It’s been a number of years since I moved into a college dorm room. My memories of college life are both vivid and precious.
For years, I’d been dreaming about how I would grow up and leave my childhood home and sheltered life to attend college in Los Angeles. I lived in the same dorm room from my first day as a freshman until I graduated four years later (The Master’s University). And I loved it.
Typically, dorm rooms are not spacious. I had a bed, desk, bookshelf and chair, along with a closet that had a built-in dresser and just enough room to hang a few clothes. My roommate had the same configuration on the other side of the room — a typical dorm room layout. Looking back now, I see that we could have done so much more with the tiny space we had to make it more comfortable and efficient.
If you or someone you love will be moving into a dorm soon, I’ve put together a list of dorm room essentials — beyond the basic laptop, linens, toiletries and clothes — that will definitely make the transition easier and college life a lot more enjoyable! A list of resources for each of these essentials can be found at EverydayCheapskate.com/dorm.
MINI FRIDGE. If allowed in your room, you’ll bless the day you arrived with a mini fridge large enough for soft drinks, water, healthy snacks and energizing food items. Something like a 2.7-cubic-foot compact dorm refrigerator will save the day when the cafeteria closes at 6 p.m. and you’re looking at 10 more hours of cramming for finals. Been there. If only I’d had a fridge.
READING PILLOW. You will bless the day you thought to bring a good reading pillow with you to school. It will serve multiple functions: a place to sit and study that isn’t a stiff desk chair, or additional seating. Trust me, a comfortable, useful reading pillow will make all the difference by turning your bed into a very comfortable chair. For about $30 you can get a sturdy, comfy model that will last through all your college years.
UNDER-BED STORAGE. If you’re having difficulty visualizing what kind of storage space you’ll have in a dorm room for your clothes, shoes and personal items, just believe me that it will be minuscule. But you can create more space with under-bed storage bins should your room be set up to accommodate them. I love the fabulous IKEA under-bed storage boxes that come in black or white. With any luck, you can fit four boxes (two two-packs) under your dorm bed.
DORM SAFE. Don’t learn the hard way that caring does not always mean sharing. You’ll need a safe place to secure cash, credit cards, passport, jewelry and documents.
MICROWAVE. Provided the dorm rules allow for in-room food prep — and your roommate agrees — a small oven positioned next to your tiny fridge will make life a whole lot better.
SHOWER SANDALS. You will not have your own personal shower. Get used to it. Without grossing you out, just know that you don’t want to be frequenting that area with bare feet. We’re talking bacteria, germs and fungus. A good pair of rubber shower sandals is an absolute must to avoid foot infections.
LAUNDRY BAG. You’re going to need a specific place for dirty clothes. Under the bed or in the closet are not very good options. You want one that pops up to be a stand-alone hamper and then collapses flat when not in use.
CLOSET ORGANIZER. You can effectively double your closet space with the right closet-organizing tools and gadgets. There are many. Now you have a place to organize all of your things that don’t happen to fit on hangers.
SLEEP MASK AND EARPLUGS. I’ve saved the most important for last. Sleep. You’re going to need it. You will not always have ideal sleeping conditions, so accept that fact. A great, comfy blackout sleep mask together with highly effective earplugs will make all the difference and help you catch much-needed Zzzzzs.
Mary invites you to visit her at EverydayCheapskate.com, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at https://www.everydaycheapskate.com/contact/, ”Ask Mary.” Tips can be submitted at tips.everydaycheapskate.com/. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a frugal living blog, and the author of the book “Debt-Proof Living.”