Students preparing to go away to college for the first time are bombarded in late summer with advertising for dorm décor and furnishings. A lot of the items being marketed to college students are cute and clever, but not entirely necessary. How do you choose what to buy and what not to buy? It can be confusing.
There are a number of things to consider if you’re about to move into a dorm for the first time. There are some things you really need, and then there are some things that are fun but not so necessary. Here’s a guide to dorm essentials that hopefully will help students and parents decide what is really needed.
Furniture: Most dorm rooms do come with some type of minimal furnishings – typically a bed, a desk and chair, a closet, and a chest of drawers. If you’re lucky you might also get a bookcase or other storage unit. The first and highly important step is to find out exactly what furniture is included in your dorm room. If this information is not included in your college packet or on its website, then call or email for information. Ideally you’ll be able to view a photo online to get a feel for the dimensions and the room’s ambiance (or lack thereof).
There is probably no great need to buy much furniture right off the bat. Your space is minimal at best. However, if you don’t have a bookcase or adequate storage area, you may want to invest in this. Folding bookcases are available from many office supply stores, which are inexpensive and easy to move at the end of the year. Crates or cubes are another storage option which can be stacked for maximum space efficiency; a good source is Target, which has many styles available.
The only other furniture I’d recommend are a folding chair or two for visitors. There are cute folding sphere chairs, cushy and comfortable when in use, but easy to store when not needed. You’ll see a nice selection in bright colors on Amazon if you search for “folding dorm chair.”
Storage: In addition to the cubes, crates and what have you, think about how to maximize storage space in your closet and under your bed. Even doors can be put to good use by employing over-the-door utility hooks, on which you can hang everything from coats to towels to laundry bags. Check out the Container Store for great storage options.
Also look for underbed storage – those low-profile bins on wheels are perfect – and shoe cubbies and drawers or bins to keep order in the closet.
Laundry: You’ll need a basket, hamper or bag for laundry. Personally, I think bags are nice because you can put them practically anywhere and once empty, they weigh next to nothing.
Lighting: A good desk lamp is a necessity. Look for those that stay cool to the touch while on – some of the cheaper metal ones can get pretty hot.
Bathroom: A bath caddy is a must if you live in a dorm with communal bathrooms, to hold shampoo, hair accessories, makeup and other items. Look for a lightweight but sturdy basket with a handle, preferably in an easy-to-clean material.
Bed: Since dorm room space is limited, you and your friends will probably sit on your bed a lot. Shop for an easy-care washable bedspread or comforter in a color and pattern that will hide stains and dirt; JC Penney has a great selection.