Another summer has come and gone far too quickly. I just moved my oldest daughter into the dorms for her sophomore year. This time last year, I was frantically shopping for countless dorm items while holding back the tears as I prepared for the big move. I sobbed every time I thought about my first born leaving the nest. And if I couldn’t convince her to forget about school altogether and live with me forever, the least I could do was help her get well stocked with things she needed living far away from home. (Far, as in 43.2 miles. It feels like a lot more.)
Now that she’s all settled into her new dorm this year, I thought I’d share a realistic checklist and some pointers on this whole dorm life thing, as freshman year was our trial run and we ended up with way more stuff than she actually needed. Please keep in mind that I can only speak from my experience with my daughter at her University. I went to a technical college and I’ve never even been on campus or in a dorm room until now.
‘Our' campus standard furnishings are 2 beds, 2 dressers and 2 desks, with 2 doorless closets. The desks are spacious with 3 deep drawers. Perfect for students who like to do homework/study the traditional way. If sprawled out on the bed or floor is the preferred method of doing homework, consider using the desk for a makeup vanity or tv/gaming system setup. In our case, one was used as a vanity with a tv on the top shelf and the other desk was used for homework, rolling joints, etc. Just kidding.. College kids never smoke the pots.
When it comes to the beds, think basic cabin mattress at your adolescent summer camp. It’s not comfortable, so I highly recommend investing in a mattress topper. Sure you can grab a $20 one that will be better than nothing, but everyone knows you can accomplish a helluva lot more after a good night’s rest, so get the highest quality one you can afford. It really makes a world of difference. I believe most dorm beds are twin XL; so make sure you grab the right size sheets. A mattress protector ir required by the school and a cheap one will do the trick. Depending on the figuration of the room, a bed skirt might not be a bad idea for hidden storage. If the bed isn’t lofted, then there’s a ton of available under storage and it should definitely be utilized.
The dressers provided are more narrow and tall instead of the wide, low ones. In this instance, we chose to stick the dressers in the closets to free up floor space. Even so, there was still plenty of room to hang longer clothes to the side of it and fit a laundry basket on the floor.
College kids are social little creatures. Chances are, there’s gonna be times where you have to accommodate more than a few people in their teeny tiny room. This is where a futon or lounge seating comes in handy. A standard futon fits perfecting under a lofted bed and you don’t have to give up floor space to have it. Yes, it’s a pain the ass moving a futon in/out of a ninth floor dorm room, but at least there’s a place to crash for those who are too drunk to walk back to their dorm room. Wait. Nevermind. College kids never drink alcohol.
Space is obviously limited in a dorm room. Even with the bare essentials, it can be tricky to keep things organized if you don’t utilize space properly for storing things. A quick solution is to pick up a plastic 3 drawer storage bin. We ended up putting this on the shelf in the closet and this little bit of storage went a long way. We also got a couple cubicle shelves with baskets to use in the 'kitchen area’. This served as kitchen cabinets for food, dishes, etc. and the microwave and coffee station went on top. Another handy storage hack is to use a door shoe organizer in the kitchen of the dorm room. Here she was able to store all her kitchen cutlery, napkins, K-kups, batteries, snacks, etc. We also cut another shoe organizer in half and stapled them under the desk on the side to be used for flat irons, curling irons, hair products, etc.
One thing that makes co-habitating in the dorm room much easier is a game plan with the roommate. My daughter was lucky enough to have shared a dorm with her very best friend from grade school. Solana is like a daughter to me and I know her parents well, so this made planning a breeze! Even if you aren’t friends with your new roommate, it’s still important to know who is bringing what, as you clearly don’t need two fridges, microwaves, coffee maker, etc. This is also helpful when it comes to decor.
Speaking of decor, let’s not forget the importance of it. Now I realize it’s not always possible to create a Pinterest looking dorm room and that’s perfectly okay. Regardless of budget or decorating ability, a dorm room should still reflect the character of those living in it. Home is where the heart is and even if it’s a concrete dorm room, it should still feel as comfy as possible. And they might not realize it at first as they’re busy learning how to do keg stands, but every now and then, a little glimpse of home is gonna feel really good. So hang up some photos of family and friends, add a little knick knack on the desk, something that evokes happiness and nostalgia. For the rest of the decor, think simple. Tapestries are lightweight and can be adhered to the wall with poster putty. We used sheer curtains for the closet doors to add softness. A strand of copper string lights can be strung up for some ambient lighting. Throw pillows can add a touch of softness and are functional. Washi tape comes in a plethora of patterns and colors and is great to add designs, photo frames, origami animals, etc. to the walls. We also added a 5’x7’ high pile plushy rug and placed in front of the futon. (The rug did not make it to sophomore year. I believe it was puked on one too many times.) And last, but not least, try to add a live plant somewhere in the room. They purify the air and it’s a small way to bring the outdoors inside. These little grown up wannabes need to learn how to keep themselves alive and healthy now and a plant can be a simple reminder. Plants show people that all they need to be happy is to stay hydrated, play in some dirt and get a little bit of sunshine. They’re a visual reminder of when you’re not getting the basic requirements needed to be healthy, you suffer and look like shit. So just stick a plant in the room. Some good choices for low light plants are pothos, snake plant, spider plant, philodendron and peace lily. If you can get a spot by the window, try a jade, aloe or succulents, as all are really hard to kill.
There were a few things that we changed from freshman to sophomore year. The dishes from freshman year were left behind. I found an adorable shabby chic set of dishes at a thrift store that were just my daughter's style. These ended up piling up in one of the cubicle baskets and rarely got washed. Gross. This year, we packed the vintage set up in storage and opted for disposable stuff instead. I know, I know. I’m not thrilled about disposable things either. But washing dishes instead of playing beer pong just isn’t gonna happen. Again, I’m kidding! College kids never play drinking games. Another change was the food the dorm is stocked in. Angeleya has a meal plan at school that covers 14 meals a week. We figured she’d use those meals for lunch and dinner and just need breakfast, snacks and beverages in her room. They ended up throwing out more food and beverages (that of course, I provided) on a regular basis, so this year I decided not to worry so much about breakfast food. I do, however, still try to stock the fridge with beverages and snacks to grab and go with; bottled water, Vitamin water, coconut water, Summer Shandy, etc. I still pretend that Angeleya isn’t allowed to drink soda, so I refuse to provide that. And I do supply her with healthy-ish snacks for when the munchies kick in; Kind bars, fresh fruit, organic fruit snacks (because she’s still a child, obviously), etc.
Well there ya have it, folks! Whether you’re the college kid or you have a college kid, I hope this article gave you a realistic outlook on what you really need for dorm life. Below are the links of some things we bought and used for our campus experience. And if you want to print off this list for yourself to use while preparing the big move, click HERE!