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Helpful Dorm Room Hacks for College Living

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Adjusting to college life can be challenging--moving into a super-small space that's shared with a roommate and lacks many common conveniences is difficult. However, there are many helpful tips and tricks out there to make dorm life easier! Read on for a variety of awesome hacks to improve your campus experience!

Comfort and style

DIY air-conditioner. If your dorm doesn’t have air-conditioning, hot, sweltering days may distract you from studying.  Lucky for you, it’s easy to create a DIY air conditioner for under $20 using a Styrofoam cooler, some PVC pipe, a fan and ice packs.

  • Simply cut a hole in a Styrofoam cooler, and insert the PVC pipe to vent the cool air.
  • Cut another hole on the top of the cooler, slightly smaller than the fan’s circumference to keep it in place and prevent the fan from falling inside.
  • Insert the fan face down and secure it with duct tape.
  • Add ice packs inside the cooler and plug in the fan.
The cooler air generated by the ice and fan will be emitted through the pipe and bring the temperature down a few degrees. This works well in a dorm especially due to the small space.

Create your own headboard. Liven up your dorm by adding a bit of style to your bed:
  • Grab a large sheet of cardboard and draw the outline of a headboard design, getting inspiration from furniture retailers or interior design websites/magazines.
  • You may want to draw half the design and then trace it to ensure symmetry.
  • Cut the cardboard headboard out with a box cutter and cover with fabric in a vibrant print—you can secure the fabric using tape or staples.
  • Attach the headboard to the wall above your bed using painter’s tape to avoid leaving behind adhesive or holes when you remove it.
Decorate with washi tape. Washi tape is decorative, colored tape similar to painter’s tape—it removes without leaving behind any residue, perfect for adhering to dorm room decorating regulations. Use it to line the edges of your book shelves, create decorative designs or borders on the walls, or make fancy frames for your posters.

Make pencil cup magnets. Keep your assortment of pens and pencils organized with chic pencil cup magnets if you have a mini fridge in your dorm. Glue magnets to unique cans, such as tea cans, or simply spray paint regular cans or coat them in colorful contact paper. Stuff the cans with your writing utensils and stick to the fridge.

String up photos with lights. Strings of photos draped wall to wall in your dorm is a creative way to remember your friends and family back home—simply clothespin your photos to fishing line or string and secure to your walls with painter’s tape. Adding a string of twinkle lights just above your photos will add ambiance to your dorm and illuminate the pictures.

Cleaning and maintenance

Fix holes in the wall. Most dorms forbid the use of thumb tacks or nails in the walls to prevent holes and will charge fines if you break this rule. However, small holes in your dorm room walls can be easy to fix with the right materials.
  • Apply a small amount of caulk to the hole with a putty knife, spreading it until smooth.
  • If there is still a dimple left behind after it dries, apply a second coat.  
  • Touch up with paint.
  • Very small holes can also be filled with toothpaste, and tiny chips may be concealed with corrective fluid.
Repair cigarette burns. While smoking is likely prohibited in your dorm, if you have a rule-breaking roommate or inconsiderate visitors, a dropped cigarette can cause an unsightly burn in carpeted dorms. To avoid fines, try this hack!
  • Trim the scorched fibers carefully with scissors.
  • Go to an out-of-sight area of the room and gently tug on a fiber—one that is already loose and unraveling works best.
  • Pull until the fiber is about a foot long, and cut it.
  • Cut this fiber into small pieces—cut where the fiber bends to get evenly-sized increments.
  • Using a hot glue gun, apply a small amount of glue to the area, and place about half of your trimmed fibers over the glue, lightly tamping down with the handles of your scissors.
  • Allow to dry, and repeat with the remainder of your fibers.
  • Allow to dry, and trim the fibers carefully until they appear even.
Repair adhesive damage. Did you put up posters, wall hangings or artwork using tape, only to find sticky residue or missing paint after you removed it?
  • Sand the wall gently with sandpaper where the tape was to remove any leftover adhesive, loose paint chips or small pieces of broken drywall, then brush it off with a dry cloth.
  • Fill in any divots or small holes with drywall paste and a putty knife.
  • After the hole is filled, slide the flat end of the putty knife over the wall to remove any extra repair paste and smooth it out even with the wall.
  • Allow the paste to completely dry. Add a second coat if necessary.
  • Sand the drywall paste to ensure that it's flat and smooth. Apply primer to the repaired area, and allow it to dry completely.
  • Paint the repaired area, making sure not to use too much to keep the surface smooth.

Function and organization

Cell phone projector. No TV in your dorm? No problem—all you need is a shoe box, magnifying glass, and a smart phone!
  • Begin by tracing the outline of your magnifying glass on one of the smaller sides of the shoe box.
  • Cut out the hole with a box cutter, and secure the lens to the opening with tape (if the lens has a handle, remove it first).
  • Bend a paperclip to make a stand for your phone, so it remains propped up inside the box.
  • Adjust your phone’s settings for the perfect picture (don’t forget to rotate your screen, because the projector will flip your picture upside down!)

Jewelry display board. Don’t let earrings and necklaces clutter up the limited surfaces in your dorms and create a tangled mess. Mount a bulletin board on the wall and use push pins to display earrings and necklaces easily and efficiently, preventing kinks, knots and aggravating tangles.

Increase closet space with soda can tabs. Dorm closets are small and cramped—if you’re a fashion addict, the restrictive space may not be enough to house your many outfits. Using soda can tabs, you can double the storage capacity of your closet. Simply hook your hanger through one of the openings in the tab, and hang another hanger from the lower opening to create a second level of clothes.


Microwaved scrambled eggs. Want a nutritious and delicious breakfast that’s easy to make? Cooking in a dorm is often limited to whatever you can prepare in a microwave. However, making fresh scrambled eggs in a microwave is actually simple and just as tasty as preparing them in a pan.
  • Spray the inside of a coffee mug or small bowl with non-stick cooking spray, crack two eggs inside.
  • Add a little milk and cheese if you like.
  • Place in the microwave on high for 45 seconds.
  • Take out and stir.
  • Heat again for 45 more seconds and enjoy!
Coffee maker-less coffee. No coffee maker in your dorm? Create a makeshift brewer with a cardboard coffee cup, paper filter, and some hot water.
  • Cut out the bottom of the disposable cup.
  • Fold the coffee filter into a cone shape, and insert it into the opening.
  • Leave about a quarter-inch of filter to fold over the edge. Secure it with a rubber band.
  • Spoon your coffee grounds (enough for one cup of coffee) into the filter.
  • Place the cardboard coffee cup on top of your coffee mug.
  • Taking a second disposable coffee cup of the same size, fill it with boiling hot water (you can heat it in your microwave), and carefully pour it over the grounds.
  • Enjoy your fresh cup of coffee!

Nicole La Capria  Posted by Nicole La Capria on August 11, 2014

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