Top 6 Out-of-the-Box Ideas for Your Dorm Room

By Elana Luban

As someone who grew up with only one, much older, sibling, I’ve always had my own room. But during my gap year in Israel and later at Stern, I quickly found that having roommates isn’t all that bad — especially if they study a lot, which always motivates me to do the same. 📙


However, for my senior year at Stern, I decided to give Schottenstein a go; why not trade Brookdale’s hustle and bustle, 1:00 AM partying (every floor has that one room), and lobby drama for a quiet single room at Schott, Brookdale’s more mature older sister? Plus, I get a complimentary non-drama-filled lobby (complete with huge comfy couches) and a little-known study room that, according to many, is much better than any Stern or YC study rooms… Whoops! Guess the secret’s out… 😬


But, knowing that I wouldn’t have roommates to motivate me — by which I mean tell me to get off my phone after my third consecutive hour of Facebook-scrolling — I knew I’d have to be in charge of my own motivation. Even more importantly, with my own room, I’d have no one else to blame for a dirty floor or boring decor.


So this year I’ve taken it upon myself to become my own coach and interior designer. The first step to great mental health and happiness is creating a home environment that gives you joy — so I decided to do just that! ✨


There are dozens of intuitive factors that go into decorating a space, but there’s a science to it, too. Here are six of the best pieces of advice I’ve found! 🗒


According to the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, a cluttered environment leads to higher levels of cortisol, a stress hormone. Now, cleaning a space is an obvious solution, but another one is de-cluttering the piles of books and papers we students often realize are taking over our desks and shelves. If you keep your bookshelves half-empty, it’ll give your room a much less cluttered feel! 📚


Another kind of clutter is too much pattern play. If you have too many conflicting designs, it’ll give you the same overwhelming feeling as a mess. So sometimes it’s not a bad idea to stick to one pattern for everything, or just choose solid colors over plaid or polka-dot. ( 🎨


Fresh flowers, according to the Ellison Chair in International Floriculture, have the power to soothe and lower anxiety levels — plus they add that natural touch that’s so rare in a city like Manhattan! If you don’t feel like spending money on such a short-lived decoration, though, there’s always the option of artificial flowers, and if you’re not into the fake flower look, most craft stores have a selection of more realistic-looking branches and plants (pro-tip: there’s a Michael’s on 6th Ave. and 22nd Street. And they didn’t pay me to say that). If you do decide to use fresh flowers, though, you’re doing yourself a favor by engaging a sense other than sight. 🌷


Speaking of engaging all your senses, music is another, if invisible, “decoration” that everyone should be using to beautify their room. 🔊


In addition, a scented candle or two (if your apartment building allows them) can bring the kind of warmth — not to mention tropical, pine tree, or “autumn air” aromas — into your space that no cute set of drawers can mimic. So treat yourself, it’s worth it. 🕯


On the opposite end of the spectrum (and a little less aesthetics-related), any kind of humidifier — from the super practical kind to the fancy sleek kind that people put lavender oil in — will make your room a more comfortable place, especially during winters, when air gets extremely dry. Why only treat your eyes when you can treat the rest of you, too, and prevent colds while you’re at it? Or as famous stand-up comedian Steven Wright once said, just put in a dehumidifier and humidifier and let them fight it out. 💧


As for my own newly-decorated room… I’ve got cliché autumn-y decorations reminiscent of a pumpkin spice latte, two sets of lights (one wasn’t enough), way too many photos on the wall hung up on one of those clothespin photo hangers, and a sign that says “I am blessed.” It doesn’t get more basic than that. But you know what? It makes me happy. If something is extremely popular — take the Beatles, for instance — that doesn’t mean it’s wrong to like it. Sometimes people like it because… it works. Because it gives them joy.


No matter what you do, don’t forget that the point of all the decor and designs you use is to make you happy. All the aisles of Michael’s and Hobby Lobby won’t help you if you’re putting up someone else’s idea of beautiful.

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