Posts filed under 'dorm room'

Dorm Zen: Have a (Teeny) Pet

When I lived at home, there were few things more rewarding than having my two dachshunds run to greet me when I walked in the door. I really missed them when I moved off to college, but clearly I couldn’t have a dog in the dorms. In fact, I couldn’t even have one when I moved off-campus to an apartment, because most complexes either don’t allow cats and dogs, or charge an extra fee for them.
What’s an animal lover to do?

Go Fish

In the middle of my sophomore year, our RAs introduced a big competition among all the on-campus apartments in our area–goldfish. The concept was simple: keep your fish alive the longest and you get a gift certificate for fish tacos (ironic!). I was pretty excited about the fish, and quickly took over the care of our golden friend Joanna.

The great thing is, after a little effort for the set up, there are some fish that are VERY easy to care for. And they have a very soothing, zen-like presence; watching them swim around is very relaxing (why do you think they show up in so many dental offices?!).

Which Fish?

For beginners, I’d recommend getting either a Goldfish or a Betta. They don’t require much space, and aside from a little feeding and the occasional water change, they are relatively self-sufficient. And pretty!

Note: Betta’s are the lowest maintenance as single fish, but if you get a Betta, only get one! They don’t play well with others.

The Proper Care and Feeding of Fish

Both Goldfish and Betas are very hardy fish, but they still require some care, so again, don’t get one if you don’t have the time (or will) to care for them. Also, keep in mind that the initial set up will take more effort than the day-to-day care of your fish.

Here is are a few great resources for basic Betta & Goldfish care:

photo by afranklin

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12 comments March 23rd, 2009

Weekend Project(s): Spring Clean Your Dorm Room

As hateful as it is, there comes a time when you have to break down and clean up, even when Mom’s not around to make you do it. You don’t want your room to be known around the building as “the room that the smell comes from.” That’s bad for your social life.

Never fear! If there is any kind of week-old food under your bed, a layer of dust on your shelves whiter than the snow outside, or a stack of notes from last semester still sitting on top of your TV, do I have some ideas for you.

Making it Less Painful

If you’re like most students, you probably don’t want to spend Friday night Q-tip cleaning your keyboard, so I’d suggest breaking down the whole “Spring Cleaning” process over a few weekends. Choose one or two tasks per weekend day, and when you get those done go out and enjoy the rest of your class-free time.

I’d also suggest that you (1) get some really high energy, fun music going and (2) give yourself a reward to look forward to, be it a pint of Ben & Jerry’s or an evening out with your sweetie. Don’t skip give in and skip out early, though, or the whole “reward” technique won’t do much for your cleaning skills.

The To-Do List

Here are a few suggestions for how to break down your clean-up process. Remember to add in cleaning other rooms if you live in an apartment (and get your roommates in on the action!). Thanks to Apartment Therapy for the inspiration.

  1. First Sweep. Pick up and put away all the junk that has accumulated over the past days, weeks, and months. Throw away old food. Make three piles of stuff you don’t need anymore (i.e. stuff from classes that are over): Garbage, Donate, and Sell. Then deal with those piles accordingly.
  2. The Bed. Pull everything off your bed–sheets, blankets, pillowcases, etc. and wash it. Remember, duvets and pillows themselves don’t get washed (just their covers do). Flip the mattress (so you don’t get a divet in the middle where you sleep). Remake the bed.
  3. The Floor. Pick up anything that doesn’t belong on the floor. Clean out the stuff under your bed. Vacuum everywhere, including the bottom of your closet, under your desk, and under your bed.
  4. Glass Surfaces. Clean windows, mirrors, etc. with a glass or all-purpose cleaner.
  5. Other Surfaces. Dust everything with dust on it–flat surfaces like tables and desks, picture frames, computer & TV screens and clean any other gunk off them. Wipe down things you touch a lot like light switches and remotes with a good cleaner.
  6. Window Shades. Vacuum or dust these–they get gross.
  7. Computer. Turn your computer off. Spray out the keyboard and any ports or fan vents with one of those compressed air cans to get any dust or crumbs out. Wipe your screen with a computer-safe cleaner.
  8. Other. If you live off campus, you should also deep clean the kitchen, bathroom, and living space. Let me know if you want to-do lists for those, too. (I know “want” is a strong word in this context, but you know what I mean!)

Now, get out there and get cleaning!

photo: Bedtime by ddrccl

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2 comments March 6th, 2009

Dorm Zen: Grow a (Teeny) Garden

Frankly, school has always stressed me out. Sometimes the mere sight of a text books makes my jaw tighten and a headache start building. Which is why I think it’s important (and just plain nice) to have a little moment of zen now and then.

Your Moment of Zen

Plants have long been revered as having a soothing influence, and its actually pretty rewarding to take care of something and watch it thrive.

If you want to start off with a super-easy plant, I’d recommend getting a “Lucky Bamboo” plant (these aren’t actually a true bamboo, but they look like it). You can get a good one for around $10, and they are very easy to care for–just make sure there is some water in the little bowl and you’re pretty much good to go. (Find more detailed care tips here or here .) My mom gave me a Lucky Bamboo before I went away to college, and it followed me through almost all four years!

Taking it to the Next Level

Once I’d mastered the Lucky Bamboo, I wanted to move on to something a little more exciting, so I tried out a terrarium. A terrarium is basically a little grouping of plants in a glass container. I tried one, too, in a glass “hurricane jar” from Crate & Barrell. (I tried to upload a pic for you but I kept getting an error message… Sorry!)

