How To and How Not To Decorate Your Boy’s College Dorm Room

This past year has seen many changes for our little family not the least of which is our oldest son, Sawyer, graduating high school and moving away to college. Granted, he is only 1 1/2 hours away but that feels like a million miles when he isn’t at home for good night hugs and washing my dishes.

Obsessive is a strong word but not entirely an incorrect one when talking about my stress over his dorm decor because BABY LEAVING HOME and I wanted to pack as much awesome as would fit into a 10×10-ish room.  That’s when my buzz was killed with the reality that 1.  Boys have no emotional investment in the texture or color scheme of their bedding, 2. They do, however, prefer their room not look like Pinterest went there to cough, choke, and die.  So basically no burlap, chevron, monograms, Christmas lights run along the ceiling, gallery walls, or pallet wood projects allowed. Seriously, what is left?

With that in the front of my deeply disappointed mind I hunted and gathered using pictures like these for inspiration.  Obviously the architecture (hello brick wall and windows, I see you there) of a staged studio photo shoot lends a little more to the room than the tile floors and boring beige walls of a Real Dorm but they did give me a general direction.





As moving day approached I pulled the goods I had collected out of all the closets and boxes to get some sense of what we had and what we still needed. Our living room looked something like this for more days than I would like to confess. No, this is not even a fraction but this is the last time I was emotionally stable enough to look at the pile without bawling.





The emotions went downhill.

This is the last picture of Sawyer with Luke as a full time resident of our home. (Contrary to this picture and my checkbook this is not a sponsored endorsement of Under Armour.)




This is the last picture of him driving away as a full time resident of our road.

(Someone hold me.)





We arrived on campus bright and early expecting a zoo but gratefully we were able to check out a cart and get straight to the room within minutes. Sawyer’s scholarship upgraded him to an upperclassmen’s building and my guess is the older kids are jaded enough by now to stay home until the overzealous Freshmen are out of the way.  It’s a wise move especially if you don’t want to share an awkward moment in an elevator with a crying 40+year-old woman holding a bonsai tree.


And now for some of my favorite things:

1.  Framed Album Covers:

Okay, it’s confession time. Luke said it repeatedly and now I’m admitting these album covers are all about me and nothing about my son. (Who am I kidding.  Very little of it was about him.  It was my therapy.  When I can’t control my emotions, I control my environment.  Or yours. Whatever.) We were at a yard sale where we happened upon a stack of 70’s and 80’s records for 50 cents.  50 CENTS.  I had no idea what I would do with them so I picked up a few that delighted me mostly because I owned the majority of them at one time.  I passed over Rick Springfield for Hotel California.  (Don’t judge me…it’s classic) As iconic as Purple Rain is (I played the grooves off that one in the day which begs the question, “Where was my mother?”) it wouldn’t have been the best choice when trying to establish one’s manhood in a new environment. So, I picked up Men at Work because Men at Work = Manly.  I really bought this one because the better part of my teenage years I would sing about vegemite sandwiches and to this day have no clue what those are exactly.  I also picked up another that didn’t make it to the wall by Blood, Sweat, and Tears. I didn’t know a single song on the album but the cover art was great. I had Sawyer pick a couple he liked best and that one didn’t make the cut even though I tried hard to make the case for the analogy to the next four years of his life. (Blood, Sweat, and Tears…get it?) He didn’t get it.  I’m just glad he liked the Eagles and Land Down Under Enough not to kill the one crafty project that didn’t break the No Pinterest rule.



2.  The Bonsai Tree:

I mentioned toting a bonsai tree in the elevator which I watered with my tears.  Sawyer is a meticulous boy who likes serenity.  I’ve always joked him about his need for zen which prompted my buying him a rock garden as a kind of gag gift for Christmas last year. He loved it with an unexpected intensity.  He’s told me for the last few months that he wanted a bonsai and it just happened that I found one when shopping for some last minute things before he left.  Luke asked me if it came with instructions on how to care for it and I assured him Sawyer would have a pair of Mr. Miyagi scissors and complete instructions Googled before we could get back to the mountain. I was right. I think bonsai care is even more detailed than even he anticipated so for now the tree will live in the window so Sawyer can stare at it when life gets too chaotic aka when we come to visit.  (I feel like I’m going to get letters about all the Eastern Mysticism.  It’s a joke, y’all.  Worry about us when he joins a yoga class.)  It also allowed me to sneak in the green plant that every room needs to feel alive without letting him know I read it on a home decor blog.

Not Pinterest.




3.  The things he chose to bring from home:

* Star Wars figures.  You have no clue the grief these have caused over the years when the brothers rearranged them in Sawyer’s room just to hear him freak out.  And then there is the book of blueprints for all the star ships just in case in his spare time he decides to construct the Millennium Falcon on the front lawn.




* Not one but TWO copies of The Simarillion.  When I asked why he brought them both he said, “Just in case any of my friends want to borrow a copy.” Because every college kid wants to study the history of Middle Earth and the genealogy of Aragorn. He’s so thoughtful.

* A picture of him and his favorite high school teacher.  Please note there are no pictures of his mother on the shelf.

* A  Josh Garrels poster.  He will be devastated if you recognize the name because apparently it’s awesome to have a playlist filled with artists no one else knows.

And here is a pan of the finished thing.  Not quite the Pottery Barn photo but comfortable all the same.  There is a living room that I’m dying to get my hands on but at this point I’m trying not to frighten the roommates. I’ve thrown a rug on the floor and hopefully over the next couple of months and with enough brownies, they will let me continue my work.




Poor baby, can you see the homesickness in his face?



Luke and I drove separately which worked well because I needed to have one last cathartic cry unhindered by a husband who is trying to tell you it’s going to be okay when you’ve just left part of your heart somewhere you are not and NOTHING IS GOING TO BE OKAY EVER AGAIN.  But thankfully Luke called to comfort me by repeatedly saying what a bad move it was to leave Sawyer’s bed so high because he was sure he would roll out of it in the night because he wasn’t used to a twin size. “And Lis, if he rolls out of that he’s dead or at the very least severely injured.”  

So there are the anxieties of moving your son to college and worrying whether or not he will roll out of a smallish bed and die before he wakes or if you are lucky, he’ll just turn into a stoner and flunk out.

Where’s a good rock garden and bonsai tree when you need one?