College Dorm Room Ideas And Other Small Spaces

Dog in boxAre you or someone you know heading off to college or maybe a first apartment? How about moving into a retirement community? Downsizing to a new house or maybe even relocating to a new state?

You may be wondering how I can group college dorm room ideas in with downsizing and moving to a retirement home? It seems like I’m comparing being 17 or 18 to being 60, 70, and 80+ years old, right? It sounds sorta crazy? I mean, what could an 18-year-old moving into their first “space” have in common with someone moving into a smaller, possibly “last” space?

I think they have a lot in common.

New Beginnings

To begin with, they are both starting a new chapter in their lives. This provides an excellent opportunity to try styles they haven’t had a chance to try before. The college student has an advantage here because they probably don’t have existing furniture so they can start brand new. The retired person probably has furniture that they have acquired over the years which may or may not be their current style. Either way, this new beginning is a great chance to do something different!

This new beginning also offers a chance to purge the old. The old clothes, shoes, knick-knacks, decorative pictures, decorative pillows, decorative anything, whatever it may be that has been outgrown, can now be tossed, given away, or sold without guilt. I think the important thing to remember is, you don’t HAVE to toss anything but moving can be a good excuse to get rid of the sweatshirt someone bought you that you didn’t like but feel guilty about getting rid of. The retired person most likely has more stuff and can now purge guilt-free.

FunctionChair that turns to a bed

When moving into a new space, function, is, of course, the first priority. You must have the basics that provide you with comfort and the necessities.

If you are moving from home to home you most likely have, assuming it fits into your new home, at least a few pieces of furniture. Whether starting fresh or moving a U haul load, this is a great opportunity to update your existing or purchase new.

Side note: I think updating and purchasing “new” can be done on a budget. A coat of paint or decorative painting can completely change a piece of furniture. If you are painting challenged, try a local high school or college art department, they may paint for the price of a pizza. Most hardware stores and big box stores will sell paint that people returned (due to the color) at a reduced rate, just keep checking back until there is a color you like.

Also, there are a ton of people getting rid of furniture all the time, you may be able to find a “new to you” piece at yard sale prices. What I’m saying is to be creative. This is a great time to get what you want!

If you are looking for new items, look for items that are multi-functional or serve a dual-purpose. An ottoman with storage, a lamp with a USB port, a chair that is also a bed, use a bookcase as a room divider, the possibilities are endless!


The function is important and your space may be limited, but style can make the difference between you loving your space or it feeling like a hotel room.

Some people get caught up in having one “style” such as country, beach, boho, or blue but you can like and have pieces from all those elements mixed together. Your style doesn’t have to fit into a box, be eclectic and let it naturally evolve!

PersonalityTraveling gnome, M&M container, bobble head turtle and yellow bird

Insert you in to your space! I took several pieces sitting around the house for the picture to the right (yes, I had to dust them first). Wow, that is eclectic!

They all bring me joy and say a little about me.

My mother-in-law got me the M&M container – I love M&M’s and yellow. My husband has an M&M container wearing camo because he was in the reserves. I smile when I see them sitting on the shelf.

The Travelocity traveling gnome, my brother got for me. I love to travel plus my sister-in-law and I love the show The Amazing Race, again, I smile when I see it.

The yellow bird – I was with friends on vacation, it caught my eye, and I “had” to have it! It is breakable and a little heavy and I lugged it back (I can’t remember where we were) and I’m so happy I did.

The little bobblehead turtle wearing glasses is made from seashells and it makes me laugh! My brother, sister-in-law, and I were in Vegas visiting family. We went to the Hoover Dam one day while they worked and stopped at the biggest tourist trap souvenir place you have ever seen…and I found the turtle there.

We have snapshots of loved ones all over the house, we love looking at the pictures. These are all things that insert personality into our home and bring back fond memories of people, places, and trips.

But if photos and knick-knacks stress you out, skip them! Be true to you!


This is where succulents come in. A room can be functional, stylish, full of personality and when you add a succulent (or any plant) you add warmth and a homey feel.

Here are some benefits of having succulents in your space.

  • The make your space healthier by cleaning the air
  • They are calming and reduce stress
  • They release oxygen at night which can help you sleep
  • They can boost your mood
  • They have been shown to improve focus and memory

Read this article for more details on their benefits.

Do you think they would be a pain to care for? Think again!

They are:

  • Small
  • Slow growing
  • Hardy
  • Easy to transport back and forth during summer break or if you are a snowbird in Florida for the winter
  • The pot/planter can add more style and personality to a room
  • Most succulents are easy to care for and some need only low light
  • They can sit on a shelf, be in a hanging pot, or you can get pots that mount to the wall

Here is a quick guide to taking care of them – Succulents and Care

Still not convinced that succulents add a lot to a room? Check Pinterest or any HGTV home makeover show, most of the time a few plants are added to the “new” room to give it that comfortable and cozy feel.


