1. Live Without: It can be difficult when moving away from home, usually for the first time, to think about all the things you'll be living without. In this parting of ways, it can be easy to horde things and spend all your time thinking about all the "stuff and things" you want to bring with you to help ease the pains of separation. In the process of all this, small dorm spaces can get bogged down with things you don't really need. Try downsizing, if not doing completely without many of the things you think you might need or have to have.
2. Focus On Your Work Areas: It doesn't matter if you have an awesome couch, fine linens or a microwave, what matters most is making sure you can accomplish what you need to in the space. Sleeping comfortably, working comfortably and a space for study are all at the top of the list. Even if it means doing without something you'd like to bring into the space, you pay for college and should be able to make the most of it without fighting a desk that's too small or a bed you can't get into.
3. Lighting! Lighting! Lighting!: Dorm lighting is always horrible. Overhead florescents aren't good for anything and a single desk or task lamp just doesn't get the job done. Plan on having three light sources if at all possible. This is the only time in your life (most likely) you won't have to pay for utilities, so make the most of it! Rope lights, floor lamps, desk lamps and pendant lamps are all a good idea, check out up lighting as a great option as is altering the basic overhead rectangular fixture or making your own lighting creation! Just please be cautious to not burn the place down.
4. DIY With Restrain & Purpose: DIY ideas for temporary spaces is a great way to jazz the place up. But a little goes a long way to make your room stand out from others. A room with clever DIY improvements makes for a great punch and a way to personalize your space, but a room with DIY overload can feel chaotic. Make your DIY projects count and use them to reflect bits of your personality and taste.
5. Add A Rug or Carpet: A real rug. Save up the extra cash and buy one you'll really love instead of the $30 big box special or check with carpet stores instead of the major hardware stores for in stock remnants for less than the price of a smaller area rug (plus you can pick up a piece of padding at a steal!). When seating is limited, the floor is an excellent option next time you're hosting Wii night in your room without the aid of having chairs. Plus it will help soften the visual weight of the usually heavy and oppressive furniture you'll be stuck with for at least the next semester.
6. Add Impromptu Seating: Poufs, Mats and Floor cushions are all great ways to bring in seating without having to bring in a couch or extra chairs. Try stacking them in a corner or at the foot of your bed to keep them accessible but out of the way until needed. Even if you don't plan on doing a great deal of entertaining, they can be a nice relief from laying in bed or sitting in a chair.
7. Textiles: Curtains (don't forget you can easily make cool ones yourself), throws, pillows and bed linens are all great ways to add some color without having to paint or add diy treatments to the walls (which is your first reaction when you move into your new stark white space). Try pinning fabric to the existing curtains or making your own. Often times fabric will be less pricey than buying them pre-made. Try picking one multi-colored pattern piece and pulling individual colors from it to use elsewhere in the space. It's a great way to have everything work together without being super matchy matchy (which means thrift stores and even auctions are a great place to find things).
8. Frame It Up: Although it can be easy to deck out your walls with large amounts of double sided tape and last week's kegger photos, try using your new found room as a more grown up space instead of something that looks like the expanded version of your high school locker. Try using Flickr, Facebook and Twitter for your pictures, or even make a book of them and frame up the ones you especially love. Industrial strength velcro works wonders for holding up inexpensive frames that are also light weight. Rotate through your favorites or try grouping smaller shots together to make a bigger impact.
9. Mattress Pad: Dorm mattresses are up there with the ones found in RV's. Plastic and uncomfortable, try adding one, if not two or three mattress pads. Have a foam topper? That will be a great addition. Try looking for loss leader sales on them or checking places like Overstock.com for ones on the cheap. If you find a king size at a steal of a price, find a friend to share it with and cut it in half! Just remember they smell weird when you unroll them, so try airing it out before you get to campus if at all possible.
10. Reflective Light: Mirrors are your new best friend. They instantly make a room look larger and you aren't confined to using just a rectangular one on the back of your door. If you want to make a larger floor mirror without the cost, try gluing mirrored tiles (found at your local hardware store for usually $1-$2 a tile) to a board (try Craigslist for someone cleaning out their garage) and prop it against a wall or use industrial velcro (really, it's your new best friend, forget those release sticky tab things) to attach it. It will be a fabulous addition anywhere you put it, but across from your windows or near a light source will be your best bet! Don't forget they can be horizontal as well as vertical!
What helped your dorm room feel like home, instead of a hole in the wall? Let us know in the comments below!