Around this time last year, just as the first Hello Kitty notebook hit the shelves at Target (signaling the start of the back-to-school frenzy), my older son and I started shopping for his dorm room.
It should have been fun—all the possibilities! But my son had very little enthusiasm for the process and I had very little patience.
Thankfully we don’t have to do it again. But, if I did, I would have done it a little differently.
I still wouldn’t have let him shop alone, though. If I let my son pick out what he “needed” for his dorm room the list would have looked like this:
- Mini fridge
He would never have thought about buying sheets (“I’ll just take the ones off my bed at home!”) or a shower caddy (“What’s a shower caddy??”).
Of course, not all kids would be as clueless…but it helps to have a parent tag along and it helps to have a plan.
I’m here to help with that plan.
I polled my older son’s friends, their parents, and my friends to find out what worthless items they purchased for dorm rooms—items that seemed essential or items that were on a list somewhere as a “Must Have” but were never—and have never—been used by an actual student.
What not to buy/pack/bring:
- Too much clothing – specifically, according to one mom, “The twenty button-down shirts that my son HAD to have but never wore.” Two words: no space.
- Too much formal clothing – If you are in a fraternity or sorority or you have a major where you need to make formal presentations, you may need a suit jacket or a couple of dresses – you won’t need multiple suits, several dress shirts or five dresses and four pairs of formal shoes. See above: no space.
- Too many shoes – Again: no space.
- Real plates, knives, forks – use disposable. I know, I know, you are worried about your carbon footprint but, according to the kids, “you will never, ever clean the dirty plate/fork/knife,” and well, that’s just gross.
- Printer – “They take up a lot of space and there is a print room in every building.”
- Plastic cleaning gloves – Ok, I admit it. I packed these, and, not surprisingly, they returned home, unopened at the end of the year.
- A vacuum – If you don’t already have one, don’t buy one. Someone on the hall will have one that your kid can borrow for the two times he actually vacuums.
- Laundry basket and a laundry bag – No room for both. Bring a collapsible laundry bag.
- A lot of hangers – “Extra shelves—maybe—would have collected more clothes,” according to one mom.
- Bulky luggage – pack clothes in collapsible bags or use heavy-duty garbage bags for transport.
- A Panini press or any other kitchen appliance – save it for an apartment.
- An iron– this one depends on your kid. One boy swore by it. “College dryers tend to make clothes incredibly wrinkly,” he explained. While another girl said that she never took hers out of the closet.
Now for what the kids couldn’t live without:
- A foam topper and mattress pad. My son’s bed was at least 6 inches higher than his roommate’s and seemed obnoxious to me at first but my son said it was the comfiest bed he has ever slept in.
- A fan – Remember not every dorm has air conditioning.
- A collapsable storage ottoman – Storage AND extra seating! Items that pull double- duty are always helpful.
- A 6-ft. power strip (or two). Who knows where the outlets will be.
- Portable speakers – “I couldn’t live without [them]” and “We were always moving around but still wanted to listen to music.”
- Garbage bags – “Lots of garbage bags.”
- A mini hot water kettle – Most kids, my son included, thought this was really useful “to make tea, ramen, oatmeal, hot chocolate, etc.”
- Light bulbs – “You may get a desk lamp but they don’t give you light bulbs,” one mom reminded me.
- Plastic storage bins – Perhaps not as many as I bought for my son but he did use them to keep things stored under his bed (again probably not in the way that I would have organized them – I mean who puts the snacks with the playing cards?? There should be a separate bin for games, right??).
- Extra toilet paper.
- Can opener/bottle opener.
- Mini fridge.
- Head phones.
- Some wall decorations. Emphasis on some.
- Extra sheets and towels – NOTE: this one actually made both of the lists above. One mom said they were useless as her son never broke out the second set, while my son used all three (yes, three!) sets of sheets but never washed them until Thanksgiving – he just stripped off the dirty sheets and threw them under the bed. Whatever it takes to get them to use clean sheets, right?
- A plunger – “I lived in a suite-style dorm and shared a bathroom with three other freshman guys.” Enough said.
Obviously, this list is not exhaustive and it will depend on your kid but remember, most dorm rooms are about 12 x 14 feet – for two people!
Less is more, people.
What would you add to this list? Let us know.