Here Are The Best 32 Dorm Ideas You’ve Never Thought Of

We asked our Grown and Flown community for their best ideas for dorm supplies and furnishings that their teens always used. While you may have covered the shopping basics, here are dorm ideas you might not have considered. They could be game-changers for your college student!

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Best dorm ideas

1. W00Z00 fan

These fans have become wildly popular and are now available in six colors. It has three speed settings and a compact design to fit on a desk or small surface space in a dorm.

2. Custom pillow

Wanting to make a dorm feel like home makes it easy to get caught up in a “more the merrier” mindset, especially with pillows. Enter All About Vibe and their custom-shaped pillows that can be made from any image (pets + people pics = priceless). They are easy to order, larger than life, and one or two (or three or four!) will do the trick.

Use discount code DORM to receive 25% off your order before July 31, 2023.

Three woofs(!) for custom pillows from All About Vibe.

3. Mini air-purifier

Dorm rooms are stuffy and dusty. This mini air-purifier by #1 brand Levoit does triple duty by helping students live in a cleaner environment, sleep more easily with the white noise emitted at night and benefit from aromatherapy with a few drops of essential oils applied to the built-in aroma pad.

4. Centered Student Planner

The college professor who designed this academic planner did so to help students with time management. The Centered Student Planner, available in five beautiful colors, not only has space for your student to plan out each week’s assignments and activities but is filled with positive messages. It also comes with a QR code giving them access to 52 digital lessons about college success.

student centered planner

5. Mattress encasement

A zippered mattress encasement that encloses the brick dorm-like mattress, plus the topper you might have purchased, will all stay cleaner and give your teen a chance for a healthier night’s sleep. AllerEase makes one that is waterproof and is a bedbug and allergen (e.g., dust mite) barrier.

mattress cover

6. Gorilla Grip mattress slide stopper and gripper

Who knew there is such a thing as a “mattress slide stopper and gripper?” Grown and Flown parents rave about how this thin, dual-sided grip pad (in twin XL size) keeps the mattress topper from sliding off the plastic dorm mattress. This inexpensive dorm idea is genius!

7. She’s Birdie Personal Alarm

This small personal alarm might help your daughter prepare for a situation where she feels frightened. Pull the pin to activate a loud alarm and flashing strobe light to create a diversion. The pin can be replaced and reused.

  • And now, there’s Birdie+, the second-generation alarm with enhanced options, including:
  • connection to a live representative 24/7 (the US only)
  • the ability to trigger an excuse-to-leave call to remove herself from a sticky situation
  • location sharing with her emergency contacts
  • loud siren
  • monthly or annual subscription

she's birdie

8. Master Lock personal safe

Is your teen taking prescription medication, keepsake jewelry, or a passport to college? This compact safe may be exactly what they need to keep these valuable things secure. This one has a cable to tether the safe in their dorm room.

9. Rolling cart

We can see loads of uses for this cart both in the dorm and, later, in an apartment. Sold at Target, they are available in six colors.

10. Over-the-door shoe (and stuff) organizer

This lightweight shoe organizer fits over a door and can hold much more than shoes. Students use it to store snacks, toiletries, Clorox wipes, school supplies, and more.

11. Long phone charging cable

Many freshmen dorms are old and short on outlets. Since our teens never let their phones leave their hands, the charger must stretch from wall to bed, even if that bed is a top bunk. This highly-rated one by Anker is durable, charges at high speed, and is 10 feet long.

charging cord

12. IKEA Frakta bags

There is no place to store luggage in a dorm room (except under the bed, where it will be disgusting in nine months), so we suggest these great, inexpensive IKEA bags for moving in and out. They are airtight, perfect for storing off-season clothes or extra bedding.

IKEA bags

13. Silicone collapsible and stackable dishes

Students will want snacks in their room, and these collapsible silicone dishes (set of 3) are a perfect solution for storing and heating food. They are dishwasher, freezer, and microwaveable safe. As a bonus, a foldable spoon and fork are included in this set.

14. Fridge cart

Getting a mini fridge is a no-brainer for college students, but less obvious is how to store the gear your student would like to have for fixing a snack. Store plates, mugs, paper towels, and non-perishable snacks in this cart, and use the valuable space under the fridge by elevating it.

