News from the Tennessee Valley Living Today

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Deck out your dorm room
They don’t have to be drab — make yourself at home with these tips from local college upperclassmen

By Danielle Komis Palmer · 340-2447

Get ready to say goodbye to ample space and amenities.

A well-equipped kitchen, your private bathroom and plenty of drawer space will become remnants of the past if you are a college student moving from home into a dorm or small apartment. Especially if you are heading to schools such as The University of Alabama or Alabama A&M, where freshman are required to live on campus.

And of course, you will encounter surprises in any new place. When UA student Emily Hammon moved into the dorms her freshman year, she discovered they not only smelled bad, but they also were always too hot or too cold. A good fan and air freshener became necessities for her.

University of North Alabama student Anna Askew found that bringing items that reminded her of home — such as pictures of her family and friends — helped her feel better in her new space. Decorating her dorm room cheerfully was another key to creating a happy environment.

“I used a lot of bright colors because it kind of took away the woes of the dorm,” she said. “The bright colors made it a more inviting place.”

To help make your dorm or apartment more inviting and functional, bring these helpful items for your new journey.

Body pillows

If the only dorm room furniture you have is a bed, there’s one purchase that can help you adjust — a body pillow. Askew, whose dorm bed was butted up to the wall, placed a body pillow along the wall to transform her bed into a couch. “It was comfortable enough where if I had friends over we had a place to sit,” she said.


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Sure, they might sort of remind you of your cubby in elementary school, but stackable items like plastic cubes are a lifesaver in a small space. Hammon used one for her books and turned another one upside down and placed her printer on it so it would fit on her desk.

Shower organizer

If you’re using community showers, the shower tote is a necessity. They’re available in fabric and plastic styles, but water resistant ones tend to work best because you never know which way the unreliable showers will spray. If you’re sharing a shower with only a few others rather than an entire floor, purchase an organizer that you can place in your shower corners or hang from the showerhead so all of your shampoo, body wash, razors, etc. will fit in the shower.

Cover up wrap with straps

Towels are fine when you’re in your own bathroom, but when you’re walking down the hallway, you don’t want your towel to unravel midway down the hall while your friend’s boyfriend is walking by. So for females, a terry wrap with straps that works like a towel is a great option, especially if you plan to blow dry your hair after your shower — you’ll be safely covered but not as hot if you were wearing a heavy robe.

Couch slipcovers

If you inherited your grandmother’s peacock-patterned couch and want to use it in your new living space but hate the way it looks, invest in a decent slipcover. An impromptu sheet thrown over it will not stay in place and will quickly make your place look junky.

Strings of hanging lights

After Hammon and her roommate put up colorful Christmas lights for the holiday season, they liked them so much they never took them down. Hanging lights come in all shapes, sizes and colors and are a great way to give your room a different mood.

“The lights they give you (on campus) are fluorescent and are just too bright at nighttime,” Hammon said. “We hung them around the room so it wasn’t too bright at nighttime but it wasn’t dark like if you were watching TV or something.”

Under-the-bed containers

If you hike up your bed with risers and throw handy storage bins under your bed, you’ll be happy to see that you can fit your entire shoe collection in your dorm room. Along with shoes, the containers can be used for everything from clothes to snacks.

Bulletin boards

Your room may already come with a corkboard, but even if it does, you can’t have too many bulletin boards or message boards. Use them to post your favorite pictures or quotes, and use the message boards on your door for writing notes to roommates or hallmates about where you’re going and when you’ll be back.

Mattress pad

Transforming your flat-as-a-pancake mattress into a fluffy cloud is a great way to ensure you’ll sleep great in your new place away from home. Mattress pads such as foam egg crate styles and down pillow tops are perfect for ensuring all your dreams are sweet.

Floor rugs

Many dorms and apartments don’t come with carpet, or if they do, it’s probably not carpet you’ll be too eager to stretch out on to watch a movie. To warm up the room, cover your cold, tile floor or questionably carpeted floor with a patterned area rug. This will be especially welcome in winter, when a cold floor is the last thing you want your bare feet to feel in the morning.

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