High school senior year is finally winding down, so it’s finally time to focus on the next big stage of your life. Maybe you’ve got something awesome planned for the summer, maybe you’re working, maybe you’re chilling.
If you’re reading this article, one thing you’re for sure doing is planning your next few years at college. And there is much to be excited about.
Not only are you moving out of the house, but you also have a new school, new friends, new classes, new teachers, and all kinds of new fun to look forward to.
When you were looking into colleges, you mainly focused on courses, campus, social life, networking opportunities, proximity to X, distance from home, and the like, but now that you’re in, you’ve got something far more important to worry about; your dorm room.
The Go-To Dorm Shopping List
After all those years of living at home, whether you shared a room or not, whether it was a two room apartment or seven bedroom house, there were lots of places you could put your stuff. Even if you’re not one for hoarding, you probably never had to figure out how to fit the fridge into your bedroom.
Now, not only do you have one room to fit your entire life into, but you’re also sharing it with at least one other person you’ve never met before. You’ve got one bed, one desk, and one closet, for everything.
The good news is that you’re not the first one to be in this situation, so there are a lot of tips and tricks out there for maximizing the limited space you have.
No matter what list of recommended items the college sends you, remember that it’s not carved in stone. Some things are really necessary, some things really aren’t.
One of the best things you can do is talk to someone who’s been to college, preferably yours, and ask them what the rooms are like. Ask them what’s really needed, what’s practical, and what you can easily pick up later on in the year if you’re still missing it.
Of course, don’t forget to ask what one item they simply could not live without, and then find out where it’s sold.
If you do a search for “dorm stuff,” you’ll be bombarded with tons of options. That’s the good news and the bad news.
There’s a lot of options. And most of it looks really awesome, and practical, and neat, and necessary in the pictures. But don’t forget the most important fact about shopping for dorm stuff; none of that has been in lived yet.
Which means you’re not just searching for fun colors and cool gadgets, but for the things you actually need to make your room comfortable enough until you bolt for better quarters.
However much time you spend in your room, hardly any of it will be dedicated to cleaning and organizing, which is why you’ll want to limit the need from the get go, so you can focus on studying.
So, even though you’re not about to do any serious design, you should still follow the CAD rule in shopping for and stocking up college dorms.
- Compactability, (a word we just made up).
In short, it would be great if you could buy and use everything, but you have to think about utility.
You’re busy, you’re running late, you have piles of textbooks, you didn’t have time for laundry this week, there are four of you in one room, you’re already juggling a tight your schedule. Don’t freak out, just CAD. Create a grab-n-go setup.
Maximize your limited space. Make sure things are easy to get to. Don’t buy stuff that’s too cheap or flimsy, because it should last you a few, if not all four, years.
With all that said, we’ve compiled an Ultimate Dorm Shopping List which should help you get the semester started off right. And remember, if you forgot anything, there’s always some store in the area that sells what you need. Or two-day shipping. We’re fans of that, too.
Mattress pad and Bed Bug Protector
It’s pretty straightforward. Just get one.
Linen, Blanket, Pillows
Because you probably won’t have any space to decorate your room the way all the blogs do, think of your linen set as instant décor.
Instead of buying separate pieces, buy a bed-in-a-bag set, though you might want to get an extra pillow or two. If you’re that kind of person, finding a simple color and pattern is easy.
However, if you’re the other kind who looks for that extra bit of pizzazz, then there are plenty of styles for you, too. Find something colorful to brighten up the room! Choose something with a fun pattern to make it stand out a little bit more.
Aside from the clothes you left all over the place, this is the main source of color in your room. So keep it simple or make it bold. Also, many sets come tightly packed in reusable bags that you can stuff everything back into when you’re away over the summer.
See if you can find ones that match your linen, if only so that your roommates will associate that color with you. Standard white towels may seem a safe bet, but everyone has one of those.
Try to pick a distinct color to avoid mix-ups. And make sure to bring more than one.
Closet Storage Maximizers
We cannot recommend these highly enough. They’re good for hanging clothes, they’re good for shoes, they’re good for shirts and bulky sweaters.
You’ll have to double check your closet dimensions before investing in a full piece, which also allows for shoe boxes or baskets for socks and undergarments, but there are plenty of hanging organizers that you can confidently buy beforehand.
Our two favorites are hanging shoe organizers, because wasting time looking for the other shoe is just not worth it.
The second one is a standard hanging organizer that’s great for thick sweaters, and even regular shirts if the weather’s not too cold where you’re at. Depending on your closet needs, some organizers come with different sized compartments, so you can just get one for multiple items.
Over the Door Hook Racks
Speaking of hanging stuff, over the door hook racks are extremely handy for college dorms. Just stick the piece over the top of the door, and viola!, you’ve got hooks for towels or coats on the inside of your door.
They’re really inexpensive and absolutely worth the price. On a similar note, wall hooks that are easily taped on are also well worth looking into.
Shower Caddy and Bath Organizers
Some dorms have showers for every couple of rooms, some only have big communal ones for everyone. Maybe you’re the person who doesn’t take a basket in the grocery store, then ends up juggling more stuff then you intended to buy. Maybe not.
Whatever the case, if you’re living in a place with a one-for-all shower setup, then you don’t want to be bear hugging your soaps in the hallway every time you head for the shower.
