Saturday, December 5, 2015

Reader Question: Gothic Dorm Room Survival

Hi. I was wondering if at any point you would consider doing a post for people going off to live in dorms? There's not a lot of space in many dorm rooms. What pieces could someone bring to 1)be functional in college/on campus living 2)be able to switch up their looks + stay true to their aesthetic but 3)not have a completely cluttered dorm room. All the boots and jackets and accessories - it can get cluttered in in a fair-sized room at home. But on campus? It seems like a nightmare. Thanks a ton for reading my email.

First off, congratulations on your college journey! I hope you enjoy it and make the most out of it. I'm just now at the tail end of my undergraduate degree (I graduate this spring, eek!) so it's cool to see people coming in and worried about the same things I was worried about as a first year (along with, what if my roommate hates me, what if I have no friends, what if my professors don't recognize my genius, etc.) 

First thing's first for moving into a new dorm is determining what the space you have to work with is like. Chances are you'll be given your room assignment prior to actually arriving on campus so that's a good start. Your college's website should probably have information about each of the dorms, maybe even pictures inside or floor plans to give you a better idea. Some information you should be looking for:
  • Who are you sharing your space with? Is it a suite, a single, double, triple? Is it apartment style? 
  • What furniture already comes in the room? Typically you'll have a bed, desk, a chair, drawers, and a closet. Some colleges might provide you bedclothes already, be sure to check the website. 
  • What is there space for? Is there no room to move the furniture around? Can you squeeze in a standing lamp?
Next, you should determine the rules you're going to have to contend with. While colleges vary about how much they enforce their rules, it is generally speaking better to be safe than sorry. Some typical rules might be:
  • No painting the walls or putting holes in them with nails or tacks
  • No adding furniture (including futons, comfy chairs, etc.)
  • No candles, incense, wax tart burners, electric blankets, fairy lights, lava lamps, or other fire hazards.
  • No small appliances (microwaves, mini fridges, toaster ovens, etc.)
  • Weapons (even if your prized sword is just decorative.)
So, what about a packing list? That very much depends on what kind of space you're working with and if you're cooking for yourself at all (and what your college provides you, see above!) 

Here are my must-haves for a dorm room:
  • Clothing (Duh.)
  • Bedclothes (Duvet/quilt, fitted sheet, pillows, maybe a spare blanket if you get cold easily.)
  • School supplies (Notebooks, pens, pencils, calculator, stapler, binder, etc.)
  • Desk lamp
  • Tech stuff (Laptop/computer, alarm clock, tablet, phone, kindle, whatever and THEIR CHARGERS!!!)
  • Dishes (Especially if you need to cook for yourself, but even if you don't invest in a travel mug and a sponge and dish soap.)
  • First aid kit, Toiletries, and Cosmetics
  • Laundry/Clothes Stuff (Hangers, detergent, a laundry basket [I've seen a lot of places tout collapsible laundry baskets but in my experience they always fall over and create more of a mess so I wouldn't recommend], jewelry box or organizer, etc.) 
And here are my "nice, but not necessary" things:
  • Rug
  • Real plants (seriously they brighten up your room like nothing else)
  • Bulletin board
  • Minifridge or microwave
  • Hot water kettle or coffee maker
  • Standing floor lamp
  • Fan for hot weather
  • Locking safe for valuables or money. 
  • Adhesive hooks for hanging up accessories, decor, etc. 
Now, you don't have to break the bank decorating your Goth dorm room! Yes, it would be really nice. to have a completely matching dorm room set with room accents from upscale Goth shops but in reality that's not going to happen. I have a great deal of cool stuff listed on my Goth Dorm pinterest board for some inspiration but buying all of it would, sadly, break the bank. So, my money saving tips are: 
  • Use things you already have. Already have a comforter you like? Already have great posters? Awesome. No need to buy new ones, then.
  • Decorate with your jewelry, scarves, or other clothing items!
  • Avoid big box stores when possible and go thrifting for furniture and decor. Invest in a can of black spray paint and you should be golden for decor.
  • Don't feel the need to decorate everything ridiculously when you first get there! Halloween is just around the corner, look for more things on sale then.
  • When possible make it yourself. 
So, how to add spook without adding clutter and without a lot of money? There are tons of ways, I have a list of 100 Gothic dorm decor DIY projects you can do to decorate your space the best you can. Here are a sample few of my favorites:
  • Cut out bats from black construction paper and create a flock on your wall
  • Paint a decorative design on a rug using fabric paint (bonus: keeps your feet warm when the floors are freezing.)
  • Use empty jars and cans covered in scrapbook paper or fabric for your desk organization.
  • Go to the fabric store and recover boring throw pillows with something Gothy worthy.
If you're concerned about clutter basically what you want to do is avoid anything that takes up floor space and instead Goth-up organizational things you already need and will use. So, many avoid stocking up on lots of little figurines or candle holders and spend more time making sure your bed clothes (the focal point of your room) and desk look nice and Gothy.

Also, make use of hidden storage. Find shallow bins to go under your bed to keep out-of-season clothing or things you don't need at that moment. Hang over-the-door hooks on your closet doors to keep purses or scarves out of the way.

You also need to make sure your room is clean. Yes, you will be busy. Yes, you will be tired. But nothing makes a room feel smaller than for it to be covered in mess. If you need some inspiration, check out Unfuck Your Habitat.

Other miscellaneous tips:
  • Having walls covered in posters is all well and good until they start coming down in the middle of the night and scaring the everloving shit out of you. Invest in good tape/tacks. 
  • Buy a corkboard and paint it black and then tack up smaller memorabilia and inspiration as the year goes on. It's a cheap, ever-evolving project completely tailor-made for you!
  • Mirrors make small spaces look larger (and also give a good place to take selfies! If possible arrange at least one mirror opposite the window to bounce light off and make the whole space seem more open. 

Readers, have you ever lived in a dorm before? What did you do to decorate?


  1. I had a rule where all electricals had to be safety tested, regardless of what they were, from a desk lamp to my laptop, before it was allowed. I also wasn't allowed to cover my walls in posters as this was deemed a fire-hazard. I was, however, allowed fairy-lights if they were the LED type and safety tested - LED ones don't tend to get as hot. Decorating your storage items is my tip - you can get desk tidies, etc. that are already Goth-y, but you can also get plain black ones and make them spookier. I have my own study at my own house, but I've still got a fancy bin (waste-paper basket) that's spray painted black, a repurposed bit of spooky packaging (for some spiderweb glass candle votive holders) that I put bat stickers on as a desk tidy, a coffin-shaped box from Hallowe'en I painted and decorated for my sharpies, etc. It's all stuff you need, doesn't tend to break any rules, and can still show your personality.

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