Dorm Deck - how to plan your dorm room basics with your roommate

How to Plan Your Dorm Room Basics with Your Roommate

For other good ideas about making the transition to college, purchase a Dorm Deck by Hack Decks.

The deck is full of suggestions to get to know your campus, new environment, and roommate. Dorm Deck makes a great gift for first-year students moving away from home and into a dorm for the first time. 

Make a Checklist

Nothing screams dorm room life like an uncomfortable twin XL mattress. But don’t worry. This can easily be fixed with a good comforter or mattress topper. You get bonus points if you’re able to find a reversible one to revamp the look of your room when one color starts to get boring. 

Most likely, your dorm room will come furnished with other pieces of furniture, but you may want a larger desk to complete late night homework marathons. For those who stay up late, using an actual alarm clock instead of relying on your phone might be the difference between getting to class on time or accidentally oversleeping.

And, of course, don’t forget about storage containers and organizers! These will be your best friends, especially to customize such a small space. Under bed storage and closet organizers help stash your belongings away and hide the clutter when you don’t have time to organize during midterms or finals. 

Here are a few things to consider when living with someone else and trying to make your room feel more special and coordinated. These are checklists for other items that we will add to a different blog. First, let’s get your room ready.

Bath and Bedding Checklist:

  • Comforter and/or quilts (Consider bringing sturdy, easy-to-wash items)
  • Throw Blanket
  • Bed Sheets (Suggested Size: Twin XL)
  • Pillows 
  • Pillowcases
  • Mattress Pad
  • Reading Pillow
  • Alarm Clock
  • Tissues
  • Paper Towels
  • Under Bed Storage
  • Towels: bath, washcloths and hand towels. Consider putting your name on a tag in permanent marker, especially if you have plain white or other “anonymous” towels!
  • Shower Shoes (Community Showers)
  • Shower Bucket/Basket/Caddy to carry items
  • Extra pillow(s) if you will lounge/study on the bed

Decorating Items Checklist:

  • Posters
  • Sticky wall mounts and removable adhesive hooks. Most schools do not allow you to put nails in the walls, so you will need other ways to hang your décor
  • Personal pictures, photos, and other favorite items
  • Rugs or a piece of carpet if you have vinyl floors, which can be cold and uncomfortable
  • Additional seating for friends (Futon, bean bag, pouf)
  • Desk Chair
  • Decorative Area Rug
  • Desk Lamp
  • Trash Can
  • Floor Lamp
  • Bed Risers
  • Over the door storage hanger
  • Stepladder
  • Bulletin Board
  • Dry-Erase Markers
  • Fan
  • Curtains
  • Clock
  • Adhesive Hooks
  • Closet Organizer

The checklist is a syllabus for your dorm life. You’ll need to start the semester with dorm room essentials. If you’re not sure where to start, do a little research. You can also ask older siblings or friends for recommendations to avoid repeating their first-year mistakes. In addition, don’t forget to make your dorm room a sacred space. Bring your personality with you into your decorating so that you’re happy in your new space.


The key to making things work in a dorm room is to take measurements so you know everything will fit. Before the first term gets underway, ask the university’s housing department reps about specific dimensions. 

For example, what will fit? Will there be private or community bathrooms? If you can visit prior to going to college, that’s ideal. Gather as much information as you can about the size of the room and its layout. In doing so, you won’t have to run to Target to get a carload of items the minute you land on campus. And, for sure, you won’t have to send your mom to do lots of returns right when you arrive. The more you can figure out in advance, the better.

Plan Your Room Together

If possible, get in touch with your roommate over the summer to get a plan together. Discuss how to set up your future space so that both of you are happy. The goal is to get to know each other a little better during this process. If you’ve been friends before, and are choosing to room together, use this as a great opportunity to practice your compromising skills. Communication is key. Remember that your roommate may have ideas that you haven’t considered.

Another idea is to divide up the items that need to be purchased and then report back to the other roommate. Talk about your options and preferences. And use this time prior to moving into your dorm room to talk about lifestyle preferences and habits. Be as open as possible in communicating what’s important to you. In turn, be aware of your roommate’s needs and desires. That way, you’ll both feel heard and have a say in how your room looks and feels. 

Find Common Ground if You Disagree

Start the planning process with a mood board, if possible, so that you can talk about ideas. Or set up a Pinterest board with inspiration ideas. If your styles are different, find a way to integrate them both using this option. You may see things coming together before you know it. And if you can’t find common ground, see if you both can share other ideas you like that may spark a bit of commonality.

Pack According to Location

One roommate may live nearby campus, while another lives across the country. Remember that it may be easier for the closer roommate to do some of the heavy lifting while the other ships from places like Amazon or Target. Think about convenience. Take this into consideration as you choose which items each will bring. Once you’ve compiled a list, take an inventory and then assign each item to one roommate or the other.

Think Ahead of Move-In Day

Setting up might only take a day but remember that you’ll be spending almost a year together. It’s important to remember that you’ll both have stressful situations that come up during the semester, and having a place that feels like home will make it easier.

For other good ideas about making the transition to college, purchase a Dorm Deck by Hack Decks. The deck is full of suggestions to get to know your campus, new environment, and roommate. Dorm Deck makes a great gift for first-year students moving away from home and into a dorm for the first time. 

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