Please note, we are proudly supported by our readers. The product links are referral based and if you purchase an item we may make a small commission. Please see our disclosure page for full details.

November 22, 2019

The Ultimate Guide to Dorm Room Living

College is so much fun. And so much stress. Your dorm room has to be a place to eat, sleep, relax, study, and socialize. Squeezing all of those activities into a very tiny (often shared) space is not an easy task. But, we have made the ultimate list of dorm room must haves to help you not only survive, but THRIVE in dorm room living.

the ultimate guide to dorm room living

Sleeping:

noise canceling headphones great for dorm lifeEarplugs or Sound Canceling Headphones (Or both):

Roommates are loud and dorm walls are thin. There are going to be a lot of sounds echoing through the walls at ungodly hours of the night. So having a good set of earplugs while you sleep is going to help you get to sleep and stay asleep longer. Just make sure you can hear or feel your alarm clock so you don’t miss class.

Noise canceling headphones are also great to have on hand, they are great for studying in the dorms or at the library, or at the coffee shop, or just about anywhere. Coming in at just over one hundred dollars, the Sennheiser HD 4.50 Noise Cancelling Headphones are our favorite moderately priced noise cancelling headphones on the market. They also compact down making them easy to carry around with out.

Eye Mask

survive your college roommate and use an eye maskFor when your roommate is studying late and you’re trying to get some sleep. We love this lightly lavender scented silk eye mask by Asutra not only because it looks, feels, and smells great, but also because it blocks out all the light so you can get to sleep faster.

It is perfect for when your roommate is staying up and you need to get to sleep, or for when you’re wanting to squeeze in a nap midday and it is too bright in your room.

Blackout Curtains & Curtain Rods

tension rod instead of a standard curtain rod for dormsObviously black out curtains are great go getting to sleep, and for muffling outside noise as well. But wait! My dorm doesn’t allow us to drill into the walls and we don’t have a curtain rod! No problem, use a tension shower curtain rod.

This is a go to dorm room life hack that will make living in a dorm so much easier. By using a tension rod you can put up whatever curtains you please, without breaking any rules or drilling any holes. Problem solved. Check out this Gold Tension Rod that we love.

Fan with clip

follow dorm rules and still live your life to the fullestA little bit of white noise mixed with a cool breeze. I was lucky enough to live in a dorm for most of my college life with a short stint over the summer in a zero AC dorm. Which was rough. My clip on fan helped keep me cool and absolutely helped making sleeping bearable.

While a clip on fan is great for any dorm room, it is a necessity if your dorm does not have AC.  Since many dorms do not have nightstands, try to get a fan like the Clip-On Mini Desk Fan so you can clip it right where you need it.

Mattress Protector

you'll need a mattress protector in collegeDorm mattresses are gross. Protect your health and get a mattress protector. Not only will you be able to better protect your mattress from getting spills and accidents, it will also protect you from whatever was left behind by all those who have slept on it before you. Check out our review on the Bear Mattress Protector to stay protected and cool throughout the night.

Mattress Topper

how to get the best sleep in collegeNot all mattress toppers are made equally. Fun Fact: The mattress I slept on in my dorm room was literally made at a local prison through a work program. While I am all for work programs in prisons, that mattress was not the most comfortable… to say the least.

The mattress topper that I ended up purchasing at a local superstore was squishy, but honestly terrible. I would sink into it too far, loosing support for my lower back. It was also incredibly hot to sleep on. If you only have room in your budget to splurge on one item, the mattress topper is the one to do it on.

When you purchase a quality mattress topper, you’re going to get a much better nights rest and you’re going to have less aches and pains throughout the day. Head to our Bedroom Accessories page to check out some of our reviews and favorite Mattress Toppers from this year.

Weighted Blanket

how to sleep stress free in a college dormWhile college can be a fun and exciting time in your life, it has it’s time of extreme pressure and stress as well. It is important to find healthy ways to cope with the stress so you can keep going. One way you can calm yourself down when you’re feeling overwhelmed is to climb under a cozy weighted blanket. If you’re looking to get a cozy and cute weighted blanket, then check out the knit weighted blankets by Bearaby.

