Full disclosure, you guys: I lived in basically every type of housing when I was in college. My first year was spent in a dorm where I shared a room with one roommate. It had communal bathrooms down the hall. The next year, I moved to a suite in the dorms with four roommates; we shared two bathrooms, a living room, and full kitchen. I spent part of my junior year in a small apartment by myself, and after that I moved into a house and commuted to campus. During this time, I learned a lot about what is truly important to have when you move in. No matter where you’ll be living, you’ll want to have these 10 things with you:
- Sheets and a comforter: Possibly the single most important thing to bring with you is bedding! You’ll need something to sleep on the first night, so make sure you buy it early when plenty of options are still in stock. Along with sheets and a comforter or quilt, you’ll want a pillow (or pillows), a mattress topper (especially if you’re going to be given a dorm mattress), and anything else you like to sleep with. Raise your hand if you have a stuffed animal!
- Hangers: You may have some dresser or shelving space, but you’ll undoubtedly have some clothes that you’ll want to hang up. Most dorm rooms have closets, or at least a rod to hang things on, but those that don’t may provide an armoire or wardrobe that can play host to your dresses, suits, and other hanging clothes. Luckily, plastic hangers are cheap and you can find them almost anywhere. Don’t forget to recycle them if they break!
- Laundry basket and detergent: Not only will you need something to take your dirty clothes down to the laundry room in, but you’ll also need something to bring them back up in after they’re clean. You can do both of these tasks with the same basket, or have a hamper for dirty clothes and a basket for clean, if you prefer—and if you have the space. Don’t forget, you’ll also need detergent to get those clothes clean. Rather than carrying a heavy bottle of liquid, consider buying detergent packs. That way, you can grab just one to take with you at a time.
- Towels: Unlike hotels, dorms don’t provide towels for you, so you’ll need your own. In addition to a full-size towel, consider whether you will want smaller hand towels for drying your face or hair. Bringing a spare set of towels is a great idea, too, if you ever have visitors or get a little bit lazy about doing the laundry.
- Reusable water bottle: Instead of buying cases of single-use water bottles, or paying high prices for individual bottles every time you get thirsty, pay for a reusable bottle once and take it with you wherever you go. There are likely water fountains across campus, so you can fill up for free when you’re at the gym, in class, or relaxing at the student center. Plus, you’ll be doing some good for the environment!
- Dish soap: Even if your room doesn’t have a kitchen, you’ll want some dish soap so you can wash out your reusable water bottle and any other dishes or utensils you may have. Some dorms stock their communal kitchens with dish soap, but there’s no guarantee it’ll be there when you need it!
- Food or kitchen storage: Chip clips are great for keeping bags closed! They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and help ensure that your snacks stay fresh after you open them. For anything that a chip clip can’t keep closed, you can’t go wrong with storage bags or Tupperware containers. Get them cheap at grocery stores, dollar stores, and general merchandise big-box stores, like Target. You can also use Tupperware to store non-food items, from hair accessories and jewelry to push pins and paper clips.
- Storage bins: Find these ranging in size from large to tiny, and use them for anything and everything! Small bins are great for organizing cabinets and drawers. Medium and large bins can be used for under-the-bed storage and may even be large enough to hold a comforter. When space is limited, and in a dorm room it definitely is, plastic containers are great for storing shoes, extra clothes, school supplies, and anything else you have laying around!
- Lamps: Many dorms only have large fluorescent lights on the ceiling, which can be enough to induce a headache or keep you awake when your roommate is trying to study late at night. A lamp is nice to have for your desk, bedside table, or sitting area. Some lamps even mimic natural sunlight so you can get a boost of vitamin D during late-night study sessions!
- Decorations and photos: Most dorms and apartments look pretty bare—bleak, even—until you start adding your own personal touch. Photos of family, friends, and your favorite places can help make a room feel more like home. Paintings, holiday lights, shelves, and other decor add character and personality to a space. Any shelves you bring give you extra storage too, so it’s a win-win! Don’t forget to bring tape or mounting putty to stick your decorations to the walls. At an apartment you can use proper picture hangers, but they’re not typically allowed in dorms.
No matter where you’re living, you’ll at least be able to make it through the first night (comfortably) if you bring the items on this list! As you get settled into your new space and learn your routines, you’ll realize what more you need for your room. Add extra decor, more snacks, and fun curtains to jazz up your space and make it feel more and more like home; Target and Bed Bath & Beyond are sure to have everything you might need! Just remember, what goes into your room must also come out of it at the end of the year!