Furnished college dorm room

The days when students arrived at college accompanied by a single suitcase or footlocker are long past. Now there’s a long laundry list of items, ranging from electronics to transportation, needed for college life when moving into a dorm room.

What to Bring When Moving Into a College Dorm Room

Laundry hamper

Today’s necessities for higher learning include:

  • Computer and printer
  • Sound system with MP3 player or iPod
  • TV with video game system and DVD player
  • Microwave and mini-frig
  • Pillow and linens
  • Towels and toiletry supplies
  • Clothes and shoes
  • Cell phone and digital camera
  • Car, bike, or skateboard
  • Hiking and sports equipment
  • Musical instruments
  • Books and school supplies.

Given all that excess baggage, consider yourself lucky if you can cram it all in the family car without having to tow a trailer behind!

Once you arrive at school, the big question becomes where to put it all and how to organize it. Given that the average dorm room is only around 200 square feet—half of which will probably be occupied by a roommate—every inch of floor space counts. But don’t despair, there are a number of innovative ideas and products that can help keep everything tidy and shipshape. Here’s how to go about it.

Do Your Homework

Before you arrive, check with the school’s housing office or website to see what you’re allowed to bring and what’s considered taboo. Items that may or may not be allowed include microwaves, hot plates, televisions, halogen lamps, candles, and additional furniture.

The school should also give you with a list of rules concerning alterations you can and can’t make to the room—which usually include no nailing, screwing, painting, or any other permanent changes—as well as the standard issue items that will come with it, such as a bed, desk, and/or dresser.

Check in advance to see if the bed is a standard single (39” x 75”) or extra long (39” x 80”), so you’ll know what size sheets to buy. While some dorms come with loft beds that allow space underneath for a desk or dresser, students are usually not allowed to make that kind of modification themselves.

Once you’ve been assigned a roommate, check with them to see if they would like to share larger items, like a microwave or mini-frig, to reduce expenses and avoid unnecessary duplication.

Get Everything Together

After you’ve compiled a list of everything you think you’ll need, go over it again and pare it down to the essentials you can’t live without. With list in hand, check newspaper flyers and shop around for back to school bargains. Look for items that:

  • Fold for easy storage when not in use, such as a collapsible laundry hamper like one from Caddie Concepts.

  • Bed riser to raise bed

  • Use bed risers (if allowed), such as these from Bed Bath & Beyond, to raise your bed and increase the storage space underneath. You can also make your own risers from 2x4s and PVC pipe. Cut 4? diameter PVC pipe to the length of the bed leg plus the desired riser height. Next, cut a 2×4 to the riser height and slip it inside the piece of pipe. Raising the bed more than 6?-8? can make it unstable and pose a safety hazard.
  • An attachable bedside shelf, such as the BunkPal, is handy for keeping an alarm clock and other essential items close at hand.
  • Make use of wasted space, including shoe or hat racks that hang over the top of a closet door.
  • Fit under your bed or can be stored under it in pull out drawers.

Once you have everything in hand, pack it in storage containers that can be used in the dorm room, rather than suitcases which will have to be stored or returned home when you arrive. If you’re traveling by air, mail what you can’t carry aboard the plane, or shop for bulky items after you arrive.

Move In

When the big day arrives, make the most of your limited dorm space:

    3M Command Strips

  • Take advantage of limited floor space with tall, narrow bookcases and drawer units.
  • Use removable adhesive wall hangers, such as 3M Command Strips, to hang pictures and other items without damaging the wall. Other Command products include a docking station to charge cell phones and MP3 players as well as bathroom hooks and a soap dish.
  • Attach posters with removable mounting squares or safe release double sided tape.
  • Double the hanging space in your closet by installing a second clothes rod below the existing one. Units are available that hook over the top rod for instant installation without having to screw into walls.
  • Use tension rods to hang curtains without damaging walls.

Danny Lipford

Danny Lipford is among the country’s most sought-after home improvement experts.

The seasoned remodeling contractor and media personality served as the home improvement expert for CBS’s “The Early Show” and The Weather Channel for over a decade and has made more than 180 national television appearances on “Fox & Friends,” “Inside Edition,” “Morning Express with Robin Meade,” Fox Business Channel, Rachael Ray and more.

He travels the country making appearances as a brand ambassador and spokesperson, and each year contributes expertise to hundreds of popular magazines and online media outlets.


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