Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Dorm Room Essentials

With the uncertainty of what is going on in the United States with the virus, I’ve continued to put off sharing this post in case colleges choose to go virtual for the semester. From what I can tell so far, it seems like many are planning to be on campus, which causes a sigh of relief as I think about my time in college and how different it would have been to start the experience at home. Those of you who are reading this and are incoming freshman I feel for you and after an odd end to your senior year think more than anyone y’all deserve to be on campus for the most normal start of college that you can get. 

Personally, I remember the summer before going to college as one filled with anticipation. 1. Anticipation to find out if I had made the right choice on where to go to school, 2. anticipation to find out who my friends would be, and 3. anticipation of how well I would be able to make a dorm room feel like home. As with most things, everything worked out as it was supposed to, and I would now tell my 18-year-old self 1. You made the right choice, 2. your friends will be even better than you imagined, and 3. With the right supplies, you will make your dorm room feel like a welcoming retreat on campus.

Part of the excitement that comes along with going away to college for the first time is coupled with the idea of freedom and as exciting as that is, colleges seem to like to give you some of that freedom by way of a shoebox-sized dorm room that you share with a roommate. I know many people wouldn’t say this, but I’d gladly re-live in my freshman year dorm again with my roommate. Nell and I made our room distinctive of our personalities but also comfortable and practical. I have her to thank for the sound machine that made the list of what I consider to be dorm room essentials. So while most of you probably stocked up on what you would need and want for your dorm room as you graduated, I wanted to make sure to share my list of essentials for those that may still have some shopping to do. 

See where I lived here:

Nell, I blame and thank you for this one. When moving into our freshman dorm, Nell brought along this sound machine, and I quickly became hooked. When living on a busy hall where not everyone values sleep as much as you might, a sound machine that provides a bit of white noise and peace is amazing. Even though Nell and I no longer live together, a piece of our time together still is given that I have owned my own sound machine ever since.

Hear me out on this one...Is a fancy detergent really necessary? No, but little luxuries like the smell of the diva scent glamorous wash detergent gave me a taste of home even when I was 8 hours away. I never thought I’d take pride in a detergent being my signature scent, but my little figured out I was her big because the t-shirts I gave her “smelled like me.” Now when my friends hug me or walk into my room after I’ve done laundry, they always say I smell like me, which means I smell like this detergent. A secret of making this detergent last longer is to put a cap full in with a regular, unscented detergent. That way, you get the scent from the pricier detergent but the cleanliness from a more affordable option.

As a huge fan of natural light, I’ve realized that occasionally it comes at a price. Somehow, I ended up with windows that offer great natural light but also have artificial street lights nearby that gave my room a glow even at night. I have gotten to the point where I like total darkness when I sleep, making blackout curtains a responsible choice. The ones I’ve included are from PB Teen and are a bit more expensive (but are the *best* and *cutest* blackout curtains I’ve had), so here is a more affordable option as well.

This is a bit of a cheat since I never had these in my dorm room; however, I so wish I had! In my apartment, these were the perfect way to organize some bathroom products in the tiny space that I had, meaning it could do the same thing in your dorm room! These shelves have been a cute way to display perfumes and products I reach for often without cluttering my counter space. Plus, they are available on Amazon Prime, a major win in my book.

This may not be essential for everyone, but if you’re looking to make your dorm room a bit homier, a headboard is a perfect solution! I made both of the headboards I used in college and got one from Not Just Dorms for my first post-grad apartment and am still using it in the house I’m in now. There is something about a headboard that makes a room look more complete. You’ll quickly find that your bed will serve many purposes in your dorm, from sleeping to a study spot and even additional seating when friends come to hang out. A headboard is a great way to make your bed more inviting in all of those situations.

If you’re not a coffee lover yet, college has the potential to make you one. While I do have friends that deny themselves of this simple energizing pleasure and can resist a daily cup of coffee, for those of you like me who can’t, a Keurig in your room will be a game-changer. I’ve been using the same Keurig since my junior year, and it has undergone making more than one cup of coffee for my roommates and me for years. Although you may have a meal plan where you can grab a cup of coffee in your dining hall on the way to class, there are times you will be in a hurry or want/need a late-night cup making it convenient to have your own coffee maker in your dorm. It may just be the best roommate you ever have!

The best space-saving piece of furniture I had in my dorm rooms was a desk hutch. With textbooks, notebooks, and pens and pencils alike, your desk can get crowded quickly. Instead of spreading out your stuff atop of your desk, spread up. My desk hutch was super easy to build and under $50 (which is a steal compared to many others that were available when I was on the hunt). Available in a few different colors, it’s easy to match your decor and furniture while giving you a little bit of extra room.

