It’s been 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. And I loved it. Dorm life was everything I’d imagined and so much more.
Typically, dorm rooms are not spacious. I had a bed, desk, bookshelf, and chair; a closet with 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 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 entering dorm life in a few weeks, I’ve put together a list of dorm room essentials—beyond the basics of a laptop, linens, toiletries, and clothes—that will definitely make the transition easier and college life a lot more enjoyable.
If allowed in your room, you’ll bless the day you arrived with a mini fridge large enough for soft drinks, water, snacks, and energizing food items. Something like this 2.7 compact dorm refrigerator will save the day when the cafeteria closes at 6 pm, and you’re looking at 10 more hours of cramming for finals. Been there. If only I’d had a fridge.
A good reading pillow will serve multiple functions—a place to sit and study that isn’t a stiff desk chair. Or as additional seating. Trust me—a comfortable, useful reading pillow will make all the difference. This shredded foam reading pillow is awesome for reading, studying, watching TV, or hanging out. Well made, it is sturdy but at the same time cozy enough to serve you well all the way through your college career.
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. Make sure you know the dimensions of the under-bed space you may have, then consider these fabulous IKEA Underbed Storage Boxes. With any luck, you can fit four boxes (two 2-paks) under your dorm bed or in the closet cubbies.
Tip: You can get bed risers to create more height under the bed, even up to 5-inches!
Don’t learn the hard way that caring does not always mean sharing. You’ll need a safe place to secure cash, credit card, passport, jewelry, and documents. This Digital Steel Safe Box holds a lot and is perfect for a small space.
Provided the dorm rules allow for in-room food prep—and your roommate agrees—this Retro Microwave is a great pick. Positioned next to your tiny fridge, life just got a whole lot better!
A small bedside rug is on my essential list because it will make your space so much cozier. You’ll have a soft place to put your feet as you roll out of bed. A nice little rug makes sitting on the floor more inviting. This attractive geometric microfiber rug comes in several sizes, and yes it is listed as a rug for the bathroom, but doubles nicely by the bed.
You will not have your own personal shower. Get used to it. It will likely be down the hall and lots of fellow students will be using the same facility. 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 when living in a college dorm to avoid foot infections. Oh, the stories I could tell you, but I will refrain. Just know you will need shower sandals.
You’re going to need a specific place for dirty clothes. Under the bed or in the closet are not very good options. This laundry bag is ideal because it is so versatile. It appears to be a stand-alone hamper, then collapses flat when not in use. CleverMade Laundry Caddy becomes an extra-large tote bag that holds up to two loads of laundry. Perfect for life in a small space. Comes in a bunch of colors, too.
Clip-On Reading Lamp
Dorm rooms are not known to have the best lighting. That, plus the fact that you and your roommate may not share the same sleep patterns, makes a good personal reading light essential. You can clip this one to your reading pillow or just about any other place—or set it on a flat surface—then study, read or play games while your roomie sleeps completely unannoyed. LuminoLite Cordless Rechargeable Book Light has three levels of brightness and will give you 70 hours of light between recharges. It adjusts to any angle, too.
You can double your closet space effectively with the right closet organizing tools and gadgets. There are many. This 5-Shelf Hanging Closet Organizer is one of the best because it makes use of otherwise wasted space by creating open shelves. Now you have a place to organize all of your things that don’t happen to fit on hangers.
Sleep Mask and Earplugs
My life changed dramatically the day I landed on The Master’s University campus. I met the guy who would four years later become my husband. I made friendships for a lifetime (you know who you are Judy, Susan, Marsha, Carol). Looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing, although a mini-fridge, reading pillow, and sleep mask would have been so nice.