Updated on September 8th, 2021
If your child is heading to college this fall, you’re going to need stuff to help make that space comfortable. But deciding exactly what they will need and how to purchase everything on a budget isn’t necessarily easy or intuitive. That’s why we decided to create a dorm room checklist and share some critical items you won’t want to forget!
If you want a printable dorm room checklist to help you shop, download it here or by clicking the image below:
As a first step, make sure to disregard any of the beautiful pictures you see in magazines or online. A typically first dorm room doesn’t have space for anything too fancy including plush chairs, accent tables, or anything like that. In most cases, your child will be existing in a space with dimensions closer to a walk-in closet than an apartment, with just enough room for an extra-long twin bed, a desk, and a chest of drawers. They’ll also be restricted on how things can be attached to the walls, so display shelves are largely out of the question.
So, with all of that in mind, here are some tips regarding what they should actually have in their dorm room and links to affordable options to help speed up your shopping.
For the Dorm Room Bed
For most college students, their bed is a refuge, so make it as comfy and cozy as possible. Luckily, since the beds are twins, you can actually get some high-quality bedding at a reasonable price. However, some universities use extra-large twin beds which require longer sheets so you will want to confirm that before buying any sheets!
Begin by covering the basics:
When shopping for their dorm, look for natural materials like cotton and bamboo since they breathe. Additionally, it can be wise to choose a lighter weight comforter and add a throw blanket or two instead of choosing one heavy option. Since your child won’t have much control over the ambient temperature, the ability to add or remove layers can be a lifesaver if the space runs hotter or cooler than they prefer. Since the bed will likely be the focal point of their space, let them have fun with the colors and designs, so they can create a space that truly feels like them
And, while technically not part of the bed, consider grabbing a plush throw rug to put next to the bed. Why would you need a throw rug in a dorm room? Because no one likes putting their foot on a cold floor in the morning!
While we’re talking about the bed, consider grabbing a set of bed risers for their dorm room too. These lift the bed further off the floor, creating extra space underneath. Then, grab some storage bins that will fit into the newly expanded space and, VOILA! Extra Storage!
Did Someone Say Dorm Room Storage?
Since we touched on the topic of storage, let’s cut to the chase; your child’s dorm room needs storage options. Aside from bins for under the raised bed, you can look at additional bins that may work in the space, or check out these awesome wire shelves found here. My parents got these for me for freshman year in college and I still use them (and I graduated college years ago.)
These shelves can be put together in a variety of configurations, making them a smart choice for any space. Plus, the individual cubbies can hold canvas foldable square boxes for an attractive and colorful alternative to open spaces. Overall, I have used them in closets, under beds, as night stands, book shelves, you name it!
Alternatively, depending on the size of the dorm room, your child may be able to bring a footlocker or small chest with them, giving them more storage. And, if you shop around, you can find options that are strong enough to double as benches, adding additional seating for visiting friends and family.
Let There Be Light (or Not)
Your child’s dorm room is going to come with some basic lighting fixtures, but they may not be ideal in all situations and especially if they have a roommate. With that in mind, it may be smart to bring along an adjustable desk lamp that allows the light to be shifted in different directions. That way, if your student needs to have a late-night study session, but their roommate needs to catch some Z’s, they can do so in harmony.
Similarly, having a quality set of curtains can give them options to let in or block out the daylight as necessary. Blackout curtains are designed specifically to stop any light from penetrating through, making it easier to sleep even if the sun is up. Just make sure to use a tension rod when installing them, as they don’t require any holes in the walls to stay supported. Now, if your child has a hard time waking up as it is, perhaps you should avoid these!
Kitchen for a Dorm Room
Many college students enjoy having some basic appliances available in their dorm room. But, before you make any purchases, it’s critical to check for any restrictions in place. For example, a mini fridge and microwave may be no big deal, but items like coffee makers, toasters, George Forman grills, and hot plates aren’t allowed in all cases.
Your child is also going to need some basic kitchen supplies. Having a few dishes (ideally non-breakable and microwave safe) and basic utensils can give them in-room dining options. Other basics like a can opener, chip clip, and storage containers are also helpful. There is no reason to spend a lot on these – many are thrown out at the end of college anyway.
Dorm Room Electronics
If your child has a laptop and a smartphone, then you have a decent portion of their electronics needs covered in a single device. However, there are a few other pieces that might be helpful too. For example, noise canceling headphones can allow them to enjoy a movie without having to bother their roommate. And, if there isn’t a community printer available, they may need a small one for printing assignments in their room. If the dorm room comes with basic cable, then a small television may also be appropriate.
Other Helpful Items for a Dorm Room Checklist
Not everything your child needs fits easily into a category, so those will be covered here. Items like door hangers and sticky hooks for walls can provide your student with additional storage or display options in their dorm room, all without having to damage wall surfaces. Desktop picture frames can also help brighten up their space and give them a place to keep photos of friends and family members, and a digital picture frame can let them display multiple photos all from a single spot.
Your student is also going to need a supply of bathroom items and a method for carrying them to and from the restrooms. A nice shower caddy filled with their favorite shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and other items can help them have a relaxing experience in any easy to transport package.
Also, make sure they have a strong laundry hamper with them so they can bring their dirty clothes from the dorm room and to the community laundry space. Otherwise, their only option may be to use a pillow case. And make sure they have hangers if they have a traditional closet, giving them the opportunity to hang their clothes.
Ways to Save on Dorm Room Essentials
One last thing is, while you will certainly want some items new, many of these can be passed on from other students and families. This includes dorm room decor, leftover supplies, shower caddies, pots and pans, plates and so much more. Here are some places you may be able to find gently used items to save:
- Facebook group sales pages
- Marketplace on Facebook
- Hand-me-downs from recent college graduates you know
Overall, other items may also be suitable for a dorm room, depending on the amount of space your child has to work with and what items are provided by the school. Make sure to be realistic about what can fit in the room and, when in doubt, err on the side of less is more. If it turns out they can get something else into their dorm room, you can always send items along after the fact. Every dorm room has its own address, so don’t be afraid to mail a care package with any missing pieces.
Download Your Free Dorm Room Checklist
Again, if you want a printable dorm room checklist to help you shop, download it here or by clicking the image below:
Did you find this helpful? If so, share it with your friends and family so they don’t forget anything either!
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