A smart choice would be a shower caddy, which neatly acts as a grab-n-go for all your shower stuffs. Keep an eye out for the portable mesh bath organizers with multiple compartments. You only have to organize it once and you’re set. Makeup, lotions, etc, get their own cosmetic bag.
Two words. Power Strip. Dorm rooms were built in the dark ages, before everyone needed an outlet to charge their phones, their laptops, their tablets, and anything else that has a plug, so there probably aren’t enough for everyone and everything.
Instead of taking out your roommate’s charger, then pretending you don’t know what happened to it, bring along a power strip and you won’t have to worry about taking turns at the outlet when you’re running low on juice.
Despite all the space you have on the floor, you will need to put your laundry into something when it’s time to wash it. Hampers are fine, but think about if you really want to take up space with one more inflexible item.
Mesh, pop up hampers are a bit better, because they’re more bendable, and so easier to shove into a corner. Otherwise, just stick with a regular, drawstring laundry bag, which is much easier to stuff into the closet or shove under the bed.
Clip-on fans really depend on what kind of climate you’re about to move into, and how reliable the cooling system, if there is one, in the dorm is. If you know your building has good, reliable air conditioning, then you probably won’t need this, unless you get hot easily.
A larger fan may be worth investing in as well, but you might have to get to your room first to make that decision.
Because you’re in a dorm, your entire kitchen is whatever packaged foods you’ve got and the few items in the mini fridge. However, before buying the fridge, consider contacting your roommates to see (a) if any of them already have one, or (b) if any of them are willing to chip in with you, or (c) someone’s buying one off someone who’s graduating.
Even though it’s only mini, you probably don’t need, or want, more than one in the room, so it might be worth it to make this a group purchase.
If you’re a hot drink person, then you can always enlarge your “kitchen” with an electric kettle. It’s a small portable item that only needs water in the kettle and its plug in an outlet to work.
It boils water rather quickly, and usually turns off once it’s hit the heating point, so you don’t have to worry if you’ve left it plugged in. This is great for anyone who just needs to have their afternoon, or morning, or after dinner cup of chai, and can also be worth it for big coffee drinkers.
True, instant coffee is a sad second to Starbucks, but it’s much better for the wallet, especially during finals!
Websites and blogs recommend all kinds of extra items to make your college stay more fun and comfortable, but many of these are either unnecessary or just clutter the place.
However, once you move in, you and your roommates might agree that the place needs a little extra something to liven it up. So below are some additional options to
This will, of course, depend on what the lighting’s like in the room, so it might not be necessary at all. If the lighting’s really poor, you may need to invest in a bigger lamp.
Otherwise, for late night studies or readers, a desk lamp or reading light is a more compact, more considerate way to go. If you can, hold off on getting this until you see if you actually need one.
These are pieces that go on top of your desk that add extra shelves and compartments above it. Chances are your desk is pretty standard and not overly large so it’s up to you to decide if you need more space to store your stuff or not.
Maybe you’d rather stack your books in the corner to keep from cluttering your desk. Maybe you need to see all your work in front of you to make sure you get through everything.
Don’t jump on this bandwagon without thinking about what really works for you, and checking what color the rest of the furniture in the room is!
Under Bed Storage Units
These can be highly practical bins for almost anything from shoes to textbooks, but not all beds have enough space to fit them. Also, you may be on a bunk bed, so the space under your bed is actually your roommate’s bed!
This is still a purchase to consider, but one to hold off on until you’ve actually seen your room. Some people recommend getting a set of height bed risers, which attach to the feet of the bed and make them higher so you have more space under it, but these are often not an ideal solution.
They don’t work for bunk beds, and there’s often no way to know if they’ll fit your bed well enough to be worth it.
Trunks and Covered Storage Bins
Like the under bed storage units, you may want to hold off on this one until you’ve actually moved into your room and see if you have space to accommodate one.
You may think it’s something that can easily sit at the foot of your bed, but your desk might be there, or the wall, or the door.
Even sticking it in the closet is not a guarantee until you’ve actually unpacked and seen what space is left, and how much more you really need.
These are one of those things that were only a good idea at the time. A small rug is a nice room accessory, it adds color, it might even warm the feet a bit, but there’s also a good chance that you’ll never find it under everything else on the floor or that it will only get washed twice a year before winter and summer break.
If you are a fastidious person, whose side of the room will always be impeccable, then go for it! For everyone else, it’s not a must-have item before the year starts.
A full length door or wall or closet mirror may be useful, but you might want to see what kind of space you have before grabbing one.
You might not have the wall space, and sticking it on the back of the door can be annoying if you’ve wisely invested in an over the door hook rack.
Closet doors are an option, but you might have to first see how they open and find out what you can stick on them.
Pocket Bedside Organizers
I can be a useful purchase, but, again, check your space first. These organizers attach onto the side of the bed, and can be used to store tissues, a textbook, reading light, and a host of other things.
However, it’s also possible that your bed will back into your desk, so you can easily reach whatever you have there.
Setting up a college dorm room is an exciting experience, and a clean room with a lot of new stuff will be a great boost for the start of the year.
However, bear in mind that rooms are small and you’ll have to share your already limited space with other people.
Think twice before you buy something just because it looks fun, and don’t forget the rule of CAD. Oh yeah, and always remember to check the return policy!