10 Things Your Kid's Dorm Room Doesn't Need

How much stuff can you fit into a tiny dorm room and still have space left over for textbooks and ramen noodles? See more college pictures.

No one will blame you if you're a bit shaken about sending your kid off to college. Try not to fret too much about this newly emerging parent/child dynamic, though. College doesn't mean that you'll be losing a child, so much as he or she will be gaining a whole lot of new stuff -- and you'll probably be footing the bill.

During back-to-school time, retailers make a mint selling dorm room supplies to college freshmen and their parents. Many items are tried-and-true necessities, but plenty of others are superfluous. In fact, I can virtually guarantee your kid will be dragging a ton of stuff home over winter break to free up some space in his room. So, before you go packing up lava lamps and dozens of stuffed animals, take a minute to review this handy-dandy list of 10 things that your kid's dorm room just doesn't need.



Ironing Board

Don't kid yourself. No respectable college kid irons clothes. And who can blame them? It's a giant, thankless pain of a chore that gets ruined the minute you become the slightest bit rumpled. I'm a mother of two, and I still take whatever steps I can to avoid ironing at all costs (gotta love that touch-up option on the clothes dryer).

Instead of supplying your kid with a bulky ironing board and an appliance he'll probably never even take out of the box, buy him a bunch of hangers and teach him how to properly fold clothes. Realistically speaking, if he goes to school anywhere near home, he'll probably lug his dirty laundry back for you to do anyway. So, you can relish the opportunity to iron to your heart's content when that happens.


If you insist on wrinkle-free clothing, I will admit that irons can serve a purpose other than the one they're made for. After all, who needs a panini press when you have an iron? My best friend in college regularly used hers for making grilled cheese sandwiches when she couldn't hit the dining hall. I ate more than one, and I am not ashamed.


Nonessential Furniture

Bean bags: helping college kids slouch since the 1970s.
Bean bags: helping college kids slouch since the 1970s.

That bean bag seat, desk chair or other piece of trendy furniture might look cute in the store, but it will take up half of your kid's available space in his or her tiny dorm room.

Most dorms supply perfectly good desk chairs, anyway, so you might want to rethink dropping any dough on something he or she doesn't really need.


Bean bags, although cool and comfy, are the kind of clichéd coming-of-age piece boys never get rid of. Hold off on purchasing one for your kid unless you want to inadvertently instigate a massive fight between him and his wife 10 years down the road.

Trust me on this one. It's bad enough that she'll probably have to endure the neon beer sign until it mysteriously "breaks." Don't force the bean bag on her, too.


Coffeemaker/Blender/Toaster/Other Small Appliances

Your daughter has to have her morning espresso, and your son makes a protein shake before every workout. But before you pack up any coffeemakers or blenders for the dorm room, consider what your room and board check is for. As long as the campus has a full-service dining hall, there's no reason to take an entire kitchen's worth of small appliances. Plus, these appliances go hand in hand with increased risk of fire since irresponsible or sleep-deprived college kids and electrical equipment just don't mesh well. In fact, many dorms don't allow small appliances at all. But if your kid decides he can't make it without his joe during the dining hall off-hours, you can always ship him a new coffeemaker or allow him to plunder your appliances during Christmas break.

You probably also know from personal experience that just because your kid made a meal or snack doesn't mean that he excels at actually cleaning up after cooking. Just imagine all of those crumbs, crusts and sticky messes confined to a 6 foot by 8 foot living space. Shudder.



An Expensive Area Rug

Go functional, not luxurious.
Go functional, not luxurious.

Unless your kid manages to squeeze a vacuum and steam cleaner into his or her minuscule closet, it's a safe bet that any area rug will be ruined beyond repair by the end of the school year. Dirty shoes, spilled sodas and crumbs galore have that effect on carpet.

Do your wallet a favor and hit one of those cheap carpet sales on move-in day, or pick one up at a yard sale. Twenty bucks will net your kid a perfectly functional rug for a dorm room.


Another alternative is to outfit standing spaces (by the sink/mirror, bedside or desk) with individual carpet squares, which typically cost less than $5 per piece.