15. Mini projector

There is no need to take a bulky TV to a small dorm room, especially when a portable projector is an option. Multiple ports for TV Stick/Box, Chrome-cast, Roku-Stick, Game Console, PCs, smartphones and laptops, DVD players, TF cards, and USB Sticks make streaming movies or video games a breeze.

16. Lighted makeup mirror

Illumination in a dorm room is often limited to overhead lighting, and communal bathrooms may not be conducive to putting on makeup. This mirror has three light settings and can be powered by 4 AA batteries or a power cord.

17. Bolster pillow

Most dorm beds don’t have headboards, and being able to prop up in bed to read or study can be uncomfortable. This oversized bolster pillow is available in seven colors and has a washable cover. Many of our Grown and Flown members say their students loved having this pillow.

bolster pillow

18. Pool noodle

Use a pool noodle to close the gap between the dorm bed and the wall to prevent phones or other valuables from slipping through the space and falling to the floor. These are available in two-packs, so bring both and share with a roommate.

19. Twin sheets with pocket for phone

Another solution for securing a phone at bedtime are sheets with pockets. These are available in multiple colors.

20. Coat tree

Because square footage is so limited in a dorm room and is typically shared by roommates, think about how the vertical space can be used. My daughter loved using a coat tree and kept it all for years.

coat tree

21. Drying rack

Another thing she used every time she did laundry was a drying rack for her workout gear — which tended to be what she wore to class most of the time.

drying rack

22. Shout stain remover kit

Laundry at school is not like laundry and home; teens need all the help they can get. They may not soak a stain or be able to treat it right away, so give them a box of these Shout Wipes Towelettes.

dorm ideas

23. Flashlight

Yes, they have flashlights on their phones, but when the power goes out, or they need to get up and not disturb a roommate, you can bet the phone will be dead.

dorm ideas

24. Air mattress

If your teen has high school friends or siblings visiting, an air mattress will be an extra bed that can be blown up quickly and stored away. 

25. Doorstop

Make friends, meet new people, and don’t get locked out of your dorm room the first week of school. Never has such a small, inexpensive item accomplished so much.

door stopper

26. Area rug

Dorm floors are cold, uninviting, and gross. An area rug in a neutral color can be used in the next dorm or apartment and might make it through all four years (with a good wash or dry cleaning over the summer!) We think this washable rug from Pottery Barn is great looking in either blue and grey.

27. First aid kit

It’s crucial to send your teen with a first aid kit of the basics — bandaids, pain relief, something for cold and cough, and a thermometer. But here is also the most comprehensive list of items to think about from a pharmacist/college mom that you should look at before you leave home.

J&J first aid kit

28. Bedside caddy

Elevated beds make it difficult to have a nightstand to hold a book, phone, water bottle, etc. This bedside caddy has 8 pockets with spaces for all.

29. BedShelfie bedside tray

This bed shelf is another popular way to store a phone, glasses, AirPods, or a book before turning out the lights to go to sleep.

dorm bed shelf

30. Magnetic paper towel holder

We all need paper towels close at hand, and with this magnetic roll holder, your student can connect it to the fridge, where spills are often likely to occur.

31. Electric kettle

If your teen’s dorm permits, an electric kettle could be a practical addition to their room. Make tea, coffee, hot chocolate, Ramen noodles, or any beverage or snack that requires boiling water. This one has stainless steel auto shut-off (no risk of broken glass.)

32. Brita pitcher

Students need to have a water bottle with them during the day, which they can fill at stations around campus. A Brita pitcher can keep filtered water cold in a mini fridge. This is a smaller model that holds 6 cups of water.

You Might Also Love Reading:

College Move-In Day: 12 Things That Will Save Your Life — these are 12 of the most useful things that our Grown and Flown parents told us they could not live without on move-in day.

33 Bestselling Dorm Essentials — you can find longer lists, but some of those recommendations are for things your teen may never use. These 25 things are the most popular for most students living in dorms.

About Grown and Flown

Mary Dell Harrington and Lisa (Endlich) Heffernan are the co-founders of Grown and Flown the #1 site for parents of teens, college students and young adults, reaching millions of parents every month. They are writers (Lisa is a New York Times bestselling author), moms, wives and friends. They started the Grown and Flown Parents Facebook Group and are co-authors of Grown and Flown: How to Support Your Teen, Stay Close as a Family, and Raise Independent Adults (Flatiron Books) now in paperback.

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