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Thursday, July 28, 2016

Dorm Shopping 101

While it might be more practical to talk about what you need to buy for school supplies in college, the real hot topic for the new college student is the stuff that might be more exciting - dorm or apartment shopping.  Actually, this post is focussed on dorm life because that's what I know best.  Even though it's been many years since I was in college, I lived in a dorm all four years, including 2 as a resident advisor.

First of all, there are MANY websites and blogs that have lists of what you MUST have (or at least that's what they say).  I have a bunch of them compiled on my Pinterest board College.  (Even if you don't need help with the shopping list, you will want to check out my board because there are over 70 pins about all aspects of college life.  I also have a board Dorm DIY. 

BEFORE you go shopping, there are three things to know/remember:
1.  Have you talked to your prospective roommate about decorating or other layout decisions?
2.  Do you have the dimensions/layout of the room?  If you don't you should seriously consider waiting until after you see the room/closet before buying anything that takes up space.
3.  Space is at a premium and organization is the key.  Keep that in mind as you buy big items you might not need.
Regardless of the specific things you choose to buy for your dorm room, here are some areas you need to cover.

Bath Stuff 
  • You need towels, but don't buy too many.  While you might be spoiled at home by using a different clean towel every time you take a shower, your mother is no longer doing your laundry and you don't have room for all of those towels.  Consider monogrammed or patterned towels - they don't get "lost" as easily. 
  • If you are living with a communal bathroom, you will need a caddy for your toiletries. Consider a plastic bath caddy.  I personally like the plastic bath caddies you can carry because when they inevitably get grungy with soap and shampoo residue, you just take them in the shower and hose them down.  Mesh caddies are harder to clean than solid ones.  This is an example of something best purchased at a dollar store.
  • Water shoes - if you are using a communal bathroom, you will thank me later.  If you insist upon using flip-flops, get the very flattest ones you can find and try to ones with some traction.  Otherwise, just use pool shoes.
  • In addition to a set of sheets, you need a good mattress topper - not just the mattress cover.  Also, don't go too cheap on the sheets.  You can find great deals, but low thread counts and a couple of washes will keep you up at night on scratchy sheets.  Go for the higher thread count, and don't forget a good pillow! 
  • A sleep mask can be very useful if you and your roommate keep different study hours. 
  • Bed risers, but only after you actually see the room and the bed. 
  • You will need a comforter/bedspread/top blanket, but this is another one of those things you will want to wait and coordinate with your roommate (unless you're a guy because guys don't always care about coordinated bedding).
  • Tech corner - charging station, headphones, extra long charging cord and wireless speaker
  • Laptop with cover.  The cover is a must for all of the traveling your laptop will see.
  • Power strip - look for a flexible one that can curve around furniture.  Power outlets are a premium in dorm rooms, so try to minimize the number of items you must plug in.  
  • A desk calendar/bulletin board/organizer is really helpful.  You might also want to consider a small one for the wall so you and your roommate have some idea when one of you will be out, have a big test or wanting some private time in the room.
Closet/Storage Area
  • Full length mirror on closet door - it may be the only one available outside of the bathroom and it might make your room look bigger.  Use Command hooks to hang it.
  • Laundry bag - I like this better than plastic baskets because they can hang, take up less space and are easy to sling over your shoulder (or drag) when they are full
  • Storage bins - It's important to get the right size for under your bed - whether it is raised or not. Again, this might be one of those things that might wait until you are actually at school to see the bed.
  • Over the door hanger/basket/pouches for storage.  Hopefully you are able to put the full length mirror on one side of the closet door and the hanging storage on the other side
  • Hangers - the kind of hangers may be dependent on how many clothes you have and the size of your closet.  You don't want the pretty expensive padded or wooden hangers if your can't fit enough of them in your closet.  A good inexpensive solution is to cover wire hangers with yarn or foam to pad them.
Other Important Stuff 
  • Think carefully about a refrigerator.  Some places won't allow them and they do take up space and a power outlet.  I would also think twice about a microwave.  If you and your roommate can share and have the space, they can be great, but if you don't know you will use them, don't bother.
  • Fan - Cooling, air circulation and white noise when you're trying to sleep
  • Disinfecting wipes - I can't describe all the ways you might use these
  • Command hooks - you can't put nails in the walls. 
  • First aid kit/common medicines/prescription list - the first time you get a cold you will be happy you have this.  You will need a Band-aid at some point and a complete list of your prescriptions (with dosages, pharmacy information and doctor) is important to have readily available.
Finally, when I was in school, there was no technology.  Today, there are so many gadgets and apps you can get to make your life at school easier, more organized and successful.  Keep your music online or in digital format.  Use your phone to watch TV or movies.  Use of technology is not only more efficient, but solves one of the biggest problems of dorm living - lack of space.

Stop by tomorrow and we can start talking about the details of decorating!