10 Necessary/Useful, Not Ugly, And Affordable Dorm Accessories Everyone Should Get

If you’ve been around since 2019 you might remember the post I wrote with Caitlin and Mallory about designing our dream dorm rooms. Needless to say, there were A LOT of things we would do differently if we could do it all over with the knowledge and style preference we have now. Ha. At the time, I couldn’t find any photos of my dorm room since they were in a box somewhere deep in my dad’s warehouse. Well after 20 years, we cleared out the warehouse and now have I think ALL of my and my family’s photos in my apartment (my hallway may never be bin free again). However, I did find some very incriminating photos that are going to snap you back so hard to 2006 that your head might actually spin-off. This was my exact slack to Caitlin after I found them: “Ok pleeeease be honest. Are these too embarrassing/personal to put on the internet?” To which she proclaimed, “Omg no!!!! These are cute!!!” Cute is debatable but fun to look at and relatable? Sure. So since I have a deep knowledge of the single room, two twin beds, no kitchen, shared floor bathroom, cinderblock box, classic dorm experience, I know what is and isn’t useful to buy. FYI an all-in-one eggs benedict maker is not useful. Lesson very much learned. I also think that isn’t imperative to buy things that you or your college student can use for at least a few years after they move out of the dorms. We gotta think long-term right? That’s why today I picked 10 of the top items that will make a dorm function well, look great, AND be filled with things to grow with. But first, let’s take a trip back to 2006 at San Francisco State University…

This is the widest shot that I have and there is just so much to unpack. First off, I’m on the left. Why I didn’t make my bed BEFORE taking this photo is one of my personal great mysteries. But aside from the unkept bed of an 18-year-old Jess, I clearly wanted things colorful… and peaceful hence the garland:) I honestly think this is the most colorful rooms I’ve ever had. I really wanted to distract from the sad gray walls, but in hindsight, it was a bit of a misstep since I moved out into an apartment the following year and reused very little. Not great, Bunge. But as you can see, I have red bins, binders, and lots of picture frames on my shelving unit. I definitely could have maximized that spaces better. I can’t get over my faux orchids, iHome, iPod, and that TV. I don’t think we ever watched anything on it. Thankfully it came from home so it wasn’t a new purchase. If you are wondering what that thing sitting on top of my and my roommate’s shelves…it was a Les Bunge original.

It’s a blown-up picture of the San Francisco skyline. If I haven’t said it before, he owns a trade show installation & dismantle business and knows lots of trade show booth builders (one being my godfather). So my dad thought it would be cool to have my godfather build a metal frame that could sit on top of our shelves (no damage) and then velcro two large printed pieces making a large art installation we could enjoy while laying in bed. My roommate was afraid of her side falling on her so she put her side of the picture on top of the frame. Fair. It was a WILD idea but for one year was kinda fun (even if it was kinda wasteful). But my parents always made sure that my brother and I had rooms we felt happy and comfortable in. I’m pretty positive that’s why I’m so passionate about it:)

This is where I really start to cringe! Those photos and frames, the peace sign, the Thoreau quote, and the kids’ gummy vitamins because even to this day I have a hard time swallowing pills lol. Oh and please note the stack of blank CDs that I guess I needed to burn cool mixes on??? This could have been much more organized and less cluttered.

And while we aren’t talking about appliances today, a mini fridge and an electric kettle are MUSTS in my opinion. Clearly, I was super into drinking tea if you look at my desk again but hot water is useful for so many things. That was one of the few things I kept for a long time so if you spend a little more on that item it will likely get years of use. I like this one and this one personally:) And for a mini fridge, this one is a great standard but this one is very cute. I highly recommend getting one with a little freezer. What I would have given to have ice on hand. Plus if you choose one you like too, when they move out of the dorms and into an apartment, that mini fridge can come back and live in your house:)

Ok now let’s about the functional decor your soon-to-be college dorm room dweller will want.

