Dorm Room Checklist

Ah, to go back to college. Of course, I'd love to go back to spending afternoons reading on the college green (once a nerd, always a nerd), but if I knew what I knew now, I would have the most adorable dorm room EVER. The good news? You can have that, even on a budget. Here's what you need to stock your room, designer-style, and some nice-to-haves, from the bedding to the floors to the "kitchen." (Yes, that microwave/fridge counts as your first kitchen.)


You don't have to spend a lot of money to get a personalized bed setup that's chic and comfy. What you do need to do: Find out what size bed your dorm room will have. Most have either twin or twin XL, but double check before you buy.

The Must-Haves

Comforter: For bargain shoppers, check the sale section of your favorite department store for discounted comforters; even if the design isn't your style, you can dress it up with a stylish duvet. Splurge on a down or down-alternative version for an ultra-plush bed.

A sheet set: Jersey sheets are a great choice for dorm room bedding: They don't wrinkle when they come out of the dryer, and they're as soft as your favorite T-shirt.

Pillows: Add two basic pillows for sleeping by night and lounging by day.

A throw blanket: Perfect for chilly nights and curling up for marathon study sessions. Bonus points if you find one that complements your dorm bedding.

The Nice-to-Haves

Duvet cover: Using a duvet cover versus a traditional bed-in-a-bag allows you to easily and affordably change up your bed when the mood strikes. Your bed will be front and center, so why not cover it with a design you love?

Throw pillows: They'll add style to your bed and double as on-the-floor seating. Mix and match big and small patterns and textures for a designer look.

A personalized pillowcase: Give your bed a personal touch by adding a DIY saying to a plain white pillowcase. Here's how to make your own.

Backup sheets and pillowcases: When laundry day is postponed indefinitely, clean sheets are still within your reach. Opt for one solid set and one set with a subtle pattern.

Backup sheets and pillowcases: When laundry day is postponed indefinitely, clean sheets are still within your reach. Opt for one solid set and one set with a subtle pattern.


You may find comfort in your college dining halls, but there are times when in-room meal prep is a must. Luckily, most dorm rooms come stocked with a mini refrigerator/freezer/microwave unit. Many college dorms restrict or prohibit the use of small kitchen appliances with hot plates or heating elements, so be sure to check your school's rules and see what's included before you stock up.

The Must-Haves

Plates: Make sure to choose microwave-safe versions — your late-night reheated pizza will thank you!

Bowls: Choose an assortment of patterns and sizes for snacks to soups to cereals.

Drinking glasses: Choose glassware made from melamine for a stylish, non-breakable option.

Coffee mugs: College and coffee are the perfect pair, but mugs can be used for so much more, like heating up soup, whipping up mug cakes or housing tea.

Coffee maker: Choose a version without a hot plate, like a French press or pod-based system, for coffee on demand.

Cutting board and paring knife: Feed your fruit and veggie habit with this basic cutting setup.

Utensils: Hit the dollar store for an inexpensive set of forks, knives and spoons. Buy four settings to accommodate a small group and account for inevitable lost utensils throughout the year.

Can opener: Break open college convenience store foods with ease with a sturdy, dollar-store can opener.

Cleaning supplies: Yes, you have to do the dishes (eventually). Stock your room with dish soap, sponges and kitchen towels packed in a small basket to make washing dishes in the communal sink that much simpler.

The Nice-to-Haves

On-the-go beverage containers: To stay hydrated on the go, stock the room with these three essential travel cups: one for hot drinks, one for cold drinks, and one for water.

Personalized mugs: Eggs and bacon are the perfect pair...and the perfect accent to these fun DIY roommate mugs. Learn how to make them with two simple materials: permanent markers and porcelain mugs.

A large bowl: Game night won't be the same without a big, communal bowl of chips, pretzels or popcorn. Choose one in durable metal or melamine to minimize breakage risk.

Storage jars: Clear glass or plastic storage containers help keep cereal and other essentials fresh. Another bonus? They take up less space than boxes do, and add dorm room style to boot. Dress them up with stick-on paper or chalkboard labels.

Spill-proof containers: Save leftover ramen noodles or takeout in easy-to-transport, spill-proof containers that are small enough to leave room for other essentials in your mini-fridge.

Bag clips: No one likes stale cookies and crackers! Keep snacks fresh with bag clips in a variety of sizes.


Your desk can be an inviting spot where you do some of your best work...or a blank, boring space you never use. It's all in how you outfit your space. These are the basics (and the extras) you'll need.

The Must-Haves

Task lighting: An inexpensive lamp will literally brighten up your desk for late-night study sessions. Choose one that's not too bright to keep your roommate happy.

