So you’ve been assigned a dorm room. Don’t worry! It could be much worse: you don’t have a roommate unless you practically begged for one. Yes, your room has a sterile, institutional feel and might be the size of your neighbor’s closet, but you can make this work. With a little love and attention, you can makes a home base for yourself that make dealing with your schedule here easier.
First, don’t leave your room the way you walked in on it. This is most likely not the most useful or beautiful way to keep it. Use your parents’ extra muscle to help you reconfigure your furniture set-up. You could have it very open in the middle or use your bed and desk to separate the space into smaller rooms.
Kate Chilelli reorganized her furniture at least once a month. “It made it really easy to keep the room clean,” she said. “And it made me feel more aware of my surroundings and inspired in my work.”
If you want extra furniture, IKEA is a great spot. All of their stuff comes in compact boxes and is within a college student’s price range. Why not pull a bunch of your hallmates together for a group trip? Promise to treat them to the 50 cents ice cream and you’ll make some new friends.
When she realized she’d been blessed with one of the giant rooms in Orchard Meadow, Sonya Rifkin went to a thrift store and bought a beat-up leather recliner. College is the time you can get away with whatever décor you want.
If you are not blessed with a big room, you have some options. There are probably other rooms available and it’s not impossible to change right away. Talk to HMDS about your options.
The matchbox-style rooms probably have porches attached. If you decide to stick it out for a semester, make use of them. Elizabeth Serage enjoyed the mild Oakland weather and kept her bed outside.
“It gave me way more room inside,” Serage said. “And it always felt like camping!”
Putting your desk outside might make you more interested in studying!
No matter your room size, do your best to get out on your porch! Have sleepovers, fly kites, at the very least, keep your refrigerator out there. Even if you dorm all four years, this might be the only year you get a porch.
Your décor is probably the most important element to making the room feel like your room. Display whatever makes you feel good. Whether you have 11 Zac Efron posters or 11 framed prints of modern art, present your stuff proudly. It will make you feel comfortable and that’s the most important thing. Plus, if you’re obsessed with something out of the norm, showing it off is going to introduce you to other people who love it, too.
If you’re looking for more, there’s a huge poster store 3 blocks down Telegraph Ave., just opposite the Sproul Plaza Mills van stop at UC Berkeley. The many Bay Area museums provide you with both local culture and great gift stores.
The Mills College bookstore has posters and sales, too. Emily Grantz found luck: “I’m always on the lookout for new stuff for my walls,” she said. “So when the bookstore had a poster of Anna Kournikova for 25 cents I jumped on it. Even though I didn’t even know she played tennis.”
Photos are a great way to bring art and memories into your new environment. Picture frames hung on the walls look classy and save space for books and fish bowls and hair brushes.
Ruth Sears, administrative assistant for Housing Management and Dining Services, said HMDS encourages students to “not use the tacky, gummy stuff made for hanging posters. Use push pins or small nails instead. It’s easier to fill in the nail holes than to repair the damage poster gum can cause by sticking to walls or peeling paint.”
“White toothpaste is great for covering holes,” said three-time Residence Assistant and alum Karla Flores.
It’s also good to notice where there is already problems in your room – has a lot of wood been stripped off your door already? Somebody already put hooks in your closet? If your conscience can allow further defilement of the historical buildings that cover this campus, go ahead and mess up your door, put in more hooks. It won’t be your fault.
Just make sure to first put down everything that you notice wrong with your room on the room condition form you give your R.A., especially if she seems like a stickler. Don’t worry, you’ll be able to tell if she is right away.
Try to be friends with your R.A. She wants to be friends with you and she is full of knowledge and experience and is there to help you navigate your way.
Curtains bring color, warmth, and privacy. They will make your room feel less like a dorm and more like your home. You can’t paint the walls, but curtains will give you one strong strip of color.
Pets will also help make your space more homey. Everyone wishes they could have brought their cat – if you did sneak in your cat, please, for the sake of your entire floor, send him back with your parents! Fish are a decent substitute. Goldfish are surprisingly amusing and remind you to take care of yourself because someone else needs you. Plants are lower maintenance and will also have this effect.
Halfway through unpacking your stuff you’re going to realize you brought too much. Fill two boxes and send them back with your parents. If you’re lazy at unpacking and realize this too late, you can store the boxes in your closet, but you might want to splurge on shipping them home. You need the closet space for something else.
If you brought a TV, don’t send it home quite yet. Although you can’t hook it up to cable, rabbit ears will pick up a few channels and your hallmates will huddle around your fuzzy reception to watch “Heroes” every Monday just so they don’t have go to the dungeon-like TV room – hello Queen of Awesome. Use your power wisely.
“I made friends all over the building because of my little 14 inch set,” said Jennifer Liu. “I’m bringing it every year.”
Last, pick up a good duster and a broom and put in some effort in keeping your room clean. With no window screens, bugs will wander in and die. Dust will sneak up on you faster than finals. Someone’s going to spill something. That’s not good for your body or your homework stamina.
Hopefully this advice will help you create a stylish, comfortable place for you to live this year.