I still remember all the excitement I had about moving out and going to college as a freshman. This meant shopping for all the lovely dorm trinkets my heart desired! I was so stoked, I almost bought out my entire local Bed, Bath and Beyond. I was so extra that I actually had my mom’s friend build me my own headboard (Pinterest was a naughty influence.) There were at least seven things I can think of that I got/made which I never used again and/or threw out at the end of the year.
Learn from my dorm trinket-crazed mistakes and see if you really need these things for your own first dorm!
1. Throw pillows
I couldn’t find any that I loved that were at a decent price, and I had a vision of a pillow haven on my bed. I wanted it to just be a huge cushion for me to jump onto at the end of the day. I also wanted enough pillows to line against the wall so my twin bed could also act as a couch. So my mom suggested I make my own throw pillows so I could design exactly what I wanted. She said pillows are super easy to make, too. I made four square-shaped pillows and one long rectangle pillow out of a light blue fabric that I found on sale at Joann Fabrics. I then brought it to my mom’s friend who owns an embroidery factory and had her embroider “love” in different languages: “amor,” “אהבה,” “je t’aime,” and “love.” The long rectangle read, “Love is universal.” By the end of the year, I think I maybe made my bed twice, and the pillows just laid all year in a pile on the floor. I realized they were a waste of space and ended up leaving them at home.
2. Candles (electric, of course)
Yes, I really did go out and buy little battery-powered tea candles and put them in small glass candles holders for ~ambiance~. First of all, one of the candles fell at some point and the glass broke. That was a pain to clean up without a broom — whoops, never thought about cleaning supplies in the midst of my interior decorating. So by the end of the year, those were in the trash.
3. Picture frames and a bulletin board
I bought about 20 picture frames. I filled them with pictures from high school and my family. I then went to Michael’s and bought a framed bulletin board. I painted the frame black with light blue dots, and then also filled that with high school pictures. While the sentiment was smart, it was a waste of money and space. I didn’t have enough space for the frames the next year, so they stayed at home and eventually were lost. And the bulletin board was just a pain every year to move around. Eventually the old pictures weren’t as meaningful as I made new memories with the friends I made here. You can still achieve the same feeling of being at home in a much more inexpensive way that’s easily disposable. Just grab some twine and clothing pins (both which are at the Dollar Store), and you’re all set! Hang up the twine and pin your favorite pictures on it and voila, you have a cute and cheap way to keep your space sentimental! Then, at the end of the year, you can just throw the string out, or start over with new pictures, which can easily be changed out on the twine.
4. Fairy/Christmas lights
Okay, this one I wasn’t sure about including on this list. It’s no question that twinkle lights are super cute in any setting, whether it’s party decoration, a dorm room, whatever. And I definitely agree, but they do cause some issues that almost rule out how pretty they are. First of all, they’re hard to figure out how to put up. Second, once you do, they’ll probably fall down at some point. Mine actually fell down so many times that my roommate and I just took them down permanently. Lastly, they also die out pretty quickly. Somehow, half of the lightbulbs on my fairy lights blew out. Seriously, exactly half the lights were out and the other half were fine. I don’t know how but if you’re not into half lit string lights then rethink making this purchase. Despite the blowout though, I still have string lights in my room four years later. I just love these things. So I guess buy them at your own risk.
5. Jewelry stand
During my freshman year, I made one of those really popular cake stands for storing my jewelry. I got two plates (one large and one small) and a candle pillar. I glued the candle pillar on top of the larger plate, and then the smaller plate on top of that. I put all of my jewelry on this sweet handmade display. I had brought every piece of jewelry I owned to school — and it was a lot! But by the end of the year, I probably only used four necklaces and three pairs of earrings. And I must’ve had almost 100 pieces of jewelry on my jewelry stand (this includes costume jewelry too). The plate stand was such a waste of space, and it joined the candles in the trash by the end of the year. The next year I bought one of those jewelry trees, for some reason thinking it would be a better vessel for my accessories. Again, it was still a waste of space, and because of the height of the tree, it got knocked over all the time. Not to mention it was a pain to untangle all of the jewelry and put it back on the rack! This dorm bauble earned a thumb down for me, unfortunately.
6. A TV
I still remember my mom’s surprise when I first said something about getting a TV for my dorm. I really thought this an obvious thing to buy. So when I was telling one of my mom’s friends what else I still needed to get and I mentioned “TV” my mom turned to me and screeched, “What?!” She tried explaining to me that I didn’t need a TV, but I refused to listen. So someone gave me one of their older small TVs, and I brought it up to Gainesville and mounted it on my wall. This TV has been nothing but a pain every year since then. I never watch it yet my parents keep convincing me to leave it at school instead of bringing it back home. So there it sits every year, just collecting dust and taking up space in the room (I didn’t mount it again after that first year). And every year when I have to move it, it’s such a pain to make sure it’s wrapped properly and that all the wires aren’t lost and everything’s in one piece. You don’t need a TV, nowadays everything is just on the computer. So just leave that one at home.
7. The headboard
I actually had one of my mom’s good friends make me a headboard. I sent her pictures I found on Pinterest, and told her what I wanted. I chose the shape and the fabric, and she built it all for me. We stuffed that thing in my mom’s car and it took up more than half the space. But somehow it fit, and I squeezed in all my other boxes around it. And now let’s fast forward to the end of the year, when I brought the headboard back home because the headboard didn’t fit any of my other beds for the next three years. Since the headboard was built for a twin-sized bed, it didn’t fit any of the double-sized beds in any of my apartments or work for my bunk bed in my sorority house. So it sat in the attic at home for three years, and there it will sit until my sister goes to college, who will also use it for a year, and at the end of which it will just meet the garbage with the rest of the things on this list.
Moral of the story: Think three or four times about what you buy before you buy it, because dorm décor is a fraud, I tell you! I’m joking, creating a cozy dorm is important to make it feel like home, but do take into consideration everything you buy or bring with you, because this isn’t your forever home, so don’t invest more into it than what it’s worth.