By Carl Azuz, CNN
(CNN) – One of the best things about college dorms is that you get to leave them eventually.
They’re bare, they’re cramped, they’re never at the optimum temperature – in other words, they’re not home.
There are a number of ways in which college students make them feel even more remote and dingy. And by avoiding these mistakes, you can make your dorm-room memories a little less regrettable.
You don’t have room for everything; you barely have room for anything. Taking along the extra pillows and stuffed animals and lava lamp and 14 pairs of shoes and unneeded sports equipment is not going to work out well.
One key to surviving dorm life is making the most of the least space. Think of the area under your bed as your closet, and try to fit a season’s worth of folded clothing, shoes, and a much-needed-but-still-mini ironing board underneath.
Plastic bins can help here. Hanging shoe organizers are also a good idea for whatever closet space you do get – or the back of your door, if necessary.
You're gonna need some basics, though. Start with sheets, and find out early if you'll need the regular or extra long twin size. Then, choose something comfortable (cotton jersey is a good, affordable option); you might feel a little uneasy sleeping away from your home bed, and you won't want to curl up on sandpaper.
You'll also need a pillow and a comforter, a shower caddy (filled with products that'll get you clean), and a toiletry bag for your toothbrush, cologne, deodorant and makeup. A robe is also a good idea for getting to and from the bathroom.
Leslie Sherman Jackson, a contributor to the Dallas Morning News, points out that "in addition to a folding hamper for dirty clothes, a plastic laundry basket comes in handy for transporting" whatever you need it to transport.
So when you go shopping, head to the bed, bath, and container departments and ask what they've got for a college dorm room. Then, try to fit what you’re bringing to school into what you buy for school.
Lighting can change everything from the "mood" to your ability to cram at 3 a.m. without infuriating your roommate. Yes, your new home will come with some sort of overhead florescent, but it will make your living space look like a 1980s kitchen. (Your parents will get that.)
You’ll want your dorm room to feel more like a living room. Some inexpensive, rugged floor or desk lamps will get you through a couple years, and they’ll make your room seem warmer.
And a clamp lamp will let you read while your roommate snores.
It’s understandable why people living in a sea of strangers want to show their individuality through trophies, flags, dilapidated bouquets and posters. But you might not have much wall space, and your roommate may not share your passion for Justin Bieber.
Start with a couple mementos of home: one or two framed photos of family, a book your best friend gave you, and the alarm clock you got as a going-away gift. If your room looks sparse, you can always decorate more later on – and even tag team with your roommate on curtains and an area rug.
One thing you don’t want to do is decorate with items you’d otherwise throw away. Torn-out pages from magazines should probably be recycled. So should cans: They look bad, smell worse, and tip over easily. (Plus, they attract bugs if they’re not rinsed, and how many people who decorate with cans actually rinse them? Exactly.)
Your dorm room should not resemble a neglected frat house. But while we’re on the subject…
Playing garbage Jenga
The game is to stack discarded fast food bags and containers as high as they’ll go until the whole structure crashes down to the roaches. The one who tipped it has to clean it up and take it out.
This is the intersection between fun and unsanitary. The problem is that it lures pests and repels friends when you want to do the opposite. And it’s not just trash heaps that offend.
Wadding and piling
…sounds like a grunge band. But any kind of pile – clothes, shoes, papers, food – is a bad thing in a dorm room.
A little housekeeping goes a long way in making a room more desirable. If that means taking out the trash when its height is equal to that of its container – or shoving shoes under the bedskirt when company comes calling – the payoff will be a reputation as the clean one.
And if you don’t like your roommate (you probably won’t like your roommate), you’ll have a better chance of finding a new roommate if you’re the clean one.