Fun Planters

Moving + Change = Stress

This formula has been tested and tested for years! No matter how happy and excited someone is about moving, it is stressful.

By having the proper function you need in your new space, having your style and personality reflected in the space, and by adding some warmth via succulents, it can begin to feel like home in no time!

Have you added plants to a room and loved it? Been stressed when moving? Do plants make your space feel cozier? Let me know by commenting below.

18 Responses

  1. Great ideas for dorm rooms and how to save space. I know when I was in college the best purchase I made was one of those bunk beds that has a desk and built in shelves and/or drawers under it. It made the space in my dorm room so much more useful! I didn’t feel closed in and cluttered as much after that. Another tip I would suggest is to get a Pothos plant, or House Ivy, they are hard to kill, grow in low light and add a nice touch of greenness and fresh air to the dorm room. Anywho, great post on dorm room ideas, liked it!

    • Hi,

      Great tips! I think any inch of space you could save in a dorm would be great! 

      The two plants you suggested are great, I’m just partial to succulents. 🙂

      Thanks for commenting!


  2. Thank you so much for this awesome post!  I have been needing to find a way to help my brother transfer over to college.  I started college almost 10 years ago, so my perspective is a little different, and plus, I did not have a smooth transition.  This might actually help my brother transition to college better.

    • Hi Jessie,

      I think it is great you want to help your brother have an easier time than you did. I hope his transition goes well.

      Let me know if you have any questions!


  3. Hey Lisa, awesome article. Thanks for the information. You know, I wish this was around when I was in college but its something to pass onto my kids when they start college. You are right about many things in your article but the one thing you were right about is, function. Your article was great read, great job!

  4. Hi, I enjoyed reading this. I have always struggled with decoration.  You make a great point when you say that you have to consider that the bigger the items you have, the more difficult it is to move.]

    I am in my early thirties, and I have had to move several times in my life. It has always been easy for me because I like to keep a clutter free living space, and I never watch TV or play videos games or whatever. 

    You can always get free stuff from kijiji, or thrift stores have lots of great stuff.

    I remember when I moved to a new city, I had no problem finding a free 30 inch TV. All I had to do is pick it up. However it was made in the 90’s so you can imagine how huge and heavy that thing was.

    As a side note, my dad recently told me that he seen a 50 inch TV for 150 dollars on boxing day. That is how fast things are decreasing in price.  You can also find great deals on amazon, including your school textbooks.


    • Hi Jake,

      Lol, oh my, I’m imagining the 90’s TV. I bet that was a beast to move!

      I think the saying, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” is appropriate for moving! It is easy to get rid of and find “new to you” items.

      Thanks for commenting!


  5. Great tips,I was think about what to do about my accommodation when I get to college but with this I think am ok,A little bit of space would be nice.i suggest a balcony would be great if added and also some where no to far with lots of plants and trees would be nice 

    • Hi David,

      I agree with a balcony and some outdoor space! I think the outdoor space is always great!

      Let me know if you have any questions!


  6. Some great ideas for moving and even scaling down. Making a home away from home is what it is all about. I love the succulents idea.

    I think the worst part about moving to a smaller space is deciding what you need and what you don’t. We all tend to collect so much rubbish that we don’t actually need, but that we think we do. The key is learning to downscale, declutter and take only what you are going to use.

    • Hi Michel,

      I totally agree we all do collect a bunch of stuff! I feel if I clean out a drawer or closet this year, I can do the same next year and find just as much stuff to get rid of!  Ugh

      Let me know if I can answer questions!


  7. This is a article! I have a son that is about to move out soon into his first apartment, and I am trying to get him to understand that he will need to start planning on getting his own stuff, because outside of his furniture that he has in his room, he’s not getting my couch and things from the living room! Although since I just got my first succulent, I am thinking of getting him one that he can take with him to remind him of home 🙂 It is an exciting time, thank you for the post, I will share this with him!

    • Hi Travis,

      Oh, that is an exciting time, how fun! Enjoy this new beginning and let me know if you have any questions about your new plant!

      Thanks for sharing!


  8. Very nice write up on dorm room ideas. I especially agree very well with the idea of buying furnitures from people looking to get rid of them. It helped me cut costs when I got into college. I like the idea of making use of multi-functional items, it will help create more space as I don’t like staying in a clustered room. Thanks so much for this article, it’s a big help.

  9. Such a great find of an article. Its’ very unique. But I think it’s very well thought out. I love how you explain the importance of start off in a dorm in their for year of college. And how you point out, living within the means weather it be new or used furniture. Or even going garage sale shopping to add more jazz to the dorm helps tremendous especially living on a budget for college kids.

    Great work! 

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