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Does Their Dorm Room Feel Like Home Yet?
You may be surprised at how one can transform a dorm that is mass-produced and industrial-looking into a warm and inviting dorm space. Not surprisingly, there is plenty of help out there to both spur ideas and help you organize. Pinterest, anyone? But let me assure you, organization is the primary concern. If your kids are anything like mine, they will try to take enough stuff from home to settle them in as though the only laundry facilities or stores are across state lines.
Of course, decorating for a girl’s room is drastically different from a boy’s, but both will need a little extra organization. First, check the size bed their dorm will provide here. They are usually those extra-long twin beds (with just a couple of exceptions). Many stores start selling these sheet sets over the summer just for this purpose, and it’s a good idea to send them with two sets of sheets and an extra pillowcase or two. If nothing else, you can help them change the bed linens for the first time when they tell you at Family Weekend they haven’t washed their sheets since they arrived. (Insert eye roll and nose-pinch here…Yecch!) A bed-in-a-bag option can be a great choice as it provides many pieces at once – and they all match. In addition, we highly recommend a mattress encasement. It protects from bugs, allergies, and who knows what else.
Most kids also appreciate a mattress topper of some sort. My daughter preferred a feather bed topper, but most of her friends used one made of memory foam. Remember, this is where they will be living (and not getting enough sleep) for months at a time, so make the bed as comfortable as you can. A fun throw pillow or two is a nice touch, and a backrest pillow is really handy for any student that likes to study in bed. My son wasn’t particularly interested in the pillows, but he liked the UF blanket someone gave him for graduation. It both dressed up his bed and was useful.
There are so many clever items to help organize these days. Check this link for information about if the beds in your student’s dorm can loft, how high they can loft, and if special loft kits (limited in supply) need to be requested. Please note, too, that beds in other halls than are specified at the link cannot be lofted, and students cannot modify or add to any bed on campus (no risers, blocks, or non-housing loft kits). You can find additional dorm-specific information in our Insider’s Guide to Campus Dorm Living.
Use the dimensions they give you to plan for extra storage under their bed (perhaps an under-the-bed bin or some plastic drawers at the least). Some like to put a mini-fridge under there too. Check to see if their dorm provides one. There are small ottomans that provide both storage and extra seating space for when their friends come to hang out. My daughter had one that also assisted her climb up into her well-lofted bed. Check to see if the dorm provides a hutch over their desk. If not, they can be easily purchased. They will need a place for their books, a desk lamp, and possibly a printer. Most kids like to have a microwave or coffee maker in their room if they don’t have a suite with a kitchen. And there are clever little shelves that attach to the side of the bed that can be useful.
Most girls really like to jazz it up and why not? If possible, suggest they check with their roommate before you begin your multiple trips to Bed, Bath and Beyond, Target and Walmart. (Did I mention that you should start collecting those coupons now?) They may decide together to coordinate with specific colors or a theme. Another great place to get ideas (and shop) is Tapestry Girls, a one-stop-shop for small space decorating and inspiration designed for the fashion and budget-minded. Visit Tapestry Girls today and use code HAVEUHEARD at checkout for an additional $5 off any order.
My daughter has turned to Etsy to purchase much of her dorm decor. Etsy is a great place to shop, with many items more reasonably priced and more unique than national retailers offer. Simply search dorm decor and start your looking. In some of the older dorms, there are cinder block walls, and this can make it difficult to hang things. No worries! Command hooks have you covered. (If you’re like me, you’ll grab the giant multi-pack — believe me, they get used!)
Girls, especially, look for the pretty as well as functional things. After all, a healthy head-space is as important as an ergonomic living space. Candles are not allowed in the dorms, but there are many great LED “candles” out there now. Area rugs also warm up a room, particularly if you have a cold tile floor as many rooms do.
Another popular item is string lights. My favorite is the style that also has clips to hold photos. It’s even possible to buy (or DIY) headboards (which admittedly look pretty), but before you make this purchase, be sure your daughter and her roommate don’t intend to bunk the beds or loft them. Also consider if this first year in a dorm may be their only one, which might limit the use and value of a headboard. Many of the students, gender notwithstanding, like the cloth tapestries as another option. It makes a great focal point for a dorm design while being super adaptable and cost-effective.
Girls always seem to need a long mirror. Check out the ones that open to store jewelry and/or accessories, or make a plan for hanging those accessories in the closet. And there are YouTube videos for those of you that are feeling creative. My daughter is pretty crafty, so this one gave her some good inspiration.
Get the dorm details
UF offers virtual tours of their on-campus dorms; simply click on each dorm area and you can find a video of the residence hall here and FAQs here. There are different kinds of dorms throughout campus ranging from suite to corridor to apartment-style. Some dorms can fit desks in the bedrooms; others have to keep them in the common area of their suite. When you find out which dorm your student will be living in you can check out the floorplans as well as get an idea of what UF Housing supplies.
I haven’t forgotten our sons, there just isn’t as much to say. It probably took us three times the amount of time to set up our daughter’s room as it did our son’s. Basically, they will need the same essentials, but as far as décor goes, most boys are happy with a poster or two and possibly a flag or banner. Dormify has introduced a guy’s collection, which is worth checking out. Gator paraphernalia is usually a hit, too, and Etsy has some great items.
My only other advice is to start shopping early, remember hooks to hang the shower curtain (and be sure at least one person brings the curtain), have items on hold to pick up at local Gainesville stores if possible, and BRING TOOLS! Don’t forget the double-sided tape and those Command strips, either.