So somehow, I'm already a third-year. It's hard to believe, but in a couple weeks, I will have set up my fifth Oberlin dorm room. I learned some handy things the first four times around, so I wanted to share some with you. Here are my favorite dorm room tips:
1. Duct Tape ID Card Holder
Ah, my famed invention! Ever since my first days on a covid campus, when Oberlin made the switch from physical room keys to swiping/tapping into our rooms using our ID cards, I have been keeping my ID directly next to or above my doorknob while I'm in my room. Once it becomes a habit to put it there immediately after I get into my room, I can reliably find my ID in one place instead of looking around for it. More than that, though, my ID card holder also makes it almost impossible for me to forget my ID as I leave my room. It's literally right there… foolproof. I got locked out exactly once per semester as a second-year— for reference, that's good.
To construct an ID card holder, I recommend using duct tape. You can create each side by folding duct tape so the sticky side isn't exposed and there are two sides, each a little bigger than your ID, that are in some way held together. I'll leave you to figure out which way you'd rather fold it and all that. My one technical thing is that I am literally begging you to put the tape on the metal box above your doorknob and not on the wall or doorframe next to it. Once I thought the doorframe was safe because it's made of metal… silly me, it's metal covered in gray paint. Be warned, Oberlin College will fine you a ridiculous (!) amount of money if any paint chips when you take the tape off.
2. Box as Trash Can
Our dirty little secret… I've never had something that was actually designed as a trash can at college. Every semester I have used a small, open-ended cardboard box left over from transporting all my stuff. It definitely does the job, is free, and is also made of a material that will actually decompose within my lifetime. As someone who's not into ecological collapse, that's just nice to know. Highly recommend!
3. Magnet in the Door
So remember how I said the doorframes were metal? Well, a smart dorm room hack passed down through generations of Obies is to leave a magnet in the doorframe to keep the door from locking. When you do want the door to lock, you can leave the magnet on the inside part of the doorframe. Most often I see people using this trick for times when they'll only be gone for a few minutes or when they want to leave the room open for someone else to get in without giving them their ID/room key. I tried doing this a few times, but my precious sloth magnet was not strong enough to withstand the pressure from my door and chipped. I also know someone whose magnet was a little squishy and almost left her locked out once. Make sure your magnet is sturdy!
4. Command Hooks/Strips
So remember how I said Oberlin would fine you a ridiculous amount of money if any paint chipped when you took tape off a wall? Maybe you're wondering, dang, how do I put up all the cool stuff I wanted to stick to my wall without literally drilling in hooks? Well, I have good news for you. Command hooks/strips are one of those things that I had never heard of before I got to college, but that everyone here swears by. You can find them at Ben Franklin or the Walmart nearby, and they're really handy for hanging up pretty much anything. I've seen tapestries, flags, full-length mirrors, paintings, and lots of other things hung up using command hooks or command strips. For heavier stuff, use a good amount of strips, follow the directions and actually hold them onto the wall for however long it says to, because they definitely can fall off sometimes. For really light stuff, sticky putty also works great. Spoiler alert, though… if you're putting up pieces of paper, scotch tape is fine. The wall safe stuff doesn't work and the not wall safe stuff isn't gonna rip apart your wall.
5. Cover the Gap
Two of my beloved peers this past semester each separately had the idea of filling the gap between the floor and the bottoms of their doors— which glare with the fluorescent hallway light once it's dark— with the black blankets that we received at the beginning of the summer. I kind of just got used to sleeping with the sliver of light after a while, but if you don't want to get used to it, you can sacrifice any old blanket or towel for sounder, less light-ridden sleep. Sounds wise.
Do I have to explain this one? Plants are alive. You're alive. How much else in your room is currently alive, or even has been recently alive? Don't you want a little fellow alive being to keep you company?
7. Diffuser <3
If you don't know what a diffuser is, it's a little machine that diffuses essential oils diluted with water into the room. A lot of people at Oberlin have them. I love them because they set a very pleasant and relaxing tone while clearing out any bad smells (trust me, in these rooms, you can always smell when and what someone has eaten inside). Mine also glows different colors when I want it to— bonus points for lowlight. I was lucky enough to be gifted mine by my partner as a first-year, so I never had to look for one, but I recommend Etsy as probably the best online place to find a cute diffuser (and essential oils) from a small business, if that sounds appealing to you.
8. Choose a Color Scheme
This is something it took me a little too long to figure out that probably seems obvious to most people: the vibes are exponentially more excellent if your room has a consistent color scheme or another kind of visual theme. I know this isn't specific to being in a dorm room, but being at college, the layout and consistency of my room feels much more important to me. I had a whole lavender/light blue theme going this summer, and I loved my room so much more than I have ever loved a room. When you're at college and no one is really responsible for you, you might start feeling like your room (or your half of the room) is yours in a way that a space has never been before. Take the liberties of crafting it into a space that looks and feels like it's really yours.