Whatever flooring option you choose, don't harbor any delusions about putting the rug to use in the future. Trust me, it will be disgusting with a capital D.



So, your daughter's been collecting porcelain pig figurines since birth. I'm sure she loves them dearly, but that doesn't mean that they should head off to college with her.

Dorm rooms are small, shared spaces. There's simply no room for a ton of extra junk that serves no identifiable purpose. So, leave the little piggies at home next to your kid's soccer trophies, where you can look at them whenever you miss her. She'll rest easy at night knowing they're stored in a safe place where they're unlikely to come in contact with her frequently intoxicated and extremely clumsy roommate.




All it takes to garner noise complaints from neighbors is an iPod and a computer. Anything bigger and bulkier than that will only gather dust and take up space that's already in short supply. Leave the turntables, stereo equipment and vintage record players at home until your kid ditches the dorms in favor of the vastly more spacious, if not cleaner, apartment or fraternity house. I highly discourage you from letting your kid borrow your classic LPs that he vows to keep in perfect condition. Trust me -- they will get damaged, and you'll be reduced to cruising Ebay for replacements.


Expensive Electronics

Are you thinking about spoiling your kid rotten with a new plasma or LCD television? Don't. It'll just get stolen or damaged during a late-night, ramen noodle-fueled indoor football game.

Instead, give him Uncle Ernie's hand-me-down tube TV and learn to tune out his complaints. Or better yet, send your old set to school with him and treat yourself to the latest model. You certainly deserve a reward after all those years of mind-numbing children's programming and MTV.



Weight Racks and Exercise Equipment

Leave the free weights at home.
Leave the free weights at home.

You see that sidewalk outside? Tell your kid to run on it. Or hit the campus gym for weight machines, indoor swimming pools and more cardio exercise equipment than she can shake a stick at. There simply isn't going to be space enough for anything larger than a yoga mat in a dorm room, so encourage your son or daughter to leave the dumbbells at home and use the resources provided by the school. Plus, intoxicated college kids are prone to dropping free weights on their feet. You don't want to open yourself up to a lawsuit from another kid's parents. We say "another" because your kid would never do something that stupid, right?


A Trunk

No doubt about it -- trunks were cool back in the day. You could tat them up with peace signs, smiley faces and Mrs. David Cassidy stickers.

They've since gone way out of vogue because they're cumbersome and don't really fill a purpose that a stool or under-the-bed sweater bin can't serve.


Forget the trunk and pick up some space-saving storage items at your local home supply store. Need more convincing? You'll have to pay four men to carry that giant, hulking trunk up eight flights of stairs.


Matchy-matchy Duvets, Bedskirts and Curtains

Imagine her bedding stained with pizza grease and highlighter fluid.
Imagine her bedding stained with pizza grease and highlighter fluid.

Perhaps your daughter is accustomed to an elegant bedroom furniture set outfitted with designer accessories. While she might appreciate a perfectly coordinated and aesthetically pleasing space, it's just not realistic to turn a teeny dorm room into a clone of the Pottery Barn catalog. You can only do so much with metal cabinets and creaky old bunk beds, you know?

Plus, bedding items are pricey, and getting a roommate (especially a potluck one) to pitch in for her share of the textiles isn't going to happen -- nor is it even fair to ask.


Buy the necessities and don't look back. Someday she'll get her own apartment or house, and you'll be able to renew your platinum status at your favorite home store.


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  • D'Innocenzio, Annie. "Smart Spending: Do Up Your Dorm Room for Under $75." The Seattle Times. Aug. 26, 2010. (Nov. 11, 2010). http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/businesstechnology/2012729532_apussmartspendingdormdecor.html
  • Friedman, Megan. "12 Dorm Room Space-Savers." Woman's Day. Aug. 14, 2008. (Nov. 11, 2010). http://moneycentral.msn.com/content/collegeandfamily/cutcollegecosts/p126260.asp
  • Pulliam Weston, Liz. "The College Dorm-Room Checklist." MSN. 2010. (Nov. 11, 2010). http://moneycentral.msn.com/content/collegeandfamily/cutcollegecosts/p126260.asp