Power strip: Outlets can be at a premium in a dorm space, so this is crucial for computer chargers, speakers and lighting. Get one with a built-in surge protector to protect those term papers.

Extension cord: Stretch it behind your bed once and have a spot to plug in phones and tablets on top of your desk.

Pen and pencil cup: You'll need a place to hold pencils, pens and highlighters. While you're at it, add all those things to the list. Or, use a mug from your kitchen cart.

A calendar: Yeah, you have your phone, but a wall calendar is essential. Bonus points if it's a dry-erase version where you can easily update your commitments and due dates.

Basic office supplies: You'll need scissors, a stapler, a hole punch and paper clips.

Printer: Share this with your roommate; you'll only spend half as much on ink cartridge replacements.

The Nice-to-Haves

A custom patterned decal: Cover the (likely worn) desk surface with a custom pattern, like removable wallpaper or contact paper. Make sure to choose one that won't leave residue when you move out.

Basic craft supplies: In addition to scissors, bring clear tape, washi tape, a glue stick, craft paint, a paint brush and some construction paper. You never know when the crafting bug will strike!

Sticky notes: Perfect for roommate notes, marking your place in textbooks and laptop reminders.

A chair cover or throw: Dress up your standard-issue desk chair with a plus throw or fitted chair cover.

A custom chair: If your school's policy allows, swap out the basic chair with a rolling variety.

A throw pillow: Make it comfortable (and cute) with an accent pillow for that chair.

Cute notebooks: Apart from being useful, they double as desk decor.

Color-coordinated extras: Shop the dollar store or dollar section of your favorite superstore for fun desk accents. Stick to two to three colors for an intentional look.

A letter tray: Keep folders and papers organized with a desktop letter tray.

A bulletin board: Pin up photos and reminders of home. If yours has one already (score!) dress it up with cute thumb tacks. Or, create your own cork wall with cork tiles and removable adhesive strips like we did here.


This is where your style really starts to shine. All it takes is a few essential pieces.

The Must-Haves

A rug: A bare concrete floor is cold underfoot, especially late at night. Add a carpet remnant or inexpensive sisal rug to keep your toes toasty. You can even use your yoga mat as a rug when you're not stretching out in downward dog! Choose a floor covering that's a dark color to camouflage those (inevitably) infrequent cleanings.

Wall art: From large posters to brightly-colored bulletin boards, you'll need to fill those blank walls. Tape up posters with washi tape for a personal touch.

The Nice-To-Haves

Curtains: The standard-issue blinds provide privacy; adding your own window treatments adds personality and softness. Even a simple scarf can add a personal touch.

A plant: Even if you think you have a black thumb, at least one plant will brighten up your space and reintroduce oxygen into the room. Try a cactus or succulent for easy care.

Washi tape designs: Use this colorful, removable tape to brighten everything from your dorm fridge to your room's door.


The Must-Haves
A hamper: You'll need somewhere to store your (huge pile of) dirty laundry until you can go to the laundromat. And by laundromat, we mean your parents' laundry room.
Storage baskets: Baskets keep things categorized and out of sight. Store them on top of your wardrobe to save precious floor and tabletop space.
Under-bed storage: Whether you have a lofted bed with a ton of space for larger storage bins or a bunk bed with just a little space, make it count! Airtight bins keep those items you aren't using every day, like extra blankets, sweaters and more, out of sight.
The Nice-To-Haves

Inside-the-door organizer: Expand your wardrobe's footprint with a inside the door organizer for shoes, scarves and accessories. Easily make more inspired choices and save space? That's a win-win.

Rolling cart: Your under-bed storage can double as a coffee table — see how to make your own with this simple, budget-friendly DIY.


Creating a pretty spot to prep for the day will improve your mood, even if you were up half the night studying. Trust me on this.

The Must-Haves

A lamp: A pretty lamp is both practical and decorative atop your dresser — it will light your way if you (bummer!) have early-morning classes and brighten up your room at night.

Jewelry storage: No one likes tangled necklaces! Hang yours using thumbtacks and a bulletin board or another hanging jewelry option.

Bins and boxes for hair accessories, bracelets and rings: Dollar-bin bowls (or vintage tins) keep them organized and out of sight.

Mirror: You'll need a spot to check your hair before you head out (even if you haven't had time to brush it).

The Nice-To-Haves

Decorative tray: A tray to house those vanity essentials makes everything look a little bit nicer.

Encouraging mantra art: Hey, you're amazing! Help yourself remember by placing a positive saying where you'll see it before heading out to conquer the day. College? You totally got this.

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