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Top Dorm Room Essentials

Updated on August 5, 2014

Dorm Room Packing List

When your child starts their freshman year in college most likely they will live in a dorm room. The first thing to learn about living in a dorm is the lack of space and storage. Most kids will of had their own room growing up and sharing a room is a new experience. There are some dorm room essentials to add to a packing list for college.

No longer can they decide to "store" their clothes on the floor, or just shut the door to the mess by closing the door. Their roommate lives there too and won't appreciate tripping over shoes.

I have brought a son and daughter to college and helped them shop for dorm room essentials. I myself lived in a dorm room for two years before I moved to an apartment. There are essentials that you must have to make living in a "shoebox" more livable and increase your storage efficiency.

Cooking in a Dorm Room - Healthy cooking in a dorm?

College is not just bout studying, it's about socializing and eating food. At first it's all about pizza delivery and eating out. Then the budget gets tight and eating cheap becomes the college mantra.

It's not always possible to get to the cafeteria for all meals and many college students eat one or two meals in their dorm room. So what is essential to eat healthy in college?

Cooking in the dorm room is restricted to appliances that can NOT catch fire, so no open coils, and George Foreman grills are not allowed in most schools. But you can have a microwave, rice cookers and normally there is a kitchenette somewhere in the dorm for more involved meals.

Nostalgia RMO770RED Retro 0.7 Cubic Foot Microwave Oven
Nostalgia RMO770RED Retro 0.7 Cubic Foot Microwave Oven

A microwave doesn't have to be black and boring. Jazz up your dorm room with a vintage looking red microwave. Just about EVERYTHING can be fixed in a microwave.

 
Coca-Cola KWC-4 6-Can Personal Mini 12V DC Car and110V AC Cooler
Coca-Cola KWC-4 6-Can Personal Mini 12V DC Car and110V AC Cooler

Spice up your dorm room with a cool mini fridge. Refrigerators don't have to be boring. Although college students should refrain from drinking soda pop on a regular basis, this Coca Cola mini fridge would look really cool in a dorm room.

Stock it with healthy food, grapes, yogurt, cheese, and even eggs, they will last a long time. Don't forget to put a date on them so they don't spoil.

 
Livart Rice Cooker/Warmer 1 Cup L-001
Livart Rice Cooker/Warmer 1 Cup L-001

In addition to a microwave a rice cooker is allowed in dorm rooms. Keep whoel grain rice on hand (doesn't need refrigeration) butter, and seasonings and you have a really good meal or late night snack.

Rice cookers can also cook pasta, bread, cake, vegetables and so much more.

 

Maximize Closet Space - Tackle The Closet First

Even though each dorm room has two closets, there is no way they will be big enough for two seasons worth of clothes, shoot, her closet won't even be big enough for her coats and sweatshirts. The traditional plastic tube hangers really take up too much room, and wire hangers are out of the question.

Why? Because Mom says so, wire hangers indent the shoulders of your clothes, bend, and become a tangle in the closet. Stay away from wire hangers.

Maximize your Dorm Space - Tips From the Experts

Obviously the first step is only take what you will need. But, girls don't think that way. "I'm going to need everything Mom!" If you can get a floor layout of the room ahead of time and learn the limitations on mini fridges and microwaves. Some dorms don't allow microwaves in the rooms, and there are size limits on the fridge. Share a fridge with your room mate to save room.

Think under the bed storage, totes that stack, and pack your clothes in containers that will serve a double purpose in your room.

Maximize Vertical Storage Space - When the Closet is Not Enough

When I lived in a small house I found tall skinny dressers were invaluable. They took up a little over a square foot of floor space but had the same storage as a standard dresser. My daughter has one in her room now that will be put in the back of the pick-up and taken to school, but they are pretty easy to find at most department stores.

Often called Lingerie Dresser, it's ideal for other clothes besides underwear such as swimsuits, T-shirts, socks, workout shorts, and pajamas.

Prepac White 7-Drawer Lingerie Chest
Prepac White 7-Drawer Lingerie Chest

This Lingerie chest comes in either white or black. Both can be customized to fit the personality of the college student and decorated with school colors, photos, and memories of home. I expect my daughters to be a virtual bulletin board.

 
Honey-Can-Do HMP-01134 Rectangular Collapsible Hamper with Hand
Honey-Can-Do HMP-01134 Rectangular Collapsible Hamper with Hand

Think TALL laundry basket instead of the traditional horizontal basket which would take up more valuable floor space.

 

Shoe Storage Ideas - My Daughter is a Shoe Horse

I'd like to think my daughter will keep her shoes up off the floor, and an over the door shoe storage unit would be ideal. Most will hold 20 shoes, which should be enough for any normal person. In the empty spaces, if there are any, the pockets can hold brushes, curling irons, and other miscellaneous items.

Shoe storage space can be found under the bed, in trunks (doubling as a sitting space) or over the door.

Whitmor Over The Door Shoe Shelves - 26 Sections - Java
Whitmor Over The Door Shoe Shelves - 26 Sections - Java

To increase storage space in a dorm room use the backs of doors and wall space. It's amazing how many uses there are to an over-the door shoe organizer. Clear pockets are a plus.

 
Richards Homewares Gearbox Sixteen Cell Shoe Organizer-Black/Grey
Richards Homewares Gearbox Sixteen Cell Shoe Organizer-Black/Grey

This under the bed shoe storage unit will hold 16 shoes and is more durable than other soft sided option.