Bed Risers

It depends on the type of bed that comes with the room and how high they want their bed raised, but a little extra height even if it’s just for under-bed bins is so nice. My roommate and I decided to keep our beds low but my best friend and her roommate wanted to store their fridges and dressers under their beds and put their desks by their window. Lots of options…

1. Solid Wood Round Riser (not a ton of height but super cute and timeless so can be easily used in the future) | 2. Carbon Steel Ultimate Height Bed Risers (great if they want that bed high and they also come in black) | 3. Rustic Pine Bed Risers (again, timeless, and versatile) | 4. Life Bed Risers (simple, strong, and gives a good medium height) | 5. Light Wood Bed Risers (simple and easily painted or stained in whatever color they want!) | 6. Dormify Powered Bed Riser (more “dorm” looking but you can’t beat those extra outlets)

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: a bedroom & closet reveal with target’s made by design line

Underbed Bins

This is a give-in, right? And while I had plastic bins, I personally think fabric is the way to go. They don’t break and are prettier. Here are my picks:

1. Underbed Fabric Bin with Lid (an EHD favorite and love the hinged lid!) | 2. STUK (affordable and cute) | 3. Under The Bed Storage Bag (a sturdy option with zippers)

Shoe Storage

When I asked the gals what they thought was a dorm essential, shoe storage was a BIG one. First, and as best you can, try to convince your college goer they don’t need all of their shoes. It’s so tempting but the best way to stay organized is to just have less stuff. If they miss some of their pairs they can grab them when they come home for the holidays. Here are our shoe storage picks:

1. Jenny Over-The-Door Shoe Organizer (super fun pattern yet practical) | 2. Under Bed Shoe Storage Organizer (elegant black border and great if they aren’t using the under bed space for only clothes) | 3. 6-Tier Shoe Rack (a great option to put under their bed if they raise it high enough) | 4. Rolling Shoe Rack (perfect if they raise their bed just a little) | 5. 16-Compartment Under Bed Shoe Organizer (another great under-bed option) | 6. Over The Door 26 Shelf Mesh Shoe Organizer (another EHD favorite that Emily owns, uses, and holds A TON of shoes).

Bedside Caddy

A bedside caddy is genius if they have a raised bed or are on the top bunk (aka when the nightstand is inaccessible). No one wants to climb in and out of bed more than they have to.

1. Bedside Drawer (probably my favorite because there’s a drawer to reduce clutter and you have a solid surface for a drink!) | 2. Recycled Ultimate Footboard Storage (look at all of those pockets) | 3. Dormify Non-Slip Bedside Caddy ( I really like that there’s a space for a power strip)

styled by emily bowser | photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: a home office makeover with threshold removable wallpaper by target


Bins are a lifelong essential, no? So might as well get decent ones from the jump that they can use for many apartments after.

1. Metal 2-in-1 Wire Basket with Wood Handle (so stylish, versatile, and comes in a bunch of sizes) | 2. Jute Storage Basket (love the texture and minimal pattern for added personality) | 3. Sliding Storage Bin Felt (simple, sturdy, and chic) | 4. Large Wood Crate (classic and totally customizable) | 5. Felix Square Folding Storage Crate (love the super cool modern take on this classic crate) | 6. KUGGIS (cool, stackable, and comes in different sizes)

Power Strips

This may seem like a silly one but they will need at least one power strip so why not pick a cute one? My only tip that they will be thanking you for is choosing one with USB ports. I don’t know about you but I lose those little boxes way too often. This solves that:)

1. 6 AC outlets with 3 USB Ports Circle Power Strip (love the shape and the faux wood) | 2. 6-Outlet Surge Protector with 6′ Extension Cord (I think the color is pretty, the braided cords are awesome, and that the USB ports have extra length) | 3. 12ft. Rose Gold Braided Extension Cord (pretty color and love the alternative ball shape) | 4. 6 ft. Cord 6-Outlet Braided Power Strip (no USB ports but great color and cord) | 5. 4′ 2 Outlet 2 USB 2.4A Extension Cord Braided (upgraded classic) | 6. 6-Outlet Surge Protector Power Strip (great neutral color and nicely slim)