2 Sets of Sheets

best sheets for college dorm roomsLaundry days in college can be stressful and unpredictable. It is nice to have some buffer time between when you need fresh sheets and when you have time to get your laundry done. Having two sets of sheets does this for you. You can change your sheets while the other is still in the wash. This way you don’t have to sleep with dirty sheets or even worse, sleep on a bed with no sheets.

These Jersey Knit Sheets by Tuft & Needle are some of our favorites. They feel like your favorite worn in super soft t-shirt. Ultra comfortable and come in at a great price point as well. So it is easier to get two sets.

Another great sheet set that will make your life so much easier are the Quick Zip sheets. Instead of climbing and pulling and struggling to change your sheets, they simply zip on and off. Super Simple.

Your Old Pillow

bring your pillow to collegeIn all the crazy shopping for new things, skip the pillow purchase. We highly suggest bringing the pillow you already use from home into your new dorm room. Everything is going to be new and different.

New pillows tend to take some getting used to. By bringing your pillow from home you are bringing a little bit of the comforts from home, both in the feel and smell. Trust me, this makes it a lot easier to adjust to your new space.

Having trouble getting sleep? You may be interested in our post Sleep Tips for College Students to get our top tips for getting your best sleep in college.

Clean & Organized:

Hamper & Laundry Bag –

the best hamper for collegeYes, you need both. The hamper goes in your room and is where you throw all of your dirty clothes. While the Landry bag or basket is what you use to take your laundry to and from where you do laundry.

Hampers are bulky and you don’t always wash all of your clothes at the same time. So having something to hold your dirty clothes and something else to carry them in is incredibly useful. Which is why we love the hamper by MCleanPin because it comes with 2 extra laundry bags that fit inside of your hamper.

Disinfecting Wipes –

college dorm room must havesWhen you’re living multiple people and constantly surrounded by your peers, germs travel fast, and you don’t have time to get sick in college. Classes are hard and unlike high school missing a day or two can really hurt. (Especially when attendance is often a part of your overall score)

So get disinfecting wipes and clean off your space. They are great to use even on your laptop, especially if you’re taking it everywhere with you. We go with the standard Clorox Wipes you can get the multi pack on Amazon.com

Renuzit Odor Neutralizer –

must buys for college dormsWhen you can’t burn candles, and wall plugs are in high demand, it is nice to have a plug free air freshener that neutralizes odors. (which happen easily in small shared spaces)

They are also super cheap and you can often get the seasonal versions on sale. These works well but they can go quickly, so we suggest getting the Renuzit Odor Neutralizer Multipack.

Closet organizers –

what do i need in collegeMost dorm closets consist of a single shelf and one bar hanging across, not dissimilar to a coat closet. In order to make the more out of this kind of space, we are going to suggest a few different closet organizers. First, a hanging shelf. This will take up a section of your hanging space, but it will be worth it for the amount of space for shoes and folded items you will get.

The next is rather basic, but saves so much space. Thin hangers! You will be able to fit over twice the amount of things in your closet with these. We love the fabric covered thin hangers you can even find in a variety of colors at Amazon.com.

Extra Storage –

what you need to buy for your dormSome dorms have more built in storage than others, more than likely you are going to need more storage space than what you are given. These drawers by Sterilite are so versatile, and worth every penny.

You can store school supplies or text books. I often used them as a secondary dresser for my socks and such. Really useful items to keep around. Especially if you have a loft bed where you can store these underneath.

Handheld Vacuum Cleaner

how to keep your dorm cleanMost dorm rooms are too small and packed full to warrant getting a full sized vacuum, so having a handheld vacuum is a great alternative.

You’ll be able to get into all of the corners of the room or quickly pick up any spills or accidents that happen. This is a great tool to have in order to keep your room nice and clean. We use and enjoy this model by Black & Decker.

