The end of summer can be a tough pill to swallow. This sweet season just blows by so fast, like a hot wind off the back bay, warming us ever-so-briefly before heading out to sea. Technically, you know that all the seasons are the exact same length, but somehow this one always seems shorter.
Fortunately, this year is a little different. This is the year you head off to college, which means that in place of the familiar stomach-churning dread of another school year, you should be filled with nervous excitement for all the awesome new experiences that await you.
But you should also be prepared. You’re on your own this year. Mommy won’t be there to cut the crusts off your sammiches. Dad won’t be on hand to screw things back together when they fall apart. This is your crash-course on independence. But independence requires supplies.
Arm yourself with everything you need, and a few things that you want. Make your dorm room the envy of every other 250 sq ft space on your floor. By now, your bags are getting heavy and you’re running low on Bed Bath & Beyond coupons, but there are a few more things you should really have before you embark on this journey. With that, we bring you 10 Underrated Dorm Room Essentials that should help you round out your back-to-school shopping list.
1. Air Fresheners
Dorm-stank is real. You have no way of knowing what kind of roomie you’ll get. Is he or she the kind of person who tucks hospital corners and meticulously folds undergarments or the kind who cycles through clothing according to a pile system. Also, you don’t think you could lose a slice of pizza under your mattress for three months, but it happens. Best to be prepared. You could get one of those little wall plug-ins, or a scented wax-melter or, if you’re feeling particularly uptown, an essential-oil diffuser. Let the severity of your situation determine the method of de-stanking that’s best for you.
2. Shower Shoes
So if you’re new to the freshman dorm scene, I’ll let you know in on a little secret. People do unspeakable things in the showers. You’ll share a communal bathroom with anywhere between ten and thirty other people. It’s not quite as disturbing as a rest stop bathroom on the New Jersey Turnpike but honestly, it’s not far off. I can tell you from memory that the custodial staff (God bless their sturdy hearts) would take the weekend off. Two days of youthful indiscretion later, they would return to something awful. The things they had to clean, the things they saw…you wouldn’t wish it on your own worst enemy. I’m not saying your communal bathroom is definitely a breeding ground for bacteria and illness but you don’t want to volunteer your feet as a petrie dish. So…shower shoes…just trust me on this one.
3. Coffee Accouterments
The basic elements of survival in college are food, shelter, and coffee, and frankly, the first two are kind of optional. At least, that was my experience. On those long laborious nights, as I sat bathed in the cold blue light of the computer screen, staring down a bottomless pit of classwork, coffee was my constant companion, my unconditional confidante, my rich, dark, steamy soulmate. Me and coffee have something special. Don’t judge. Maybe even walk a mile in my shoes. And if you do, get yourself a few dorm room basics like a single-serve Keurig, a mug warmer, or just a good old fashioned Mr. Coffee.
4. Nerdy Trashcan
Let people know how you culturally identify by way of your trash receptacle. From R2D2 to the iconic Doctor Who TARDIS, dispose of your empties like a geek boss. Getting rid of garbage should always be a conversation starter. Be among the most highly-evolved students in your residence hall by actually throwing stuff away instead of just dropping it wherever you stand.
5. Wheelie Cart
Sure, you feel kind of like an old lady gently nudging your wheelie cart down the street, but at least you aren’t leaving a trail of dirty socks behind as you wrangle your clothes to the campus laundromat. Pushing one of these carts around isn’t exactly cool but then again, you’re not winning any admirers by stuffing your dirty whites into a hefty bag and slinging it over your shoulder like a bindle. Besides, a cart has so many other practical applications, like shopping for groceries, or hauling home a friend who overdid it at a party, or borrowing the complete Encyclopedia Brittanica from your school library (though I can’t imagine why you’d do that). As a freshman, you may find it difficult to obtain a parking pass from your university, but this is one set of wheels you can park anywhere.
6. Outdated Video Game System
Don’t get me wrong, it’s really fun to have the latest in cutting-edge gaming technology. Maybe you already have a super-fancy entertainment system with holograms, and 4D graphics, and real lasers. Well bully for you, but I’m guessing you spent a ton of loot on that system. I’m not saying you shouldn’t bring it to school, but you might think twice about breaking it out every time a bunch of your floormates stumble in for a late night hang. The thing is, people trip on wires, people spill drinks, people step on cartridges. Accidents happen, especially in college. Get yourself a video game system that was all the rage during the Bush Administration. An old Nintendo 64 or PS1 is cheap enough that you won’t feel the need to disown any of your newfound friends should they accidentally set it ablaze. And don’t worry. You can still play your favorite competitive multiplayer games. They’ve been cranking out new versions of Mario Kart for 24 years!
7. Noise-Cancelling Headphones
Perhaps you’re a super-diligent studier and the sound of your roommate goofing off is a huge distraction. Perhaps your roommate is a super-diligent studier and you find it a huge distraction while you’re trying to goof off. Maybe your roommate snores like a heard of cattle dispersing under a tornado. Whatever your situation, a good set of noise-cancelling headphones can magically transport you to your own private island. I mean, don’t get too comfortable. Other people can still see and hear you. But you’ll have all the auditory isolation you need to enjoy your music or simply the illusion of serenity.
8. Beginner’s Toolkit
I have to admit, I’m not the handiest guy. I have to use the directions just to assemble Yaffa Blocks. But having a little travel toolkit in college was absolutely clutch. You don’t need a whole rolling tool chest system (nor will you have anywhere to put it). But a nice little set of screwdrivers, wrenches and hammers should go pretty far. Tighten the bolts on your standard-issue dorm cot, fashion a bookshelf from a trash-picked wood pallet, or install a hook for you favorite Justin Bieber poster (although seriously, don’t bring your favorite Justin Bieber poster to college). Pick up a small travel toolkit with all the essentials and—along with all the other things you’ll be learning at school—teach yourself how to fix stuff.
9. Dry Erase Board
Back in the day, before we all had cellphones, this was at least one preferred method of correspondence for college kids. Hang one of these bad boys on the outside of your door so your floormates can drop by, realize you’re not it, and leave a written message, possibly punctuated by an obscene illustration. Granted, this is neither the most efficient nor the quickest way to get a message to somebody. But on the bright side, the data plan won’t cost you a thing. The dry erase board obviously has many other practical applications. Hang it inside your room and create a calendar to keep track of your assignments, exams, and club meetings. Keep an ongoing grocery or to-do list. And if you’re not hung up on the whole popularity thing, you can use it to delegate cleaning chores between you and your roomie. I admit, they haven’t done much to upgrade this technology in decades. But this is largely because you don’t mess with perfection.
10. Bed Risers
Storage space is one thing of which you will not likely have a surplus when you get to college. After buying all the stuff we recommended here, and all the things on your school’s thoughtfully compiled dorm room checklist, and probably a bunch of stuff that you don’t really need, now you have the challenge of figuring out where it all goes.
There’s a decent chance that your freshman dorm room is far smaller than the home bedroom you’re leaving behind, and only half of that cube belongs to you. Bed risers are a great way to accommodate extra storage without compromising cleanliness, fire safety regulations, or your roommate’s personal space. Not to mention, raising your bed seven inches above everybody else’s will make you feel like a bigshot.
Any Dorm Room Essentials that we missed? Let us know!