• Jake Brewer

Home Away from Home: Making a Dorm More than a Living Space

I've lived in four different rooms since the start of my freshmen year at Boston University. Though each was only my space for a few months, I took probably too much time and energy to customize a space fairly standard to have a bit of character.

Just like everyone else, college students need a space to come back to at the end of a long day. Whether it be a shared space, dorm room, or apartment with your friends or not, I've found that having a space to decompress and spend Sunday mornings to be critical to living a healthy college lifestyle.


I'm sure I wasn't alone when I spent the summer before school binging "dorm tours" and other videos for inspiration on how to create and design a space. When living on campus, you won't have much flexibility. Most of the furniture is there and likely bolted down to avoid any major shifts or changes. Done right though, this is never a barrier.


I have a few short, simple, and hopefully helpful tips to help curate a setting where you're not only comfortable, but inspired to get up and start your day.


Think about what you want to wake up to.


One of the best tips I've learned to improve productivity is starting you day off right. The first few moments of your morning are what sets the tone even before you swing your feet out of bed. I always ask myself, what can I do before heading to bed that'll make me feel just a bit more prepared for the morning?

Sometimes this is brewing a coffee for an iced coffee waiting in the fridge. It could be wiping down a desk or surface so you feel clean. Or, it can be as simple as emptying a trash can or making sure all dishes and trash are out of view. Taking care of the little things are what improve your mindset when starting your day. This often sticks with us the longest too, so the small task is worth the weight it carries.


In terms of your space then, what can you prepare so you feel set right away? For me, this is having bright colors and clear spaces. I don't like clutter, nor have I ever been much of a hoarded. I like keeping my physical assets minimal to keep my mental cognition simplified. I know it sounds crazy, but there's a connection there (at least for me!)


Maybe you like photos, too. Do you want to wake up to a certain someone's face? It may sound ridiculous, but when you're in school and feel homesick, having these reminders can have an unanticipated impact.


It'll take some time to decide, but consider what your space needs to put you in the right, healthy, and productive mindset.


Are you an early bird or night owl? Think of this.


I definitely sit more towards an early bird, but this obviously varies person to person. What can we take away from this? Well, I like natural light. I like the feeling of starting fresh, which is why I have multiple candles at the ready to make a space feel like it was just put on the real estate market. I also enjoy lots of greenery and plants to make an indoor space feel a bit more outdoors. Living in California but going to school in Boston creates a pretty distinct difference in not only weather, but daylight. It was important for me to bring together elements of familiarity to previous work styles. Again, it sounds a bit psychotic, but it's always the little things.


If you're a night owl, you probably need artificial lighting. You also probably need to minimize distractions. It may help too to make sure any feeling of comfort or relaxation be separate from your workspace. This could also apply to an early bird, but I'm definitely most tempted when my bed is in eye's view.


I know this sounds simple, but it's about practicality. We're drawn to the specific colors or defining pieces, but think about what you NEED. Ultimately, your needs are what you want in a space.


What is your space mainly used for?


Every year has varied what I actually use my room for during my day to day. Initially, we think this where all of our studying will occur because that's what high school taught us. However, college has a plethora of additional spaces and resources that soon became ideal for me personally to complete work. My own space has too many distractions.


This year though I've become more confident and productive in my personal spaces, whereas sophomore year I was almost never home.


Before you head to Bed, Bath, and Beyond, Urban Outfitters, IKEA, or put together an Amazon cart, think about what you NEED first. It may sound redundant now, but you want to be sure the essentials fit first. And remember, you can always grow and build your space. Don't rush to buy everything first, wait until you understand the functionality and how much extra surface and creative freedom you have. Then, you've got full permission to run wild.


What brings you the most joy and fulfillment?


Okay, don't read that and stress.


It's a simple question. I'll list off a few things: Photos, blankets, stationary, mirrors, light, storage, rugs, music, books. Of that list there's definitely a few that stick out - those are likely your priorities.


Make sure these elements are embedded in your space. For me, light is a huge one. I'm not a fan of artificial light, which is why I enjoy string lights to avoid dependency on harsh LED overhead lights. I also struggle with having restful, refreshing sleep during school. My nights often rely on finding eight hours of rest in just four. So it's important my pillows, blankets, and mattress pad are all top notch and something I look forward to (if you're not in college, you'll understand once you start.)


Finally, remember the space isn't perfect, and it's temporary. Most of the things with me now have been carried with me since freshmen year and will likely find their spot in my very first apartment post-graduation. It's exciting to begin to express yourself in a space so independent, but remember practicality and functionality. You don't need all the space you may want. If you do things right, your shoe box of a room is all you need.

My room tour videos from school have always been some of your favorites, so I recently uploaded a quick look into my junior year apartment at Boston University. Check it out!