video games or talking on the phone.

-Some schools will let you have small fish tanks in your rooms. If this is the case, consider adding one. If you aren't one of those fortunate students, fake it: get the aquarium and accessories, set it up, and throw in a couple of rubber or plastic fish.

-If you're trying to fill up a lot of wall space, create a "3-D mural" of your life. Include photos, mementos, souvenirs, and other memorabilia that says something about you. If you want to make it even more interesting, include things from the rest of your family: it'll help your new friends learn about your background and give you a constant reminder of home.

-Find decorative pillow cases and a comforter or quilt.

-If you're seriously running out of ideas, make a pyramid out of old soda cans. Just be sure it doesn't get too tall; if it falls over, your roommate's going to be extremely upset at all the noise.

-Visit your friends to see what kind of things they're doing with their rooms. You won't necessarily COPY them (because that's really lame), but it'll give you some ideas to think about while you're looking at your own room.

Good luck decorating, but remember: all of this is going to have to come down and be moved out at some point in your life. Don't become too involved in it unless you're willing to spend energy taking it down and packing it for the move back home (or to your first apartment).

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