Making a College Dorm Room Feel Like Home


From the Desk of Clearissa Coward’s Command Center/Divinely Organized

Making a College Dorm Room Feel Like Home

Monday Memories


It is time to get your college student(s) prepared for the upcoming school year. Whether you are dropping off a college freshman for the first time or returning your college junior back to the dorm, it’s time to get them organized and prepared for a successful school year. Making a college dorm room feel like home on a budget is necessary if you want your scholar to feel comfortable and doable if you get organized. Although I originally posted this over a year ago, I thought it was appropriate now as college kids get ready to return to or move into the dorm for the very first time. Enjoy!

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To get started, I thought I would make a list for you to help you remember the essentials and the fun and homey touches to help your college student feel at home away from home. When I was getting my daughter ready for college (many moons ago :)) I would always make a list in June and I would order the items on my list throughout the summer. This allowed me to first be ahead of the game, and secondly to snatch up some pretty good bargains, and lastly to spread out my purchasing dollar. When you’re on a budget, it’s easier to spread those dollars out instead of dropping a whopping $500.00 or more all at once.

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Also shopping at discount stores helps you stay within budget and still get all of the things your college student needs and most of what they want for their home away from home.

Let’s begin with essentials. The bedding is most important and it’s best to begin at the bottom.



I realize it’s not a pleasant thought, but it is a necessary one. We must protect our children from a not-so-clean environment.  Here are my suggestions:

  • Spray the mattress with Lysol disinfectant spray
  • Once mattress is totally dry, sprinkle baking soda onto the mattress
  • Enclose the mattress in a plastic, zip-up mattress cover
  • On top of the plastic mattress cover add a quilted and cloth mattress topper
  • The quilted top cloth mattress cover will keep the mattress soft and comfortable while putting a barrier between the plastic mattress cover and your child
  • I would cover the boxed springs, if applicable in a plastic cover as well
  • I also suggest you purchase and a couple of new pillows
  • Now for the color. Choose a colorful comforter set and window treatment if necessary. I always think window treatments are necessary, but some do not if the dorm room or apartment comes with blinds, but I like window treatments to soften the room and make it feel cozy. See my post on choosing window treatments here.
  • I spend a little more for bedding because it has to hold up wash after wash and be soft and comfortable. I don’t buy name-branded, but I do buy good-quality bedding. I believe everyone should have a clean and comfortable bed.


  • You can pick up most of your storage needs at the Dollar Tree. Below are just a few of the large selection of storage items you can find at the dollar tree. You just need to be creative.




  • You can also find desk accessories at the Dollar Tree
  • Cleaning supplies and snack foods and other food items can also be purchased at the dollar store or other discount stores
  • Plastic plates and utensils are available at the Dollar Tree
  • Laundry bags are necessary and can be picked up at the discount stores
  • Memo boards, whiteboards, cork boards are also available at your local discount and dollar stores


  • Wipe out the refrigerator (if provided with the room)
  • Leave the remaining baking soda in the refrigerator
  • Wipe down all surfaces with Clorox

  • Clean mirrors with vinegar
  • Vacuum thoroughly including under the beds, closet space and window seals Don’t forget baseboards and ceiling corners to ensure no cobwebs are left behind
  •  Vacuum the inside of desk and dresser drawers and closet shelves
  • Wipeout desk and dresser drawers with Clorox and line with shelf liner paper

Stock the Kitchen/Room:

  • Stock the kitchen area with snacks, canned goods, etc.
  • Store loose food items, cookies, bread, snacks, etc. in plastic storage containers with tight lids
  • Stock lower cabinets with cleaning supplies


  • I encouraged my daughter to connect with her roommate during the summer so they cou;d build a rapport and discuss a color scheme for their room
  • I have never painted a dorm room, but I have used fabric on a focal wall to add color and ground an otherwise drab space
  • I have also hung window treatments using a tension rod so I would not have to repair walls when the school year ended
  • Add throw pillows to the bed to add much-needed color as well
  • It’s a great look if both roommates match or coordinate colors

The Dorm Room Before:

Dorm Room
This Is How Most Dorm Room Start Out

Fabulous & Coordinated Dorm Rooms:



Look at the difference a little color and coordination can make. As I said above, in the past, instead of paint, I have used fabric to create a focus wall.  I have also added a wall of draperies. It made quite an impact.

