You'll soon be off to college and settling into your new Home Sweet Home: a compact dorm room. Most dorm rooms come equipped strictly with the basics -- a bed, desk, chair, light and garbage can, plus a small amount of storage space in the form of a dresser and/or closet. But don't be put off by such a bare-bones pad; today's students love to customize their rooms with everything from decorative linens and cushy futons to brightly colored rugs and a wealth of personalized accents.
In fact, according to the 2011 Back-to-College survey done by the National Retailers Association, parents and students dole out an average of $808.71 on dorm furnishings and electronics, plus apparel and food items during their back-to-school shopping [source: Grannis]. That's a lot of cash, especially with the ever-rising costs of a college education. So if you have to trim expenses a bit, eliminate unnecessary purchases and focus on what's really important for a comfortable, productive year, such as the five following dorm room accessories.
Obvious, perhaps, but crucial, is a small refrigerator. Most students snack, and some regularly eat one or more meals each day in their room. Unless your diet consists of all packaged foods, you'll need a little fridge to store your perishable food and drinks. Typical mini fridge sizes for dorm rooms are the cube, with 1.5 to 1.8 cubic feet (0.14 to 0.17 square meters) of storage capacity, and the mid-size, with 2.5 to 2.7 cubic feet (0.2 to (0.25 square meters). Costs range from about $90 to $150 [source: Consumer Search].
The fridges come equipped with small freezers, although the freezers don't perform that well because they typically share air space with the fridge, and can't keep items frozen without also freezing the food in the fridge. It's best to purchase the largest mini fridge you can afford. The larger fridges perform better and are more energy efficient, not to mention they hold more. Luckily, larger fridges have roughly the same footprint as mini models; bigger models are taller, not wider [source: Consumer Search].
What if your roommate also intends to bring a refrigerator along? That's fine. It's best if you each have your own. You can easily keep your food separated that way, plus it's amazing how quickly you can fill a mini fridge. Check with your college or university before purchasing one, however, because sometimes there are restrictions on the size or number per room [source: Beginner's Guide].
Dorm rooms are small. Really small. You'll see. But you can easily add to your storage space by purchasing a variety of bins and containers. Stack containers with slide-out drawers in a tall column that you can tuck into a small nook; these are good for items you want to keep easily accessible. If you haven't lofted your beds, slip long, flat containers underneath. Use those for items you don't need every day, such as the next season's clothing, or extra school and cleaning supplies. Store bulkier items in a trunk that can double as a table or extra seating [source: Dorm Smart]. Basically, you want to utilize every bit of open space that you can, whether it's on your floor or walls, under the bed or over the door, so think creatively [source: The Container Store].
Liberal use of storage containers means you'll be more organized, too, which is always beneficial for college students [source: College and Finance].
Shower Shoes and Tote
Shower shoes aren't just for the showers in your local gym. They're also for the lovely communal showers you'll soon be sharing with a floor full of strangers. Shower shoes, flip-flops -- whatever you want to buy or call them -- protect your feet against the fungi and bacteria often present in moist environments, such as showers. If you don't use them, you may pick up athlete's foot or another condition, or merely step on something gross, like a wad of wet hair. (And no one wants to do that.) After showering, dry your shoes with a towel, or set them out somewhere where they can dry quickly. Plastic shower shoes are better than foam ones, as they dry more quickly [source: Xatal].
A shower tote is a handy way to lug your soap, shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste and other stuff down to the showers. Totes are typically plastic containers separated into sections, and have holes at the bottom for drainage. You can make your own economical version using a plastic 5-gallon (18.9-liter) ice-cream pail.
Easily corral your dirty laundry in a hamper, so it's not all over the floor. You don't have much space to begin with in your room, so why have even less because you've got dirty clothes tossed all over? Keep in mind, too, that, rodents like to nest in piles of things such as papers and clothes, and the last thing you want is to encourage a mice or rat infestation in your room [source: PR Newswire].
But hampers are for more than just dirty duds. Hampers make it easy to tote your clothes to the laundry room, and they can do double-, triple- and quadruple-duty as laundry baskets (to store folded clothing after laundering), storage bins and even as small tables [source: College Bound].