Eating:

Basic Kitchen Needs –

how to eat well in your dormThese do not have to be nice or quality silverware or plats & cups. We don’t even find it fully necessary to buy a full set of plates and bowls. Just a set of flat bottom microwaveable bowls that you can use for both, like these bowls from Ikea. Also silverware, mugs, travel mugs, water bottles. Only bring what you feel you’ll use often and then you can add more later if you find you’re missing something.

Hydro Flask (Or a knock off)

get hydro flask they really are worth itOkay, before you think we are only mentioning this trendy object because everyone else likes it, hear us out. Spill proof, keeps things hot, keeps things cold, large opening . This means it can go in your backpack without spilling all over your $300 textbook.

It can also hold keep your coffee hot or cold, water, ramen, soup, it is honestly incredibly useful and with so many different purposes, you’re getting a lot with your money without filling up your shelf space. You just need to be creative with how you use it.

Instant Coffee

put a coffee maker in your college roomCoffee Coffee Coffee! Don’t go overdoing it, but coffee is a lovely pick me up to have in the mornings or afternoon to keep things going. Getting a single cup coffee maker is a useful and simply fabulous addition to any dorm room.

They can be a bit pricey which is why we like this one made by Mueller However, one thing more expensive than a coffee maker, is going to Starbucks daily. So skip the line and get hot lovely coffee ready to go in your room instead.

Mini Fridge

what to eat in your dorm roomIt is nice to keep some food on hand so you can keep a few things like milk for coffee or cereal, or a coupe apples, perhaps even a carton of eggs if there is a communal kitchen in your dorm. Instead of risking your food getting “accidentally eaten” from the communal fridge, keep some things in your dorm with a mini fridge.

Snack Drawer

eat well in college, healthy snacksThis is a must for anyone living in a dorm. The dining halls are not always open when you’re hungry. So have a stock pile of snacks (healthy ones!) for whenever you need them. We suggest buying things that are dried goods that will last a long time. So you can store them and only eat them when you need to. Also, try to aim for healthy foods. When you’re hungry simple carbs and sugary snack are not going to fill you up. Stick with multigrain bars, nut or trail mix. Things that are going to give you some actual nutrition and not just junk.

Microwave (IF your dorm allows it):

if you can bring a microwaveThis is often not allowed in dorm rooms. However some lucky few may have a dorm room that does, and for those lucky few, take advantage! There are so many creative things you can make in a microwave like scrambled eggs to cake in a mug. It is honestly so useful and not having to share it with your entire floor is a huge benefit.

Studying:

Printer –

printer is one of your greatest toolsOkay, we know it takes up a large amount of space and that they can be expensive. However, having a printer in your room is worth gold when you are writing a paper last minute and don’t have time to run to the library. Seriously. It’s worth it, get a reliable printer. You could even charge your roommates to use it.

Book Light

book lights are great for studying lateLate nights, roommates, and conflicting schedules can really make for a frustrating situation and you want to respect your roommates sleep as much as possible, but you also have to get your study time in. Which is why we suggest getting a book lamp. This way you have direct light exactly where you need it without brightening up the entire room. You should also tell your roommate to get an eye mask and earplugs. (You both really need them)

Sturdy Quality Backpack

invest in a great backpack for collegeTextbooks are HEAVY and when you don’t have time to head back to your dorm before class, it is important to have a quality backpack that can hold all of your books without giving you a seriously back problem.

SwissGear makes some extra sturdy and smart backpacks to keep everything you back organized and easy to find.

I was always loosing my headphones and other small items that would slip down to the bottom of my backpack, that was given to me after my friend got a new one. Getting a new efficient backpack will truly change your college life.

Big Calendar

You’re going to be juggling a lot of different deadlines and schedules during college. It is important to write down important dates. and have them up where you can see them daily. This will help you stay organized and not forget a project until the night before it’s due. Or schedule a party the night before a final exam.

We suggest getting one like the Youngtion Dry Erase Monthly Calendar A calendar that is large and can be hung up by your desk or anywhere you will see it often.

