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It seems like I can never go on Twitter anymore without seeing a post from a college-bound student raving over how excited they are to begin their college journey. From freshman orientation to dorm room shopping, the excitement is becoming extremely contagious, but with my first year having just ended a little over a month ago, I can’t help but feel extremely nostalgic as I watch these future freshmen make their own memories as they begin this amazing milestone in life.
Personally, dorm room shopping was both one the best experiences of my college prep, as well as the most time and money consuming (as I think all college students can agree). I was constantly shopping for the best deals on bed sets and decorations, figuring out how to color-coordinate my decorations, and trying to diagram how to best arrange my furniture with the bits of information I could glean with the floor plan that I was provided. As enthusiastic as I was to begin my freshman year, I had already learned how different dorm rooms could be from my multiple college tours, where I got to see the difference between the display dorm room versus the real dorm room, as well as actually getting to temporarily live in some dorm rooms in a couple of residential summer programs.
Even with these experiences, I learned how dorm rooms could differ even more when I had to move three different times in my first semester (due to a health hazard in the dorm). With the number of dorms that I have actually lived in already at six (not even counting the ones I’ve just visited), I have truly been exposed to how different dorm rooms can be and how influential that can be on what you bring to college.
These dorm rooms variations are the reason why I have compiled a list of 10 items to delay purchasing until after dorm move-in. Some of these items are things that you may have to purchase in a different style or size due to the type of dorm room you have, while others are things that you may just want to wait and see if they will fit once you get there. Trust me: waiting to buy these ten items until after you move in can help save you a lot of money in the long run, and can help you purchase products that you are much happier with.
1. Laundry Basket
Having a laundry basket is a necessity in college, but I recommend not buying it until after you’ve moved in so that you can see what the dorm room and the building is like.
For example, your dorm room may be tiny, so you need a small one that you could just slide under your bed; or perhaps the laundry room is on the other side of the building, so you want one that has wheels on it.
Waiting to buy a laundry basket is something that I definitely wished I would have waited to buy until after I had moved in. The laundry basket that I had was always too heavy to use the handles, so I had to drag it behind me. This was made even worse by the fact that the laundry room was on the other side of the building (and it was a huge building) so I had to drag it behind me for quite a while.
If I was to re-do my laundry basket purchase, I would have chosen a laundry basket with wheels, like this one. Having a laundry basket with wheels would have taken away half of the work when I had to do my weekly laundry trip.
2. Mini fridge
A mini fridge is something that I actually did wait to purchase until after I moved in, and I am so glad that I did. Not only are the hard to fit into your car when driving to college, but they can also be a hassle to deal with during move-in. (i.e. When it is so busy that you can hardly even get your smaller bags to your room, much less a mini fridge.)
Another reason to wait to buy a mini fridge is because that it is possible that your dorm room already comes with one, or that your roommate has already brought it! A lot of colleges don’t allow two fridges in the room, so it’s better to save your money and wait on this purchase.
When you do buy one, I highly recommend this Igloo mini fridge, which has great reviews and isn’t too large, which means that it is easy to save space by putting it under your bed.
There are many reasons to wait on purchasing a microwave until after you move in, such as your roommate already having brought one, or a microwave coming with the room. It’s also possible that there may be a really nice microwave in a common kitchen or lounge area that is just steps down the hallway; sometimes, you just don’t know about these things until you get there.
If you do decide to purchase a microwave, I recommend this Danby microwave, which is perfect for any college dorm room because of it’s multiple settings and you can choose your preferred microwave size before you order it.
4. A Full-Length Mirror
You may have looked at this one and screamed, “But Charlotte, I need a full-length mirror to help me get ready in the morning! I need to know what my outfit looks like! I need my outfit of the day selfies!”
Let me remind you that I’m not saying that you shouldn’t buy one…I’m just telling you to wait. Full-length mirrors are hard to pack when your car is already filled to the brim (believe me, I’ve been there), and it’s not like they’re expensive to purchase, so you don’t necessarily have to bring one you already have from home. Once you’ve moved in, it’s easier to see what you need and order it online so that you don’t have to worry about competing with the other students that are rushing to the store to buy dorm room mirrors.
Another reason I suggest waiting on this buy is because some rooms actually come with a full-length mirror. The first dorm that I lived in my freshman year was one of these rooms, and believe it or not, it was not stated in the description of the dorm that they came with full-length mirrors. This meant that I had brought one from home that I didn’t know what to do with. Luckily, I didn’t throw it out, because I needed it a few weeks later when I moved into another dorm on campus.
If you do decide to buy your own full-length mirror, and are willing to put a little extra money into it, then I suggest this Stratford full-length mirror with storage; this mirror opens up to have a storage compartment for jewelry and other valuables, and also includes a dry erase and cork board! The best part is that this compartment can be secured with a set of keys, so you don’t have to worry about anybody trying to get into it if you forget to lock your room on your way to class. 🙂
5. Bed risers
Whenever you go dorm room shopping, one of the first things that you will see are bed risers, which promise to help raise up your bed to give you extra storage space underneath. While no college student can turn down extra storage space, I recommend waiting to buy these because some bed frames are adjustable, meaning that you can adjust the height to however you prefer without the need of additional bed risers.
Since my dorm bed had one of these adjustable bed frames, it meant that the bed risers that I had bought were completely useless, and ended up sitting in a tote in my closet for the rest of the school year. Those unused bed risers meant wasted money that I could have put towards my textbooks or tuition (or midnight snacks, who am I to judge?).
However, some dorms do not have these adjustable bed frames, and I’ve stayed in a few that don’t; this means that many students will decide to purchase bed risers. If you do, I recommend these Home-it adjustable bed risers. With these, you have three different options on how tall you want your bed to rise, rather than being stuck with a one-size bed riser.
