With high school graduation behind us, we are turning our focus to the day we will drop our youngest kids off at their freshmen dorms. Though we prefer to stick our heads in the sand and ignore the inevitable, it is time to get them ready for the tiny living spaces that will be their homes away from home. Five years ago, we were rookie moms and made our share of rookie mistakes. Frankly, we bought a lot of crap. This time, with experience on our side, we hope to give you some thoughts on how to approach what might be your last back-to-school shopping trip....in life.
1. NOT a School Supply List
2. Dorms are Miniscule
3. Kids are Pigs
4. The Container Store Savings
5. Underbed Space? You Have No Clue
6. Be Careful with Meds
7. Don't Buy Crap
8. Flying or Driving?
9. No Room for Luggage
10. One Pillow is Not Enough
11. Power Struggle
12. Eating not Cooking
I will buy two sets of x-long sheets and my daughter will pick out a comforter in a color that she loves. We have an egg crate mattress topper to add to the slim pad that is supplied by the school. She will pack her clothes, shoes, and electronics. Fortunately, she knows the dimensions of the under bed space in her dorm room so we will buy heavy plastic storage drawers to fit. They will double as luggage for our drive. She will bring a poster for the wall with photos of friends, family, and her dog. We know where the closest CVS is for stocking up on the generic supplies. The stores all have college lists, but view them with a discriminating eye. Step stools? Paper towel holders? Lots of extra plastic boxes? Think twice.
Here is what will NOT make the cut:
- Alarm clock - there is an app for that.
- Furniture - there is no space for a futon or side table or anything decorative.
- Kitchen - no toasters or blenders, no dishes, cups, or silverware that must be washed after use.
- Media storage - no need for CDs or DVDs, all media comes through her laptop.
- Pictures in frames - ditto, just flip open the laptop.
- Plants - guaranteed to die.
- Cleaning supplies - in our dreams, sadly, college kids don't clean, so no vacuum, no mop.
- Desk Lamp - worth checking first if it is needed. Many rooms have adequate overhead light and computers are backlit.
- Composition books, binders, dividers - some of these have gone the way of the dinosaur. Let your kid start class and figure out his own study methods. Many kids prefer to take notes online and have far fewer paper needs than they did in high school. Don't rush to waste money on a bunch of dead trees.
- Desk chair - be very careful here, most colleges provide a chair and you will just end up driving it back home.
- Printer - might also be an enormous waste of money. Many schools have networked printers available to students and assignment are often turned in online. Desks do not have much room and the floor is a filthy place for an expensive piece of electronic equipment.
Well worth considering:
- Shoe racks for the closet floor or hanging over the closet door. Shoe space is very limited and this creates a bit more.
- Closet storage maximizers that hang from the closet bar provide a great place to put sweaters, sweatshirts, or any bulky items.
- Fan if the weather/air conditioning suggest the need for it. Compact fans can do a big job in steamy dorm rooms. No need to buy a big one.
- Hooks that tape to the wall are handy for jackets, towels, or jewelry to keep things (wishful) off the floor.
- Small rugs are worth considering but be wary this may not get vacuumed all year. Small throw rugs that can go into the washing machine might work best.
- Shower caddy - first check what the bathroom situation is. If your child is using a large communal bathroom at the end of the hall, this might be a necessity. If the bathroom is close at hand and shared by few, a waste of money.
- Mattress pad and bed bug protector - money well spent!
- Trash can? Some rooms come equipped, others do not, worth checking first.
- Is your child a coffee/tea drinker? A small electric kettle or the mini Keurig might be a big moneysaver if they are used to a couple of daily cups of caffeine.
- Towels - consider monogramming or a distinctive color. Basic whites are too easy to mistake for another's towels.
Finally, slip her a letter telling her how proud you are of her and how this day is one you know she worked hard to achieve. Tell her you love her. Hug her tight and know that it is time for her to take it from here.
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