Most dorms were built several decades ago, before the current technological era. Students plugged in a lamp, clock-radio and maybe a small fridge and TV, and that was about it. There were no laptops, no printers, no cell phones, no X-boxes, no i-anythings. Three-pronged cords weren't common, either. Many a student has arrived on campus, only to find she can't plug in half the devices she'd like to [source: College Bound]. Even if you brought a power strip, it's not uncommon for a computer component or other device to have an adaptor that covers several of the outlets in your strip, even though it's only using one -- and a lot of people don't think about that beforehand. So pack a few power strips, plus some plug adaptors and extension cords [source: The Dormitory].
Once you're in your room and determine how many power strips you'll need to use, double-check with your floor advisor to make sure it's OK. Sometimes only a certain number are allowed, and it may differ by dorm [source: The Dormitory].
If you're not dusting regularly, you're letting all kinds of gross things drift around your living space. Get tips on keeping your dorm dust-free.
Author's Note: 5 Dorm Room Accessories You Really Do Need
Last year, all three of my kids were in college, so I had a pretty good idea of what the top 10 or 15 dorm room accessories would be. But it was interesting to discover the truly critical items -- and to realize how much things have changed since I was in college. Who else remembers how cool the long-gone hot pots were? And I'd rather eat popcorn made in a hot-air popcorn maker than a microwave any day!
- Beginner's Guide. "Dorm Room Essentials." (June 19, 2012) http://www.beginnersguide.com/college/dorm-room-decor/dorm-room-essentials.php
- College and Finance. "18 Overlooked Things Everyone Should Bring to College." (June 19, 2012) http://www.collegeandfinance.com/18-overlooked-things-everyone-should-bring-to-college/
- College Bound. "Top 10 Dorm Room Must-Haves." (June 19, 2012) http://www.collegebound.net/content/article/top-10-dorm-room-must-haves/19691/
- Consumer Search. "How to Buy a Mini Fridge." August 2011. (June 21, 2012) http://www.consumersearch.com/mini-fridges/how-to-buy-a-mini-fridge
- Dorm Smart. "Dorm Storage Supplies Tip: Raising Your Dorm Bed + Storage Bins = Lots of Dorm Storage Space; A Great Underbed Solution For Organizing A Small Dorm Room." (June 21, 2012) http://www.dormsmart.com/Storage-Organization-_c_1189.html
- Grannis, Kathy. "Back-to-School Sales Expected To Be Flat As Parents Practice Restraint, According To NRF." July 21, 2011. (June 19, 2012) http://www.nrf.com/modules.php?name=News&op=viewlive&sp_id=1157
- PR Newswire. "Is There A Mouse In My ... Dorm Room? d-CON(R) Offers Tips for a Mouse-Free Semester." (June 20, 2012) http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/is-there-a-mouse-in-my--dorm-room-d-conr-offers-tips-for-a-mouse-free-semester-76721862.html
- Rosenfeld, Laura. "The Ultimate Dorm Accessories Guide!" Seventeen. (June 19, 2012) http://www.seventeen.com/college/dorm-accessories#slide-1
- Student Advisor. "10 Best Dorm Room Products." Oct. 14, 2010. (June 19, 2012) http://blog.studentadvisor.com/StudentAdvisor-Blog/bid/46649/10-Best-Dorm-Room-Products
- Switched. "10 Must-Have Dorm Room Gadgets." Aug. 10, 2007. (June 19, 2012) http://www.switched.com/2007/08/10/10-must-have-dorm-room-gadgets/
- Szewcow, Gabriela. "The Top 10 Things No One Told You to Bring to College." Her Campus. Aug. 11, 2011. (June 19, 2012) http://www.hercampus.com/dormlife/top-10-things-no-one-told-you-bring-college
- The Container Store. "The Dorm Room Basic Six." (June 21, 2012) http://www.containerstore.com/tip/college/basicsix
- The Dormitory. "What to Bring to College." (June 21, 2012) http://www.thedormitoryonline.com/WhattoBringtoCollege.html
- Wal-Mart. (June 21, 2012) http://www.walmart.com/search/search-ng.do?search_query=dorm+room+size+refrigerator
- Xatal. "108 College dorm necessities to have on your checklist." Aug. 11, 2008. (June 19, 2012) http://xatal.com/life/108-college-dorm-necessities-to-have-on-your-checklist/
- Xatal. "Why you should wear flip-flops in college dorm showers." Oct. 29, 2008. (June 21, 2012) http://xatal.com/college/why-you-should-wear-flip-flops-in-college-dorm-showers/