Whether you’re a parent gearing up to send your littles back to school or are looking for inexpensive ways to customize your college freshman’s dorm room, we’ve got you covered with clever tips and products to help you get ready.
Get Organized at Home
In addition to stocking up on the usual supplies, like notebooks, pens, coloured pencils and highlighters, getting ready for the school year means getting your home organized. From bookcases to bins, smart (and stylish!) organization items are a must to keep your areas clutter-free and ensure your supplies are right where you need them.
A schoolroom essential, cubbies are another great way to get organized at home, especially with younger children. This cute, customizable Cubby Bench is handcrafted in Canada and provides three deep cubbies for school supplies and all of the essentials that need to be carted back and forth to school. Assign one bin to each child and place by the door, along with some handy wall hooks, to keep everything within reach and ready to go for the mad dash out the door in the morning.
The Oslember accent table is another clutter-busting piece of furniture for the front or back door, providing four catch-all baskets for everything from homework to ballet shoes, plus two drawers to keep keys, permission slips, and other important things from getting lost. Hang a memo board or large calendar above to keep the family organized and on schedule.
With plenty of storage behind its glass doors, and two large drawers, the versatile Extension Server is a great piece for storing school supplies and looks right at home in the dining room—perfect if your study space is the dining room table! Whenever you need more space for organizing paperwork or study materials, the hinged top opens, doubling the available surface area.
If you have an underused breakfast nook or even a few feet of open space in the kitchen, create a functional study area that doesn’t scream “office” with this compact trestle desk. Two open shelves and a woven basket provide storage for stationery and essentials, and the heavily distressed paint adds just the right amount of charm.
While you’re in the kitchen, create a kid-friendly station for breakfast and after-school snacks with a cabinet dedicated to the task. Stock the cabinet with a selection of healthy snacks/breakfast favourites and place it in a low-traffic area to prevent the kids from getting in the way when you’re preparing dinner. The Withurst cabinet, above, is an especially clever choice because the drop leaf top flips up, allowing the kids to pull up a bar stool an eat right on the natural wood top—just add a couple small bar stools.
Decorate a Dorm Room or Apartment
Whether you’re furnishing a studio apartment or decorating a dorm room, form is often as important as function. Even if there are restrictions on what you can do within those four walls, or you’re on a tight budget, creating a cozy space to retreat to for sleeping and studying will make it feel more like home and help to soften the blow of being away from family and friends.
First priority for any sleeping quarters is, of course, the bed. Our pick for convenience, price, AND comfort is Lexi bed-in-a-box. Lexi is a memory foam mattress that ships compressed and rolled, making it easy to transport and set up, and can be used on any platform or slat bed, or on Lexi’s own Rapid Base. Just add a comfortable pillow infused with relaxing lavender and you’re set for a great night’s sleep.
Next up, a space saving desk! The Yarlow in classic black metal and wood has a relatively small footprint, but provides additional storage and display space in its cubby and two upper shelves. Paired with a compact fridge and microwave, this minimalist, ladder-style unit can also double as a compact kitchen/dining area.
Having fresh food and cold drinks on hand is not only a healthy idea, but it can also save hundreds of dollars in convenience store, vending machine, and food delivery costs. This compact fridge by Danby has three shelves for snacks, salads, and condiments, plus room in the door for both canned drinks and tall bottles.
A small microwave oven is another dorm room must for late night snacks, popcorn and mug cakes, quick dinners, and heating up leftover pizza. To save room, this compact 0.7 cubic foot Danby microwave fits perfectly on top of the fridge above or can be placed in a bookcase.
Besides holding books and study materials, a bookcase is a must for electronics, plants, and picture frames, and can stand in as open shelving for clothes and shoes, a pantry for food and snacks, or a spot to hold hobby and sports equipment. Choose a sturdy one, like the Gillesgrove, and it will serve you for years to come. To keep smaller objects organized on the shelves, invest in several small baskets or decorative shoeboxes.
To make your dorm room or apartment feel more like home, it will need a personal touch. This is especially true if the unit is pre-furnished. Often, the furniture that comes with a dorm or apartment is drab and uninspired, but you can give your space some personality with trendy home decor accessories like throw pillows and small area rugs. If you plan to entertain, but are short on space, add a few floor pillows and/or a trendy pouf for impromptu seating.
Your bed is another place to add a bold stroke of colour and personality. To make sure you wake up on the right side of the bed, look for a cheerful set like the Banjarin in bright, sunshine yellow. For days when you're feeling a little more subdued or just want to mix things up, it reverses to a warm, neutral taupe to give you a whole new look.
Since most dorms and rental units have white-painted walls, a few pieces of art can go a long way to make the room more enjoyable. To hang your wall hangings and prints without causing any damage to the walls, use removable Command hooks and picture hangers. They might cost a little more than a traditional picture nail, but they’ll save you time and money in the long run.
Finally, don’t underestimate the power of good lighting. Most dorm rooms and rental units will have a plain ceiling fixture, which isn’t just bad for studying, it’s not the most welcoming or flattering light. If this is the case for you, consider adding your own lighting, like a couple table lamps you can place around the room, and, to make those late-night studying sessions easier on your eyes, a task light for your desk or nightstand. The Austbeck lamp, above, includes a wireless charging base to keep your phone charged up and ready to go.
Another fun touch is to add fairy lights to your wall, around your window or furniture, or to outline a “headboard” of sorts. Again, use Command hooks for painless installation and, if your lights are battery-powered, choose rechargeables for a greener option that will save you some cash in the long run.