Laundry Bag

While I wish a traditional laundry basket could work, they are bulky and annoying to travel to the laundry room with. A bag is the absolute way to go and I really like these ones:

1. Backpack Laundry Bag Tote (looks great and is also a backpack for easy carrying) | 2. Myla Laundry Bag (ok, there’s a drawstring on the top and it’s cute enough to not hide in the closet) | 3. Hanging Laundry Hamper with Zipper (if there’s door space this is a great, easy access option) | 4. Scrunchable Round Laundry Hamper (super affordable and cute) | 5. RPET Essential Laundry Backpack (stylish and easy to carry) | 6. MagicLinen Laundry Bag (can a laundry bag be chic? If so, then this one is)

design by emily henderson | styled by emily bowser and julie rose | photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: how to pull off “quiet maximalism” with target’s new opalhouse spring line

Rolling Cart

While I would have needed a slender one like #5, I wish I would have had a rolling cart. It’s so functional. It can be used for food/prep stuff, school supplies, makeup and hair products, etc. Especially if they raise their bed high and have more floor space, this is a great dorm room addition. Also, they could easily take this to their first apartment!

1. Bamboo Rolling Kitchen Cart (natural material, love the leaf option, and great for future kitchens) | 2. Rolling Utility Cart (solid, utilitarian, and love the deep shelves) | 3. Metal, Wood, and Leather Bar Cart (A little glam that adds a ton of style and obviously a great bar cart when they turn 21:)) | 4. Gold Round Storage Cart (love the round shape and matte gold) | 5. Rolling Slim Cart with Handle (perfect for an extra small room and for a future bathroom) | 6. Essex Rolling Cart (so much storage and function!)

Shower Caddy

A necessary evil for those sharing a bathroom with an entire floor. So if it’s necessary, might as well be cute.

1. Recycled Classic Shower Caddies (comes in a bunch of colors but love the coolness of the black) | 2. Felix Folding Storage Caddy (fun color and a great storage bin for after the dorms) | 3. Lexi 7 Pocket Shower Tote (loves the long strap to be able to hang on a hook) | 4. Shower Caddy (unbeatable price and cute)  | 5. Portable Toiletry Bag Shower Tote (great option for someone who doesn’t have a lot of products and can travel with it in the future) | 6. Jenny Hanging Shower Organizer (fun pattern and great for someone who doesn’t like putting their stuff on the wet ground:))

styled by brady tolbert | photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: my dream dorm room


A lamp is such an easy way to add personality to a dorm room! Plus they are pretty imperative for late-night homework/studying. I don’t miss that! I chose mostly clip lights since they are so versatile but regular table lamps are equally as great. I did add a LED Strip Lights because regardless of my feelings about them, gen z is obsessed. Maybe I would have been too back then. Who knows?!

1. Dormify Multicolored LED Strip Lights (here it is and I’m sure your kid will love it) | 2. Gold Clamp Lamp Light (so affordable and a fun gold twist on the classic) | 3. Multi-Joint Metal Clamp Black Desk Lamp (utilitarian and pretty cool) | 4. Hubble Clamp Light (style for dayzzz. Look at that fluting?!) | 5. Desk Lamp with USB Ports (gives off the prettiest glow and is a great price) | 6. Shine-On Clip Task Light (pretty and perfectly classic)

Well my friends, we made it to the end. Hope you enjoyed my walk down millennial memory lane and found some great pieces for the college-bound person in your life (or even you!) There are definitely other things that make the dorm room experience a little easier so let’s talk about them in the comments.

Love you, mean it.

Opening Image Credits: Styled by Brady Tolbert | Photo by Sara Ligorria-Tramp | From: My Dream Dorm Room

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