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Dorm Room Before & After

girls dorm room transformation

As promised, a look back at Marisa’s freshman Dorm Room transformation!

If you’re shopping for dorm decor and essentials this summer, we’ve got you covered with tips and tricks to take a plain dorm room from drab to fab!! Of course, every room/school/situation is different but these are our best tips for making a small space comfortable and organized on move in day! I’ve linked the exact items and similar items for the things that are no longer available. And be sure to check out our Dorm Essentials post and Dorm Transformation Reel for more. 

How it started…

Marisa and her roommate took the lead with planning the decor/theme…

But helping with the logistics and bringing their ideas to life was fun! It eased the transition (for me, haha) and gave us something to work on together in the months leading up to move in.

It was also a nice opportunity to chat/coordinate with her roommate’s mom before the actual move in. We had separate time slots to move in but ended up being a family affair, using both time slots to work together to get it done. We celebrated with drinks and dinner afterwards! That day was truly a happy memory we’ll cherish forever!

And P.S.- take it as a good thing if your child wants to immediately stay the night in their new room instead of at the hotel with you. I was not expecting that (and had to hide my tears, lol) but I was reassured in that moment that she felt ready. The next day we did a few more errands and exploring together before heading home!

After…

(several hours and lots of zip ties and command hooks/strips!)

Top Tips for Dorm Rooms & Move In Day

Tip #1- PLAN as much as you can

If possible coordinate with your roommate so you don’t bring doubles of things such as small appliances. Try to get the information and dimensions of your actual room, bed, windows, shelves from housing at your school so you can purchase the correct sizes. Or if you take a tour or during orientation ask to see a room in the hall you will be living in. We took a measuring tape with us and did our own measuring and took pics to refresh our memory as we were shopping. 

Find out if there will be carts, dollys, or wagons you can check out or reserve on move in day. If not bring your own. Saves time and trips up and down the elevators/stairs! 

Tip #2- Extra large zippered bags are a game changer

These can be found at IKEA but they usually sell out. We packed most of her stuff with this set (blue bags pictured above). They’re heavy duty, have handles, and are fold down small. We saved them and also used them for move out. 

dorm desk
Dorm Room Desk with lighted vanity mirror and PB Dorm Organizers

Tip #3- Come prepared

On move in day, bring a drill, small tool kit that you can leave behind, zip ties, and extra command strips! You’ll probably end up needing them! Also Clorox disinfecting wipes or other cleaning supplies to wipe down surfaces as needed. When the headboard installation didn’t work, we used zip ties to secure them to the beds and it actually worked much better. 

Tip #4- Bring less than you think…

It’s easier to add items than it is to show up with way too much stuff! Plus your student will accumulate items while they are there, so don’t start off with a packed to the brim room…remember that everything you move in will have to be moved out in less than a year. 

Basic IKEA storage cabinet with gold handles from Home Depot!

Tip #5- Storage, storage, storage 

Key for organization in a small space! We used ottomans for storage and stepping up on their raised beds. We purchased a storage cabinet from IKEA to go between their beds and replaced the white handles with gold handles from Home Depot. And, anything to organize the closet is helpful! Shoe holders, laundry bags, etc. 

Tip #6- Get an extra long dorm bedskirt (if you plan to raise the beds)

They lofted their beds for extra storage space and to have more room. Extra long bed skirts were perfect for hiding that space and made the room look more tidy. We placed the dorm drawers underneath along with an extra set of drawers from Container Store for additional space for folded items underneath the bed. Suitcases were also stored under the bed and the girls used them to store seasonal items they weren’t using often. 

A note about bedding: You’ll want layers to cover/transform the dorm mattress into a cozy bed! I’ve linked everything, the mattress pad/protector, memory foam topper, and twin XL sheets at the end of the post!) 

dorm closet organization

Tip #7 – Make it cozy/lounge friendly

Pillows and throws make the room more cozy! Marisa brought her favorite Barefoot Dreams throw to keep on her bed, extra pillows, and a lap desk with collapsible legs for studying and watching movies.

Tip #8- Leave behind some cleaning supplies, small tool kit, and first aid kit.

They will need to use them eventually! We stocked a basket with swiffer dusters, a hand held vacuum, Clorox wipes, etc. I took a basic first aid kit and added the usual OTC meds we have at home for allergy, pain relief, cough drops, and other essentials. Leave the tool kit that you brought for move in. We also stocked up on a few snacks, paper plates/utensils/paper towels/kleenex.

Curtains, pillows, throws, and personal touches made it extra cozy!

Tip #9- Leave some open wall space

The girls wanted to leave room for adding things later like sorority flags, team banners, and photos. A big pin board or magnetized board (empty) is great for adding photos later too. Tapestries or dorm wall paper are fun…

Tip #10- Do your OWN thing

There’s not one “right” way to do it! Do your own thing based on what your student wants/likes to make it a happy comfortable space to live. It will all work out!

My two cents: Know it will be a slightly stressful, emotional, potentially exhausting day. But it can still be fun and happy memory to look back on! Go with the flow. Now is not the time to be a control freak. Everyone is trying to do the same thing at the same time while also feeling all the things about your kid going to college. Show yourself (and everyone else) some grace and you’ll be good to go…and be prepared to see lots of hugs and tears in the parking lot! 

I can’t believe her freshman year has come and gone and she’s back home for the summer!

As we packed up a few weeks ago I reflected on the journey of moving her into this room to now. I have special memories of all the planning (and shopping!) we did last summer to make this room a warm, inviting place to come home to!

It was wonderful to see all the personal growth that has occurred over the past year, as she adjusted to college life and a new city. There were challenges of course, but we are so proud and thankful for an overall positive first year experience. A sweet and lasting friendship with her roomie included! Next up for them, apartment living…stay tuned!

Hope these tips are helpful! Let me know if you have any questions. Now that I have some experience under my belt, I’m happy to share! Thanks for stopping by! xx

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Welcome! Loubies and Lulu is a Dallas-based fitness, fashion, and healthy lifestyle blog by Andrea Overturf.

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