Top Five Tips for College Decorating to feel like Home

Moving away for college is a major new chapter in life, and although I have been in Chicago for three years, I still feel homesick sometimes. Living out of state, I really only see my family during holiday breaks so I initially struggled with finding comfort in my new home. My first off-campus apartment felt really empty but with time and some decor I was able to create a space that felt like a new home- full of comfort and coziness. It has helped me a ton with enjoying my own space at college! Here are my top suggestions for sprucing up your apartment or dorm during college.

1. Light a Familiar Candle

Scents carry memories- you smell them and remember moments, feelings, and connections. My family has a few favorite candle scents so I picked them up for my own apartment. I add in some new scents with time to create new memories as well! Still, when I am feeling a bit homesick or lonely, I light up those signature scents and it’s like my family is there with me in spirit.



A group of about ten Pathways Honors student standing in a circle introducing themselves to one another. It is a crisp, fall day.

2. The More Plants the Merrier!

Plants have dual benefits: they make a space more lively (plants are living- how much more lively can you get?) and can improve air quality. I can only keep a few different plant types alive but it gets the job done! The green makes your space look put together too, so it becomes more cozy.



3. Keep your space clean but with personality.

Personally, I tend to sprawl my stuff out when I get ready or pack my bags. My biggest new habit has been to consistently pick everything up in my room and put it away before I go to sleep. It makes me feel less stressed by clutter and I feel like my space becomes more cohesive. For example, I keep my apartment’s shared deck pretty minimal with clutter, but we have smaller details shining to maintain personality. You want your new home to feel clean and refreshed but NOT sterile and ‘too clean to walk in’.

A picture of a large inflatable snowman at the DePaul University Ugly Sweater Party.

4. Incorporate decor elements from your family.

I was lucky enough to inherit some decor pieces from my family to decorate my apartment with and it has made such a difference in making the space more home-y. These do not have to be intricate or anything- mine are mostly magnets, a couple mini mirrors, and knick knacks. The point is that they have an emotional connection to your family. Everytime I look at my salt lamp I think about its place at home and its new place in my new home. It creates a familiar feeling in a new space.

5. Display pictures of friendly faces.

If there is one important element to include it is Pictures! The pictures I hang up are the best part of everywhere I have lived since moving to Chicago. I update them yearly, choosing different ways to display them and organize. It is so comforting to be able to look at the smiling faces of family and friends in your space. I look at them and cannot help but feel happier. It also reminds you to stay in touch with them! Having pictures hanging has made my room go from generic to ‘me’, so it is my top suggestion for having approachable decor.

These are my top tips! They help me find a slice of my family’s home in my new home at college, all while staying true to what I want my space to be. Hopefully these tips help you decide how to decorate your dorm or apartment so you can build a home away from home full of happy new memories. It was hard at first but became one of the best parts of moving to Chicago and DePaul!


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