You should hang everything you can with command strips. Using command strips will make it much easier to pack up at the end of the school year and will not damage the walls.

In such a small space, organization is key. Make sure there are plenty of different size storage bins and boxes. Use as much vertical space as possible to free up floor space. Add shelves and cubbies to the wall. Please note the list of necessary toolbox items you will need on move-in day and the other is a list of items your college student will need to start his/her college life. Of course, they will be calling to remind you of things you forgot. But I believe we’re off to a good start.

Really important…remember to add a fresh box of tissues to the list for you  because you will probably cry all the way back home after you drop your baby off,  but that is to be expected. 🙁

College/University Move-In Day Checklist
Purchase List: My Tool bag:
Bed risers Baking Soda
Cleaning supplies Clorox
Clip on lamp for bed Drill
Command hooks & strips (lots of command strips) Hammer
Desk Lamp Labeler
Dorm refrigerator Lysol Spray
Electronics (TV, Laptop, etc.) Pin Sol
Extension cord Screw drivers (phillips & flat)
Family photos Small nails
Hangers  Shelf liner paper
Mattress cover (plastic)  Rubber gloves
Mattress cover (quilted)  Cleaning rags
Organizers  Vacuum cleaner
Pillows  White vinegar
Plastic plates and utensils  Command Strips
Plastic storage bins (to fit under the bed)
Plastic ties (to coral and organize electrical cords)
Power strips
Several styles of plastic storage bins
Sheet sets (2 sets)
Shower caddy
Throw rugs
Window treatments
Ziplock bags (food storage)

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If you liked this post, you may also enjoy this one.

Until next time…I remain in my Element – God Bless!




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23 thoughts on “Making a College Dorm Room Feel Like Home

  1. Pingback: Week At A Glance – July 27 – July 31, 2015 | Clearissa's Command Center

  2. Pingback: Back To School on a Budget | Clearissa's Command Center

  3. Beth says:

    Wow! You did a fantastic job. We are getting ready for our fourth child to start college. I have never seen any dorm rooms look that great.

  4. Clearissa Coward says:

    Hi Beth. Thank you for reading along. I think most dorm rooms look pretty drab at the beginning. 🙂 One year I did an entire fabric wall for my daughter’s room and another year I did a wall of windows. I think I had more fun doing it than she actually cared about it. 🙂

  5. Clearissa Coward says:

    Hi Jehava, from the looks of that cutie pie in the picture with you, you have a few years to go for this. 🙂 But stay tuned, I’ll have one for parents sending kids off to school next week…hopefully. 🙂 Thank you for reading along.

  6. Clearissa Coward says:

    Hello Mandy. Thank you for visiting. I hope the information is useful for both dorm rooms for college students or first apartments, especially if furnished. Please stop by again.

  7. Clearissa Coward says:

    Hi Jennifer. Thank you for stopping by and welcome. I am happy you enjoyed the read. I love both the girly rooms too. I guess I did lean towards girly but I only have one daughter. 🙂 I will have to keep that in mind for future reference. But the cleaning and organizing tips are unisex. lol Please stop by again.

  8. Robin Jackson says:

    Love this! Such helpful information. I’m would really like to get the black and white monogrammed pillow shams for my daughters dorm. Can you tell me where they are from?

  9. Clearissa Coward says:

    Hi Robin,

    I am happy you enjoyed the article. I’m not sure where you can get the exact shams, but you can find similar ones at Bed Bath and Beyond, here and here.

    Have fun with your dauthter’s dorm room. 🙂

  10. Mary says:

    Clearissa I recently did my girl’s room and although it is not a dorm it needed to be just right. We can never underestimate the power of the right accessories and colors when decorating bedrooms and dorm rooms.

  11. Carol says:

    Great ideas! My only suggestion is to spend more and get a 100%cotton dust mite/bedbug zip on mattress cover. It does not heat you up but is woven so tightly bad stuff can’t get to you. It costs a little more but is worth it. I’ve used all sorts of zip on mattress covers for over 20 years due to allergies – I highly recommend the cotton one.

  12. Clearissa Coward says:

    Hi Mary, refreshing a room is all about the color and accessories, especially when you are working on a room in your home. You don’t always have to repaint or do something big. Sometimes little touches make a big difference. I’m sure your daughter loves her new room.

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