Removable wall hangers may seem like a no brainer but stock up ahead of time because you won’t want to pause your dorm decorating to run out to try to find these (which can be tricky in a college town). All four years in college, we were unable to hang things any other way than using non-damaging, removable wall hangers, and I found that ones that had velcro on both sides ensured that what I was hanging stayed up and that I didn’t damage the wall come time to move out.

Closet space wasn’t overly abundant in college. From storing costumes for different functions to your suitcase for trips home, making the most of the space was important. Before I left for college my freshman year, I switched all the hangers in my closet to skinny huggable hangers. These hangers gave me the ability to fit more pieces of clothing horizontally in my closet and even had the ability to cascade downward. I can’t imagine how tight my closet would have felt had I chosen to use plastic ones.

My freshman and sophomore dorms had community-style bathrooms meaning that nearly 40 girls were using the same space to brush their teeth, wash their faces, and shower. As someone who doesn’t love getting ready with other people, I couldn’t foresee myself putting on makeup while making small talk in our hall bathroom. Instead, I purchased a small makeup mirror that sat on my desk to allow that space to double as a vanity. If you’re anything like me and plan to get ready in the comfort of your own space, this is a must-have!

So I may be pushing it with the term “essential” at this point by including a personalized pillow; however, touches like this made my room feel so much more like home. Whether you go for something monogrammed or something patterned in your favorite color, these touches of your personality will provide a sense of comfort.

Dorm beds are NOT comfy. A mattress topper should high on your list of items to buy for your dorm room. In college, I always had a down feather topper, but now that I’ve switched to a Tempurpedic topper, I wish I had had one of those in college too, and I NEVER would’ve expected myself to like it. Your bed will be just as much of a couch as a bed in a cramped dorm room, so consider investing, given that it’s serving dual purposes.

Along with a dorm room, you’ll also likely be getting a roommate. Whether or not you know them in advance, there are going to be times that one of you will be staying up later than the other. A bedside table lamp will make the lighting a bit less intense for when you may need light while your roommate is trying to sleep and is a courteous way to allow both of you to use the room simultaneously for different purposes. The same goes for in the morning if you are waking up earlier than your roommate and need to turn on a light while getting ready.

I don’t know if I’ve ever taken quite as many pictures in a period of life as I did during my freshman year. Everything feels so new, so it makes sense to document these changes with photos. While it’s fun to share them on social media and have them to scroll through on your phone, there’s something about printing out pictures for your space that feels homey. Don’t forget to add some of your friends and family back at home too. I love this bulletin board that I currently use from PB Teen (more affordable option here), but a simple board from target is an easy solution for covering bland dorm walls as well. I covered my Target bulletin board with fabric that matched my room for my junior and senior year, making my space look even more cohesive.

Remember how I mentioned that dorms can have community-style bathrooms? Well, this is when a robe or shower wrap comes in especially handy. I ran into plenty of people on our hall as I was headed to the shower (don’t forget shower shoes!), and it was a bit less awkward since I wasn’t fumbling with a towel to try to cover up.

In dorm rooms, I wasn’t really the type to walk around barefoot. Something about knowing lots of other people have treaded through my space made the thought pretty unappealing. Keeping slippers in my room made it easy to keep my feet off the floor and stay comfy while wandering around.

I know I’ve already mentioned this, but the likelihood of you doing work from your bed is high. At least feel somewhat studious by having a hard surface to set your book on while highlighting or a way to prop up your paper as you work through it. I love this acrylic monogrammed one since it still looks stylish on top of being practical.

One of my secrets to non-wrinkled clothes freshman year of college was ironing them with my hair straightener. While that works, a steamer does a better job. I know it’s not going to be something you use a ton, but when you need it, you’ll be glad to have it. Plus, it’s easier to store than an iron AND an ironing board.

Maybe I should have listed this first (especially given the times), but Clorox wipes are necessary to have on hand from the minute you walk into your dorm room. Although the room has likely already been cleaned, it doesn’t hurt to wipe everything down before settling in. Once the move-in process is over, you’ll be glad to have these on hand for spills or quick clean up sessions as needed. While it doesn’t hurt to keep other cleaning supplies on hand, if you’re anything like me in the dorms, you’ll find that these become your go-to.

You can shop the items listed in the graphic below by clicking directly on the item you’re interested in to be taken to where it can be purchased. What would you recommend for dorm rooms for anyone that may be college-bound?

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