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7 Ways to Make Your Dorm Room a Stress-Free Sanctuary

It’s not really up for debate; college is stressful. That being said, you shouldn’t feel caught up in that stress all the time! Your dorm room is one place you can turn into an escape from the constant demands of your school, social and work schedules.

We talked to collegiettes about how they keep their dorms stress-free and compiled their tips in order to give you some respite from your stress—even if it’s only in your room. Read on to find out how to make your dorm room a no-stress zone!

1. Perfect your decor

Your dorm aesthetic is a reflection of you and it can also impact how you inhabit your living space. Customize your space as best you can with decor and furnishings. In the way of maintaining a calming atmosphere, you might want to stick with neutral colors and a very minimalist style.

On the other hand, you might find bright colors and exciting prints more comforting! You can mix styles and have your dorm aesthetic make no sense—the beauty of your own space (even if it’s half or one-third of a shared room) is that it’s all up to you. “I always make sure to decorate with fun colors and patterned pillows,” says Autumn Dube, a senior at Emmanuel College. “I never have too much décor though because then it will just feel cluttered.”

To add a personal touch to your décor, give DIY-ing a try! Making your own curtains, mini-rugs and cushions or pillows is super easy. Just check out these handy DIY ideas and instructions! “I’ve hung up fabric color swatches on my walls to make the place more cheerful and appealing to me,” says Jacqueline Marchioni, a senior at the University of British Columbia. “I do a similar thing with quotes that I like, typing them out in fun fonts and colors and putting them up.” A creative, budget-friendly way to spice up those white walls!

Related: Quiz: Which Dorm Style is Right for You?

2. Make your lighting warm and soothing

Lighting is super important. The fluorescent lights that are likely already illuminating your space are awful, and unless you beyond lucked out in your housing lottery, it’s unlikely that you’re just basking in natural light. Warmer lighting options will surely make for a more calming dorm room, and you can create a candlelight-candlelight-esque ambiance with just a few lamps or a desk light.

Our collegiettes are big fans of string lights. They’re cheap, don’t usually require any assembly and are easy to hang on your bed frame or even tape to walls! “I always love to hang Christmas lights! Instant change of atmosphere,” says Christine Burney, a senior at SCAD Atlanta.

String lights are easy to find in most household goods stores. Check out Urban Outfitters, Bed Bath and Beyond or Target to find basic string lights. “I think one of the simplest things to do to make for a comfortable living space is to have white Christmas lights hanging around the walls,” says Autumn. “It makes for a calming feel as opposed to bright fluorescent overhead lights.”

3. Increase the coziness factor

Add pillows, a plush headboard and additional blankets to your room to make it feel cozier. Basically, just make your entire room a giant bed. No surface left un-cushioned!

Pillows are just great, and it’s pretty much impossible to have too many. If you need to justify it, just think about all the guests you could potentially have for a sleepover! “I don’t have a desk in my bedroom,” says Megan Sawey, a senior at Temple University. “Instead, I keep a body pillow and a blanket on my floor so that I may sprawl out and do homework.”

Rugs are also a great solution to make a dorm room feel less cold and sterile. “Buy a fuzzy rug for right under your bed,” says Emily DiNuzzo, a senior at Pace University. “When you wake up in the morning you’ll be met with warmth instead of harsh, cold linoleum.”

4. Use soothing scents

If you’ve ever been to a spa of any kind, you know they’re not messing around with the scents. Take a page from their book and invest in some candles, diffusers or other aromatherapy products. While candles probably aren’t allowed in your dorm space, they’re a good choice for apartment dwellers, and diffusers and aromatherapy sprays work if you’re living on campus!

Essential oils are another fantastic option for making your space feel more like a spa getaway. These are also easy to find at your local grocery store, and there are a ton of options to choose from so that you can find your preferred anxiety-reducing scent. Sprinkle oils or other diffusers on your bed or your clothes to bathe yourself in a shower of calm.

5. Get (and take care of) some plants

Even if you may feel like you can’t keep yourself alive and thriving, taking care of a plant is proof that you totally can! Succulents and ferns are very spa-esque, and will undoubtedly absorb any bad vibes you’re feeling. Bamboo, aloe and sensitive plants, in addition to being mind-blowingly cool, are all pretty low-maintenance options too.

Honestly, artificial plants are a fully acceptable alternative as well. Fake it til you make it, right? They’ll still maintain that cool rainforest aesthetic that will practically force you to chill out. Even if you’re playing tricks on your mind, houseplants are said to have healing powers!

Related: 12 Things You Shouldn’t Stress About

6. Get into the habit of keeping your space clean

We know. It’s been 20 years, give or take, and this whole neatness thing? Yeah, it’s not taking. We must insist though—a clean room is a clean mind! Just don’t think about cleaning as a chore. Think about it as a way of bettering yourself!

Being able to come back to a tidy sleeping space will make that end-of-day crash feel so much better. “There’s nothing that makes me more anxious than coming home after a long day and having a messy room,” says Nikki Harris, a senior at the University of Connecticut. “When I get it cleaned up, I just feel so much more clear-minded and it’s one less thing to worry about.”

There are plenty of easy little things you can do to keep your space clean and de-cluttered. For example, make your bed in the morning before you leave for class. “I feel like my room reflects my inner state to a certain extent and I always feel better when my room is neat, says Jacqueline. “Even just making the bed is often a big help!”

Straighten up your bedside table (even if this just means stacking things to make them appear organized) and turn your socks and pants outside in when you get undressed so you don’t have to deal with all that extra work when laundry day comes around. See? Three easy steps, and you’re already saving yourself from face-palming later.

7. Keep work out of your living space

Yep, we saved the toughest tip for last. But it’s also probably the most impactful one, so it’s going to take some effort! We’ve heard about good and bad ways/places/times to do homework all our lives, and frankly, we’re lost in all the suggestions. It does make sense, though, that doing homework in your dorm room turns it less into a place of solace and comfort and more into a classroom.

That said, do your best to keep work out of this space. Again, it just means that returning to your dorm space will feel even better because it will have no stress associated with it! “Try not to do your homework in your room,” says Autumn. “Your room should be your escape and not be associated with things that cause you stress.” Give a local café, your favorite library or even your dorm’s lounge a try if you can’t bear leaving the comfort of your building!

Start slowly with this one if you do tend to do work in your room. Just try to do it less and less, and ease your room’s transition into a sanctuary. If you must do work in your room, check out these tips (hint: absolutely no work in bed!).

Have some much-needed rest and relaxation in your now de-stressed dorm room, and then take your stress-free self out into the world! Spread the calm. You’re unstoppable.

Margeaux Biché

Columbia Barnard

Margeaux Biché is a current senior at Barnard College living in New York City. During her freshman year, she studied at the George Washington University in D.C., where she wrote for The GW Hatchet. She is a Women's, Gender & Sexuality Studies major and is passionate about social justice. While she does not know exactly where she'll take her degree, she hopes she can contribute to the advancement of marginalized peoples through legal and/or activist work. Chocolate covered pretzels are her favorite food, Rihanna is her favorite musician and her go-to talent is her ability to wiggle her ears. Margeaux loves dogs, hiking and her hometown basketball team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, all of which are oft-featured on her Instagram account. Twitter | LinkedIn
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