The Ultimate Checklist for a College Dorm

published Jul 25, 2019
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College can bring about a lot of unknowns: a new location, new friends, and professors who seem a lot more intimidating than your high school teachers. But one thing you can completely prep for in advance is living in a dorm. You’re probably on top of the basics like sheets, towels, and all the chargers, but here’s our guide to a bunch of other handy must-have essentials. With everything from storage solutions to late-night necessities to bathroom must-haves, this checklist has got you covered.

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Since you’ll likely be short on space in a dorm, your furniture items will have to multitask. That means your desk can work as a homework space and as a getting ready area. Consider investing in a desk divider so that you can keep things separate and organized. Notebooks, textbooks, and worksheets go on one side, while makeup, hair products, or other items can stay on the other side.

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Space is precious in a dorm room, so taking advantage of any extra storage opportunities is an absolute must, Gracie Hart, a designer for Rae Duncan Interior Design, says. “Bed risers help utilize the floor space under your bed, especially if your dorm doesn’t allow you to loft your bed. With a little spray paint, these risers can match your room theme perfectly.”

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Whether you’re attending a school in a hot-weather locale or the air conditioning just doesn’t work quite as well as it did at home, a breathable duvet will help you stay cool during the night. Look for one made of cotton, which will allow more airflow than other fabrics. 

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Moving into a dorm can also mean moving in with a brand-new roommate. Make sure your roomie’s all-nighters don’t keep you up by investing in earplugs and an eye mask. You’ll cancel out any noise or light from their side of the room so you can doze peacefully while they work away.

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Living in a dorm can mean that your only options for filling up your cup or water bottle is the sink. Invest in a smaller Brita filter so that you can easily fill it up and have clean, crisp water available to drink whenever you want it. When you’re not using it, you can stow it away.

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When you’re in a small space, storage is key. This rolling cart is an essential for everyone, Hart says. “If you’re planning on eating in your dorm, it’s a great way to store a Keurig, dry food items, and dishware in an accessible but tidy way,” she says. “It’s also very useful for setting up a school supplies hub. The top level is a perfect charging station for your phone and laptop, so you’ll never go to class with low battery.”

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Task Lamp, $14.99

Unfortunately, electrical outlets are usually scarce in dorm rooms, Hart says. Try to find pieces of furniture that add more outlets to your room, like this desk lamp. “This lamp doubles as a USB charging port, so you don’t have to use another precious outlet on your phone,” she says. “Table lamps are a dorm room necessity so that you can still have light even if your roommate is sleeping.”

Credit: Bed Bath & Beyond

Cork Board, $9.99

Take advantage of the space on your walls by installing some cork board onto it, Amy Kartheiser, owner of Amy Kartheiser Design in Evanston, Illinois, says. You can hang anything from photos to class schedules on it. Kartheiser’s suggestion? Use it to hang jewelry. “Cork boards are a wonderful way to hang your jewelry so you can find it all in one place,” she says. “It stays untangled and since nothing ever goes back in the same place, it is ever-changing art on your wall.”

Credit: Bed Bath & Beyond

Slim Hangers, $24.99

Fitting your whole wardrobe into a dorm-size closet or chest can be a tough feat. Save some major space by buying slim-line hangers. Added bonus: they’re non-slip, so you won’t have to worry about clothes falling off of hangers and onto your closet floor.

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Living in the dorms means sharing a room—but it also means sharing a bathroom. Keep your feet as clean as possible by bringing along a pair of shower shoes. They don’t have to be anything fancy (flip flops work perfectly fine), they just have to stay between your feet and the floor of the bathroom.

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While you can leave your shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and other shower essentials in your shower space at home, you typically can’t do that in the dorms. Make your trip to the shower easier by keeping everything you need in a handy shower caddy.

Credit: Bed Bath & Beyond

Having a laundry hamper is a great way to keep dirty clothes off the ground and out of the way. But lugging around the whole hamper to the laundry room can be heavy. Instead, look for a hamper with a removable bag so you can lighten your load.

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Unfortunately, not every piece of clothing can be thrown into the dryer. For items that need to be hung up to dry, consider a collapsible drying rack. It can hold all of your special clothing items and can be folded up and stowed away until your next laundry day.

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Accidents happen — especially when you’re living in a small space. It’s best to keep a small first aid kit on hand in case you accidentally bump into the corner of your desk (or get a papercut while studying). This one is small enough to fit anywhere in your dorm.

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Due to the lack of space, dorm rooms usually don’t offer the luxury of a bedside table. So where do you keep all of your items that you want near your bed? In a bedside caddy. It has spaces for everything you need at an arm’s length reach: your phone, your book, your earplugs, your eye mask—and of course, your laptop.

Want more dorm ideas, inspiration, and stories? Head over to Dorm TherapyHQ!