Social/Decor:

Lighting

Is a dorm room even a dorm room without fairy lights? Honestly it is such a fun way to make an otherwise sterile feeling room, homey. One easy way to put string lights up in your room is with these curtain fairy lights, easy to install and look lovely.

Another light source you need is a lamp. You could go out and get a standard desk lamp, but why would you when you could have so much more? We are obsessed with the Philips Hue Go Lights, this compact little guy can put out a lot of light, it is also adjustable through an app on your phone.

Not only can you dim the light so it isn’t keeping your roommate awake, you can also change the color to just about anything under the sun, or schedule your light to turn on and wake you up at a certain time. This little gadget is so cool and adjustable. We love ours and have it linked with our Echo Dot so we can use voice commands to turn it on or off. Okay, enough said. It’s great and although it’s a bit more expensive than your average lamp, it also does so much more.

Decals

You want your room to look cute, especially if you have guests over, and plain white walls are not all that fun to look at. So since you can’t paint, we have a couple options for you.

Decals can be fun but often look a little like a childs room, which is why we are obsessed with these mirror decals. These decals look so classy and they can even serve as an extra mirror when you need it. Too cute.

Damage Free Hanging Tools –

how to decorate your college roomWe are talking Fun Tack Mounting Putty, and Command Strips of every kind. If you want to decorate a dorm room, you cannot use nails or screws to mount ANYTHING. Which means it is time to get creative. Mounting putty is perfect for posters and frame free photos.

Command strips have all sorts of fun goodies that can help you put up everything from shelves to picture frames on the wall. They also have hooks to hang everything from purses, keys, and even towels for drying. We especially love their smart phone station, which gives you a place to hold/charge your phone close by without a nightstand.

Fun Tack Mounting Putty available at Amazon.com

Command Strip Variety Pack available at Amazon.com

Command Smartphone Station available at Amazon.com

Dry Erase Board

dry erase boards are great for communicating with rommatesEvery roommate situation I have ever had, we have used a dry erase board in main living areas. This was great for leaving little notes for your roomie. Small things like “Went to the REC be back soon” or “Saved some snacks for you, feel free to grab some”.

Simple things that are not time sensitive or “important” enough to text about, but nice to come home to. When I had an apartment we would use a corner to right whether the dish washer was clean or dirty. It’s a great way to communicate something quickly and easily, even if you’re not there.

Rug

Rugs are a great way to add color and space into a dorm room. It is also way more comfortable to step out of bed onto a rug than onto a cold hard surface. Make sure your rug is easy to clean, machine washable is even better.

It just makes it that much easier to keep your room looking and feeling clean and tidy. With so much tile and two people in a small space, it’s going to collect a lot of dust, dirt, and hair. So easy to clean is best.

We like this blue rug not only because it is extra cute, but also because it is easy to clean and dries out quickly.

Bluetooth Speaker

For social hours, you have to have a portable blue tooth speaker. You can use it in your room or wherever you need a little music. Just make sure you don’t drive your neighbor crazy.

We highly suggest getting adjustable volume and making friends with your neighbors before blasting the music. Check out this speaker from Bose, it is nice and compact making it extra easy to take bring with you.

Ottoman With Storage –

best furniture to bring into a dormThese small ottomans are a great college dorm room hack because they serve so many different purposes. Not only are they great, because they have extra store. (A great place for your favorite snacks) You can also use this cutie as your step stool for getting up and down from your loft style bed. It is much cuter than the standard step stool.

Another reason why we love these little ottomans, is that they can be  used as tiny stools for sitting whenever your friends come over. Typically you only have one chair and the bed for sitting space in a dorm room and this mean you have another place for friends to sit down and hang out that isn’t your bed. While there are plenty of storage ottomans out there, we really like these Homepop Velvet Tufted Cushion ones that we found from Amazon.com.

Extra

Basic Tool Kit –

best tools to bring to your college apartmentYou will never know when you’re going to need it and you will be very happy to have these tools when that day comes. This can even be taken with you and help you when you move into your first apartment or home.