Plants like ferns (that’s what I chose) or cacti are great low-maintenance plants for terrariums. Learn more about making your own here. Just so you know, the Lucky Bamboo is way easier to maintain, but these terrariums are an awesome way to bring the outdoors in (especially in a cold climate!) Or check out these adorable thimble gardens.

No green thumb?

You can still make a silly toy-terrarium … Whatever it takes to reach the pinnacle of relaxation, right? 😉

photo: two straight lines

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5 comments February 20th, 2009

Cheap + Chic for College: Decorating With Freebies

Ah, the internet: your ticket to fabulous furniture freebies. You can find all kinds of great stuff in your area, from used pianos to desks, couches, lamps, and more. Keep a sharp eye out, and you could probably furnish your entire place for free (but you might want to plan on making some renovations to the freebies you find). A little DIY sure beats paying the price tag for customized furniture (like the cubbie cabinet above, from A Colorful Place).

Treasure Hunting

I hear these sites are a great place to search for the freebies of your dreams:

  • (Choose your area + click “free” under the for sale category. Keep in mind you can often find super cheap furniture in their other categories if you’re willing to spend a few bucks.)
  • The Freecycle Network

AND, if you live in an apartment complex, don’t forget to scour each floor at the end of the month (when people typically move out) for discarded goods! People leave behind good stuff! (Case in point, we left behind a TV cabinet and a huge TV because we couldn’t sell them and didn’t want them in our new place!)

Also, don’t forget to let family & friends know that you are available to take their hand-me-downs.

Trash into Treasure

Once you’ve got your freebies, all you have to do is schedule in some weekend DIY time. For lots of furniture, a simple paint job or even just updating the hardware (like drawer pulls, for example) can completely change the look of a piece.

Ready to roll up your sleeves? Check out these awesome tutorials if you need a little help…

Oh! And remember, even if you find a practically-mint piece, remember to spend some time on a basic cleaning job just to be safe–and to make your mom feel better about you picking up used furniture. 😉

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3 comments January 23rd, 2009

College Dorm Décor on the Cheap

First, thanks to all of you for your ideas about improving the site. There’s still time to make suggestions, so if you haven’t yet, let me know what you’d like to see! Now, several of you have asked for more tips about sprucing up your space, so on to the dorm décor ideas…

With all the limitations on dorm room decorating (no paint, no nails, no nothing!) it takes some real creativity to make your dorm room into your own space. But you have more options than posters and white cinderblock… In fact, why not use other people’s creativity to spur your own?

Snoop Around

Take a peek at the wide range of dorm rooms (made and lived in by real people) on HGTV’s Rate My Space. (They’ve been having some server trouble, so you might want to check back later.) I love how creative these students got both with budgeting AND working around the “no nails or paint” restrictions in most dorm rooms.

My favorite hacks from these rooms:

Go to “Therapy”

I love, love, love the creativity that pops up on Apartment Therapy-especially the gorgeous-and-teeny homes that showed up in Apartment Therapy’s Smallest, Coolest Apartments Contest 2008 (and of course the contest from 2007, too). Some of them are entire homes encompassed in 300 square feet, and they’re chock full of ideas for personalizing a small space, like…

DIY, or Just Buy

Yay for the internet, which provides us with thousands of great DIY dorm projects, like MookyChick‘s tips on how to decorate your dorm room on a student budget (thanks to KillJill Goes to College for the link). If you’re interested in making your own dorm décor, start with google or

More in the mood to buy? Check out CollegeFashion’s dorm room shopping series, with tips on everything from buying bedding to smart storage options for small spaces. (And while you’re there, sample some of the fantastic college fashion authoress Briana has collected over the past couple years!)

photo: Bedroom Basics 3 by Lotus Head

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9 comments August 6th, 2008

Easy Ways to Decorate Your Dorm Room

Decorating your dorm room to be cute, comfortable, or even just livable can be a challenge. Colleges have a lot of rules that make it difficult.

The UCSD dorm policy said no holes in the walls—so no push-pins, no nails, no screws—and the only kind of adhesive we could use was blue painter’s tape, which is not very sticky. The only exception to the nail rule was a small strip of wood over the bed where you could nail or pin things up.

These photos are from my sophomore year, when I had a single room. I didn’t have to share with decorating ideas with a roommate, so I had a lot of fun. I know it still isn’t much, but it is light years from where it started! Feel free to steal some of my ideas to help your room feel more like home.

Couch by day, bed by night. My room was small, so there weren’t a lot of seating options. I made my bed into a “couch” during the day by piling it with pillows. I bought some cheap sheets from IKEA in a pattern I liked and sewed up some different sized pillows—a long body pillow to go along the back, two big pillows (also good for floor sitting) and two smaller pillows. It was very comfy, and a very popular lounge spot for my friends.

Light it up. Fluorescent lighting depresses me, so I made sure I had a lot of other lighting options. I hung colored lights over my window and bed, and brought a desk lamp. I also hung a Chinese lantern from the ceiling by attaching it to the fire sprinkler pipe that ran over my desk. (If you want to do that, check to make sure it’s ok with your school).

Colorize. White walls and grey carpet aren’t very stimulating, so I added as much color as I could. I painted an ocean scene on a grass beach mat to hang over my bed, and a blue photo frame. I also displayed books, photos, magazines, notes, posters, and cards with bright colors. Together with my bedding and colored lights, it looked much cheerier than the dull room I first walked into.

Want to see some truly fabulous dorm rooms? Head over to HGTV’s Rate My [Dorm Room] Space to see how some really talented kids have outfitted their dorm rooms.

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Add comment October 4th, 2007

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