Dorm Do’s and Don’t’s

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

If you haven’t worked out a “system” yet, or you’re a college freshman, you’re probably thinking about packing for your dorm as the 8th wonder of the world. Thousands of shopping lists can be found online, and only most of them are complete lies that are trying to coax you into buying their products! Thankfully, you stumbled over this page made by a real live college student living the dorm life. I’ll try to help you out as much as I can with my story and by sharing my regrets.


So, you’re probably hearing “less is more” everywhere. Yeah, you’re not bringing a dishwasher, dryer, washer, oven, toaster, or full size bed. That doesn’t mean you have to survive off of only the things you can carry on your back. If you’re not going long distance, packing really isn’t a huge deal. You can trade out your summer and winter clothes easily, and if you forget something, there’s no shame in visiting your old man to pick it up. The first week is full of strange appearances of people’s parents at odd hours between orientation events. Don’t sweat it. You’ll be fine.

Now exactly how much stuff can you/should you bring? A general rule of thumb: pack only what fits in one car. Once you get over that first semester, you’ll want to be more mobile and independent. This will make life much easier later on, an you won’t over-pack. Amazingly enough, my oldest brother was able to fit all of his dorm needs into his tiny beetle bug, and survive with ease. I could have forced all my stuff into my baby Prius C, but I split the load with my dad so he could feel more involved in the process, not to mention getting full range from my rear view mirror.

So there’s this daunting question of what to bring. What if I told you there’s no right or wrong way to set up your life? Mind. Blown. I’ve searched through countless packing lists on Pinterest, from actual dorms, from retail stores (worst idea yet), and from fellow students, and in actually moving in, I realized that I really don’t need all these random things. Thankfully, my mom wouldn’t let me go overboard, so I’m not sitting here with a full set of dishes, an illegal crock pot, and strange scent devices. Thanks mom!

Some things that are coming in handy for me (and that I think would come in handy for most) are:

  • Pushpins (if you plan on bringing, or already have a bulletin board)
  • Adhesive hooks (Great for any poster, decor, flags, and hanging your every day stuff on)
  • Small end table (the smaller the better)
  • Coffee pot (so much more than coffee)
  • Microwave
  • Minifridge if you really like cold foods
  • An extra blanket, preferably fuzzy and snugly
  • Generic school supplies
  • Boxes for under bed storage
  • Risers for your bed ^
  • Desk lamp
  • Giant laundry basket (Pack your clothes in here, and use it to bring home clothes/things when you come home on weekends)
  • One or two water bottles (colleges like to give away free ones)
  • One or two coffee mugs/travel mugs (same here^)
  • Water filter pitcher

And that’s about it aside from the obvious stuff.

Dorm life is very much about compromise. You’re not going to be super comfy and live in luxury as you did at home. Yes, I do dishes in the bathtub, and I make oatmeal with my coffee pot, but it’s really not as bad as it sounds. Remember, you’re going off to college to focus on education. College isn’t intended to be easy, and dorms aren’t supposed to be homey places of relaxation. If anything, the more you get out, the more you’ll enjoy yourself, and the more you’ll get out of life. Try NOT to spend all your time couped up in your dorm.  Get out there, experience the world!

Anyway, don’t dread this. Don’t freak out. You’re not going to be Martha Stewart. You can do this. Pack what you need, then if you have space, add in a few little homey touches. You are downsizing, but please do keep yourself comfortable enough to manage. Think about things you really need and the things you will actually use. You’re your own best reference and teacher.


But I don’t want a bone-dry soulless room! 


    Okay, I can agree, nobody wants that. Decorations can make your room that much more livable. I went with a minimal theme that consisted of colors I liked, and things I like. For some reason, whales make me really happy, so I got these  (90% off!) from Hancock before it went under, and painted them for my dorm. I made the pillows with some cheap fleece to add a cozy, warm touch. The Scottish flag shows my sentiment towards Scotland, and reminds me of good memories there, and it adds a nice touch in my opinion.


And yes, I did bring my stuffed puppies from home. Judge me. I dare you.


And my appliances are basic. I brought two plants from home, and my wonderful boyfriend brought me the roses when he came to visit. He’s the sweetest! Ignore the fruit. I totally didn’t take that from the cafeteria. #CollegeLife

The little table comes in handy for little things, and it flips into a five-star dining table when you throw a tea towel over it and put the roses in the center. Pretty nifty, eh?



Anyway. My dorm is super basic, but I don’t think I have a low standard of living as far as that goes. Having a personal coffee maker means warm tea 24/7, and sitting at my desk in my house shoes and robe drinking tea while I dive into readings from Confucian Analects is the best feeling ever.


I hope this cleared up a lot for y’all! Just remember, one car load, think you-things, and make it your own. Oh, and don’t forget to leave your room. Get out there! Have fun!

And study.


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