Retailers may have parents convinced of purchasing everything possible before sending your kid off to college... But when you think about it - is that what you did when you bought your first place? Or did you take the time to live in your space? To help from being overwhelmed with stress and emotions, and help keep the focus on the essentials - here's a few tips to keep in mind when thinking about dorm design:

Things to think about trying:

1. Visit the school's website or call the housing office to find out what's provided and, equally important, what's on the ``don't bring'' list. The school list is smaller than commercial lists and more thoughtfully constructed, with the student and institution in mind.

 2. Try to learn as much as you can about the dorm room your child has been assigned. The student can also get involved in this task - check out Facebook or MySpace to track down a residential advisor or peer counselor.

3. Check-out other websites and blogs for feedback like The NHHEAF Network and The Naked Roommate (and 107 other issues you might run into in College). And for some simple projects to help personalize the space after getting settled in - check out the book Dorm Decor by Theresa Gonzalez and Nicole Smith.

Things to consider in planning:
After you've gathered your findings, pull together a checklist of the dorm items truly needed:

  • Clothing - comfy study clothes (jeans, tees, tanks, shorts and yoga pants), hoodie or sweater (to keep the focus on studies - not how to stay warm), workout wear (to go for walks, a run, a yoga class or the gym - to help clear the mind), party gear (let's be honest - it is going to happen) and even a classic black black jacket (to get a professional look in a pinch). to help save on space: pack seasonally (IOW - pack the parka when it is really needed - either by mailing it to bring it back during one of the trips home).

  • Bedding - two sets of extra-long twin sheets, at least two towels, a blanket, pillows, and even a few decorative pillows to personalize your space. For extra comfort - add a mattress pad or a bed-rest (the pillow with arms).

  • Personal care - toiletries, cosmetics, a caddy, flip-flops and bathrobe (especially if the bathroom is a communal 'situation'), a (new) University SNUGGIE, a first aide kit - and even a sewing kit (for button repairs).

  • Personal items - hair dryers, curling / flat irons, ipod, smart phone, laptop, and a means of charging and wiring these items. Also consider a few plastic dishes and cutlery (just not a entire boxed place setting for four). A mini fridge (for beverages like water, soda, and juice) and a small microwave (to heat up leftovers or make some popcorn).

  • School/desk supplies - lighting (non-halogen desk lamp), a fan, an alarm clock (or two -lol), highlighters, post-its, pens, pencils, calculator, lap-top, a printer, flash drive, notebooks, folders (and for Martha - a P-Touch for label making).

  • Cleaning suppliesSwiffers (box of dry cloths for quick dusting), Clorox wipes, paper towels, Lysol spray, hand sanitizer, a laundry bag and detergent and in South Florida especially - a bucket of Damp Rid.

Above all - don't substitute function for fun. Join forces with your roommate and plan a fun and exciting environment (or plan one of your own if you're going solo) - full of color and style to sleep and to study in. Remember: space is limited and quite small (could be 10' x 11' or 12' x 19' for two people).


And as with most apartments, you may not be able to paint the walls. A way to get around this is by painting cork board (square, strips or discs) and adhere to walls with 3M command strips. (IKEA has 7" cork discs they are selling as trivets in packs of 3 for $2.99) The colored cork will not only add a pop of color to your space, but a place to pin up and display mementos and keepsakes...

Have FUN designing your dorm!

 All Dorm Life merchandising and photos
by Lynda Quintero-Davids - 2008.


  1. Swiffer-type wipes are magic! I take them with me to thrift stores and garage sales to discretely see how a piece of furniture might clean up!

    It works. X Stan

  2. Very sound advice. Have to admit the pics are giving me claustrophobia though. I am more of a minimalist. :O

  3. LOL - that's probably because the pics are from a store Jill. Without realizing it, they sometimes take away the impulse to shop because they literally want EVERYTHING stacked out on the floor ("can't sell it when it's in a stockroom" mentality)

    i heart swiffers Stan! and great thrifting tip! thx!

    :D Lynda

  4. LOL........I know they are from a store. Maybe that's why I put off shopping until it's absolutely necessary!! :)

  5. Great post. I kind of want to go back to school and have that living on campus experience that I never got. With all these tips, I'd have the coolest pad in school! Oh wait...I hate studying. Nevermind.



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