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Best Inexpensive Essential College Dorm Gear

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 (Master’s University). And I loved it. Dorm life was everything I’d imagined and so much more.


A bunch of items that are on a table

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 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!

1. 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 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. .

2. 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 as additional seating. Trust me—a comfortable, useful reading pillow will make all the difference by turning your bed into a very comfortable chair. This shredded foam reading pillow is awesome for reading, studying, watching TV or just 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. .

3. 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. Make sure you know the dimensions of the under bed space you may have, then consider these fabulous IKEA Underbed Storage Boxes that come in black or white. . With any luck, you can fit four boxes (two 2-paks) under your dorm bed.

4. 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 card, passport, jewelry, documents. etc. This solid steel dorm digital safe holds a lot and is perfect for a small space. About $35.

5. MICROWAVE. Provided the dorm rules allow for in-room food prep—and your roommate agrees—this sweet Daewoo Retro Countertop Microwave is a great pick. Positioned next to your tiny fridge, life just got a whole lot better.

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6. RUG. 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 and a nice little rug makes sitting on the floor more inviting. This attractive geometric microfiber rug comes in several sizes starting at .

7. SHOWER SANDALS. You will not have your own personal shower. Get used to it. More than likely it will 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 in order to avoid foot infections. Oh, the stories I could tell you, but I will refrain. Just know you will need shower sandals.

8. 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. This laundry bag is ideal because it is so versatile. It pops up to be a stand-alone hamper, then collapses flat when not in use. Loaded up, 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. .

9. 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 absolutely 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 3000K Warm 6 LED Book Light has three levels of brightness and will give you 60 hours of light between recharges. It adjusts to any angle, too. .

10. CLOSET ORGANIZER. You can effectively double your closet space 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.

11. 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 black-out sleep mask together with highly effective earplugs will make all the difference. This Kimkoo Silk Sleep Mask and Earplugs set is as close to perfect as you will find. You’ll be able to sleep any time of day or night even if your roommate snores, there’s a party going on down the hall, or you just pulled an all-nighter and now, finally, you can catch some Zzzzzs.

More: Graduate Debt-Free

My life changed dramatically the day I landed on 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.

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