6. Desktop Organizers
A lot of dorm room items promise to help students make the most of what little space is available in their rooms, and a desktop organizer to place your pencils, pens, and bountiful other school supplies is often one of them. A desktop organizer was one of the first purchases that I made when dorm room shopping, but once I actually moved in, it never even came out of the box.
When dorm room shopping, I often referred to pictures of what my dorm room would look like from my school’s housing website. These pictures were not the most accurate and/or up-to-date as I would later learn, because not only did I have a full-length mirror included in my room that I was not expecting, but I also had a much nicer desk than what was shown in the pictures.
However, not all students will have this pleasant surprise, and will end up needing some sort of dorm room organizer. Even if you do know what type of desk you will have, I still recommend waiting so that you can measure your desk and see how much room you have for your organizer, and therefore how big (or small) it needs to be when you are looking for ones to buy.
If you decide that you will need a desk organizer, I suggest purchasing this Greenco desk organizer caddy. This caddy has several different compartments and even a small drawer, which makes it perfect for storing your pens, pencils, notebooks, and other supplies.
7. Additional Lighting
It’s probably not a surprise that dorm rooms often have terrible lighting. After all, isn’t that we see so many ads for dorm room lamps?
Even though you know that you will most likely have to buy additional lighting, I still suggest waiting to make this purchase after you move-in to your dorm to better evaluate what kind of lamp you need. Does the entire room need light? Or just the area around your desk? What size should it be? These are the kind of questions that you can only answer once you’ve moved in, and can help you make a better purchase for your money.
Personally, I suggest getting this Limelights desk lamp, which is the same kind that I have! This desk lamp not only comes with an electrical outlet (which I absolutely love to use to charge my phone), but it also gives me a place to put my pencils, sticky notes, and other supplies. Even better, the lamp head is movable, which means that I can choose how close or far away I want the lamp head to be, and I can even point it in other areas of my room!
8. Additional seating
College is great because you will always have your friends near by, and swinging by your place or a friend’s place for a quick study session or to just hang out between classes is easier than ever. However, finding a place to seat your friends can be quite difficult, especially since dorm rooms only come with one seat for each resident.
So purchasing some extra seating, whether it be a butterfly chair, a futon, or an ottoman, is a great idea, it’s best to wait until after move-in to see how much room you can allow for these items. If you have plenty of extra space, then a futon is perfectly acceptable, but if you’re lacking this extra space, then you may prefer a butterfly chair, which can fold up for easy storage. or an ottoman that can easily slide underneath a bed when not in use.
Once you’ve moved in and are looking to make these purchases, then I have several items that you may want to consider. If you are looking for a futon, then I suggest the DHP Emily Futon because of it’s split back, meaning that your guests can adjust how much they want to the futon to lean back. It can also lean all the way back to make a sleeping space.
If you’re looking for a butterfly chair, then I suggest this Mainstay butterfly chair, which comes in a super cute pattern, is collapsible, and has great reviews.
If you’re looking for a storage ottoman (which I think are super great because they are easy to slide in and out of from underneath a bed), then I recommend the Anthology Sit & Store Folding Ottoman. This ottoman not only has extra storage on the inside, but it also has two pockets on the outside, perfect for storing movie snacks or a TV remote.
9. Cubed Organizers/Bookshelves
I think we’ve all seen the ads for the cubed organizers and bookshelves for our dorm rooms, which imply that they will help us stay better organized and keep our room cleaner (i.e. without our textbooks thrown around everywhere). They really can be…if you have the space for them, that is.
Most college dorms are already cramped enough with the few pieces of furniture that they have, and sometimes it’s hard to get helpful items (which are practically necessities) like this to fit in the room. While it totally is possible (you might have to loft your bed or re-arrange some furniture), it’s best to wait until after you move-in to see what size it should be.
If you do decide to buy a cubed organizer or a bookshelf, I recommend purchasing ClosetMaid’s 6-cubed organizer. Cubed organizers are great because you can use them as a bookshelf, you can add storage bins for knick-knacks or clothing, and you can also use it as a TV stand!
10. Bedside Caddy
Of all the things I wished I had waited to buy until after college move-in, this has to take first place because I hardly ever used it; the problem that I had was that my first (and second) dorm rooms were so small that my desk was right beside my bed, so anything that would have gone in the caddy went on the desk instead. In the end, I re-purposed the caddy by putting it next to my mini fridge and using it as a place to store my paper plates and utensils.
However, I don’t mean to say that you shouldn’t buy a bedside caddy, because I absolutely love bedside caddies, especially since they can be re-purposed for much more than a beside organizer (re: plates and utensils organizer); I’m just saying that you should wait to see if you will need one. A caddy can be extremely useful if you have a much larger room, but they are most useful if you have a lofted/bunked bed. If you have a lofted or bunked bed, it can be almost impossible to get things off your desk, bedside table, or bookcase without constantly climbing down to get them, which makes a bedside caddy almost a necessity. So, if this situation describes you once you’ve moved-in to your dorm, I suggest purchasing this bedside caddy, which has 10 pockets and is secured with velcro, so you don’t have to worry about it coming loose and falling.
Dorm room shopping is so exciting, but it is so easy to get lost in what you actually need when you have (probably) never stepped foot into an actual dorm room before. That is why it is so important to wait to buy some items so that you can better evaluate what you need and what size/style it should be!
Have any questions or comments? Or perhaps you want to share what you’ll be waiting to purchase until you move-in to your dorm? Write me a letter back (in the comments) or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear from you!