 

Decorating your Walls - Hang art on your wall without damaging the paint

Colleges and Universities have strict rules on how you can hang items on your wall. Pictures and decorations must be hung in a way that will not damage or remove the paint or finish. If it damages the wall then you are responsible for the cost to repaint and many times forfeit your housing deposit.

Every dorm room and residence hall is a reflection of the students inside, in my daughters case it will be a sign of a creative mind, an eclectic personality, and someone who loves her friends.

The trick is attaching the wall decorations without damaging the walls. Most colleges and universities don't allow tacks, nails, or anything that will damage the paint. Luckily the

Command by 3M Damage-Free Utility Hooks, Holds 5 pounds, Organize without Tools, Indoor, Multi-Pack (17003-3ES)
Command by 3M Damage-Free Utility Hooks, Holds 5 pounds, Organize without Tools, Indoor, Multi-Pack (17003-3ES)

Command hooks are FANTASTIC and really the way to go when hanging framed art, canvases, or heavier decorative items.

They are priceless. Pick up at least a half a dozen packets for the dorm room, bathroom and doors.

These hooks have an easy to remove pull tab that won't damage the paint when you want to remove them at the end of the year.

 
Duck Brand Reusable & Removable Mounting Poster Putty, 2 oz, White (1436912)
Duck Brand Reusable & Removable Mounting Poster Putty, 2 oz, White (1436912)

My favorite in college was the removable and reusable poster putty. My Mom sent me Garfield comics every week that I posted over my bed.

My daughter has posters, framed pictures, photos and collages of her friends and favorite wall decorations

 
Blue Peach Tree Decor Decals Poster House Wall Stickers Quotes Removable Vinyl Large Wall Sticker for Kids Rooms W-10
Blue Peach Tree Decor Decals Poster House Wall Stickers Quotes Removable Vinyl Large Wall Sticker for Kids Rooms W-10

The new vinyl wall art makes decorating your dorm room easy. There are hundreds of designs and it's all dorm room friendly, which means it won't damage the paint when you remove it at the end of the school year.

 

Under the Bed Storage - Lots of Space, Under your Bed

It's amazing what you can store under your bed, it's also amazing what can get lost under the bed. If you're lucky you can raise your bed quite a ways and fit small pull out drawers in an accessible fashion. Most college students will have less than a foot of space under the bed.

Never fear, there is something for everyone. Even my storage challenged daughter with a dorm room measuring 12 ft x 14 ft, oops that's right, half of that is for her roommate. So everything needs to fit in a 6x7 space, and most of it will be under her bed.

Richards Homewares 6 Pocket Bedside Storage Mattress Book Remote Caddy (Caddy, Black)
Richards Homewares 6 Pocket Bedside Storage Mattress Book Remote Caddy (Caddy, Black)

These pockets slip in between the mattress and are ideal for phones, iPods, flash light, lotion, head phones and anything a student would want to keep handy by the bed.

 
End Of Bed Shoe Bag - Navy
End Of Bed Shoe Bag - Navy

Attach this storage bag to the end of the bed to hold bathroom items, water bottles and things you want easily accessible. Great for bunk beds were your storage can be eye level.

 

Have you Moved a College Student into the Dorms - What was your experience

Be honest, did your college freshman over estimate the room in their residence hall or dorm room? Did they have enough space?

Did you bring anything back home?

See results

Outfit your Dorm Room on a Budget

If you have time search on eBay for dorm room essentials and storage solutions. Trunks, mini-futons, sling chairs and shelving can all be purchased for a fraction of the cost. As most college students are on a budget spend wisely, take your time and get into your room first. See how you use the room before investing in new, or used furniture.

You may find out a desk unit would be a waste of time if your roommate is too loud, or the neighbor is playing music at all hours. The library may be where most of your studying is done. In that case a sling chair or storage ottoman might be a better choice. Or maybe that big screen TV is just the ticket.

Was moving your college freshman stressful? How many cars did it take to move them into their room? Did you bring anything back? What did you forget? Inquiring minds want to know.

What Was Your Experience With A College Freshman? - Other Frustrated Minds Want to Know

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    • MJ Martin profile image

      MJ Martin aka Ruby H Rose 

      4 years ago from Washington State

      Your storage solutions are top notch!

    • ThreeQuarters2Day profile imageAUTHOR

      Dawn Romine 

      4 years ago from Nebraska

      @The_Kelster: Thank you for the comment and the link to your related pages. Greatly appreciated.

    • profile image

      The_Kelster 

      4 years ago

      I actually just graduated college, and although I did not live in the dorms, everything on your list of items for a dorm are definitely must-haves :) Really cool lens! I just made a lens about college myself and just added this to it's related pages :)

    • faseeha lm profile image

      Faseeha Harthim 

      5 years ago from Malaysia

      I guess the most important ones are storage bins to store random stuff. Stuff lying around can be such a depressing sight. And cool storage bins or baskets can add a chic feel to any girl's dorm. Lovely post! Thanks for sharing all the useful information!

    • profile image

      Torrs13 

      5 years ago

      I think I brought just the right amount of stuff when I moved into my dorm room. I think I had more closet space than most freshman would have, but it was still smaller than the space I had at home. I agree that under bed storage is a lifesaver!

    • tammywilliams09 profile image

      tammywilliams09 

      5 years ago

      It is really great that you found all these items to help her. These tips can be used by anyone living in a small house or apartment. Thanks for the lens.

    • katiecolette profile image

      katiecolette 

      5 years ago

      Clever tips for maximizing the use of space in a dorm room. Thanks for sharing!

    • cwilson360 profile image

      cwilson360 

      5 years ago

      good tips for first time college students. Good job!

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