It really is so useful to have on hand for all those little tasks around the house. Eventually you will likely graduate to a larger tool kit when you live in a house. However, even then this mini kit can be great for moving days or to keep in your car. So useful and will last you forever.

Makeup Mirror

how to get your makeup done in a dormSome dorm rooms have mirrors and some don’t, others may only have one full length mirror. It really varies. Which is why it is really nice to visit your dorm and get that information ahead of time so you can plan accordingly.

We really like this vanity mirror with a built in light because it allows you to get ready even without even turning on overhead lights which is awesome to have when you and your roomie have different schedules.

Shower Caddy

what you need to show at a dormThis is truly a must have product. Unless you’re a boy who uses one product to wash your face, hair, and body, then you’re going to want a shower caddy.

It really is the best way to bring everything you need to and from the showers. We suggest getting one large enough for everything you need, with plenty of drainage, and easy to clean out if anything spills.

Shower Shoes

never forget your shower shoesSharing showers is not at a fun experience. Especially when your entire floor or building are sharing the same showers. It can get really gross really quickly, and bacteria loves to grow in dark wet places. So protect yourself and wear shower shoes. With all of the potentially nasty health risks that can happen if you don’t, it really isn’t worth risking it.

Quick Drying Shower Shoes available at Amazon.com

Steamer

best tools for college lifestyleWhen you’re have to be creative with your laundry schedule and storage, wrinkles are sure to appear. If you want to keep yourself from looking like a raggedy college student, the answer is simple, get a steamer.

It is quick and easy to use, much easier than any iron and ironing board combination. So the next time you’re walking in for a presentation or job interview you can look put together instead of a wrinkled mess.

Conair Extreme Steam Hand Held Fabric Steamer available at Amazon.com 

Powerbank Phone Charger

must haves for college lifeYou’re going to be spending a lot of time away from your dorm room. Which is why we suggest getting a power bank to charge your phone on the go. This is great for long class heavy days when you’re on your phone between classes instead of heading back home. Also for long study sessions at the library. You will find yourself using this item quite a lot.

The Portable Charging Power Bank available at Amazon.com

Cables

dorms hacks and lifesaversGet ready, you’re going to need a lot of cords. We suggest having an extension cord, a power strips, extra long phone charging cords, and a long ethernet cable for when your wifi stops working, which it will likely do often. Often dorm rooms do not have as many outlets as you would really like. The extension cord allows you to have power across the room/wherever you need it. While the power strip lets you use more than just two things at a time. We suggest getting a power strip with a surge protector for safety purposes.

Power Strip at Amazon.com

Cable Matters Extension Cord at Amazon.com

Basic Pack of 6ft long Lightening Charging Cables at Amazon.com

Good Compact Umbrella & Waterproof shoes

you will need a good umbrellaWalking from building to building or simply from your dorm to the dining hall opens you up to the environment. When the rain starts pouring down, you don’t want to get stuck being the sopping wet college student with dripping notes sitting in the back of class. So be sure to have a sturdy compact umbrella that can be carried in your backpack, and waterproof shoes. They don’t necessarily need to be rain boots, but anything that will protect your feet from getting soaked.

Get the best umbrella you’ve ever had, the Ultimate Repel Umbrella on Amazon today.

Rubber Bottom Slippers

slippers are a dorm life hackEspecially if you share a bathroom with an entire floor of a dorm hall. When you need to use the restroom in the middle of the night, the floor is cold, and the bathrooms get gross.

You do not want to take your pretty fluffy pink slippers and get them soggy with someone else’s shower water. It’s gross. So get a pair of slippers that have a solid rubber bottom. They will

Get Your Dainzuy Memory Foam Slippers at Amazon.com

The Ultimate Guide to Dorm Room Living

At the end of the day, do you need all of these things to success in college? No, you really don’t. But if you are wanting to make the absolute most out of living in a dorm room? Then this list will give you just about everything you could possibly need to really thrive in dorm style living.

the ultimate guide to dorm room living

If you use any of our tips in your dorm room, we would love to hear about it or see pictures! Visit our Contact Us page to send us an email, we would love to hear from you.