Now that the Class of 2021 is moved in, everyone here on campus knows the ice-in-your-veins feeling of walking into your residence hall room for the first time and realizing just how small, boring and cramped it is.
The virtual tour on Case Western Reserve University’s website doesn’t quite make you realize what 10 square feet of space per person actually feels like. When hunting the web for advice and DIYs to help make your room feel more like home, you’re bombarded with pictures straight out of your wildest dreams. Cream colored walls, plenty of floor space, not a single lofted bed, no actual school supplies in sight, unlimited and completely unseen outlets and of course, headboards.
As “unusable online advice” goes, headboards are number one on the list here at CWRU for a multitude of reasons. Even if you’re willing to spend around $100 for a headboard, once you’ve got one they’re nearly impossible to put up since the layout of our rooms forces your bed to be either lofted or shoved up against the radiator.
Even if you do manage to fit your bed somewhere in your room where there is a full empty wall, the idea of hanging even a cheap DIY headboard is ridiculous. A headboard that isn’t connected to your actual bed needs to be hung on the wall. In addition, anything you put up with Command hooks or mounting tape isn’t going to hold you and your best friend leaning against it watching movies. At this point, get a pillow.
Another commonly used piece of advice that just won’t work is “clever” seating. Sure it sounds good to buy ten small pillows to keep under your bed for your friends to sit on, or to buy a bunch of folding chairs and stick them behind your door. Until, of course, you have your friends over, start opening up the package and realize: the whole point of “clever” seating is there isn’t enough space for seating to always be there, which means there isn’t enough space for seating now that your friends have arrived.
CWRU has an average of five square feet of empty space per person, if they don’t bring anything else with them that takes up any extra space. In comparison, a folding chair takes up around two square feet of space. Trust me, you’ll never fit ten people comfortably in a room unless they’re all willing to stand. That’s what common rooms are for.
Canopies are another piece of unusable advice. If you’re lucky enough to manage to make all your things fit without having to loft your bed (which would make a canopy irrelevant), you’re not going to want a huge piece of fabric interrupting the small amount of space you have.
Canopies are nice when you have a bed in the center of your room, and that’s never going to happen in any of the residence hall spaces. Singles just aren’t big enough, and your roommate might kill you if you decide to take up the common space of your room with your bed. However, there’s a great way to achieve a canopy/pillow fort feel with the beds.
If you don’t loft your bed, you still have those pieces that are used for lofting. Put those up on the head and foot of your bed as if you were going to loft it, but don’t move your mattress. Then rubber band a cute blanket or tapestry across the top to all four posts. It might dwarf your room a little, but you can hang string lights in there and get the vibe of a canopy. If you’re really dedicated to this idea, you can even hang blankets on all sides and create a sort of box. It’s a great way to give yourself some fake privacy if you live with a roommate, but it’ll get really hot in there.
With all the aforementioned tips, it needs to be pointed out that there are a lot of great pieces of advice online. For example, Christmas lights and string lights totally brighten up a room (but make sure the light switch is close to your bed). However, no one knows college dorms like a college student, so I have a few pieces of dorm room advice that will actually work for your tiny living space. And there is one important rule: the more empty space you have, the bigger your room will feel.
So, don’t overcrowd your walls with posters. If your room feels cramped the last thing you want to do is cram your walls too. Group your posters, pictures and mementos into confined sections and leave yourself some empty wall space. If you hate white space and think it’ll make you scream, a great solution is using a tapestry. Furthermore, I received a great piece of advice from a friend once who told me: If you’re looking to put up a tapestry but want to save a little cash, you can use a cheap cloth shower curtain with a nice design on it. Hang that on your wall and you’ll get the same general effect for up to $30 less.
Another way to make your room feel less crowded is to build up rather than out. What that means is: stack everything. Put your mini fridge on top of a shelving unit. Stack storage containers under your bed. Put things on top of your dresser. Utilize the walls for storage. And Command hooks may be God’s gift to residence hall living, but Command doesn’t just make hooks. There are a lot of non-screw, non-permanent, super helpful products out there like shelving units and caddies. Ask any college student and they’ll agree, you can never have too many Command hooks.
And finally, minimalist style is your best friend. This one is the hardest for me because I’m a sentimental person, and this means I want to bring everything I’ve ever loved with me to college. I’m still learning how to pare down on things that I don’t strictly need. For example, I used to have photos and letters hung up all over my room. Now I keep them in a shoebox under my bed to look at every now and then. The more stuff you have on your shelves, your desk, and your walls, the more cramped your room will feel. So if you need to bring it, try and put it out of sight.
But if your room is feeling far too bare with all your favorite mementos hidden away, something great to have out is a plant. That little pop of green will make any space feel brighter and more open. That being said, us college students are often struggling to remember to feed and water ourselves. So, get yourself a cactus.