Dorm Items for your College Kid: Keep it Simple-ish, But Cozy


With back-to-school around the corner, we’re resharing our post about the dorm items that will make your child’s room cozy!


Do you have a high school senior heading to college in the fall?  It may seem early to think about dorm necessities, but let’s be honest— you’ve thought about nothing but college since the first applications were due on the Common App, so let’s just go there. 

Tip #1:

Everything you move in has to be moved out in nine short months. Yes, you want your baby’s room to be homey and cozy, but start simple and add the things your student finds they need, rather than going overboard from the start.

Tip #2:

Many items require waiting until your child is assigned a dorm. Until then, you will not know if they have a Twin or a Twin XL bed, if their room comes with a microwave and mini-fridge, and whether Command strips are banned (every school has different rules for hanging things in rooms).



Without further ado, here are my top 10 19 dorm items that will help make dorm life not suck.


19. Area Rug

Any inexpensive rug will do. A rug adds a splash of color and texture, and no one wants to sit on linoleum flooring.


A simple stick vacuum is a blessing in a college dorm and is easy to store in the corner of the closet.


18. Closet Curtains

Many dorm closets don’t have doors. A simple tension rod and curtain in front of the mess your child will make of their closet helps set the proper aesthetic.

a yellow curtain covering a dorm closet


17. Comfy Desk Chair

Yes, your child’s desk will come with a chair, but it isn’t one they’ll enjoy sitting in. And while you’ll want to encourage your child to study in public spaces like the lounge or the library to make learning less isolating, there will be times they will need to lock themselves away in their room if they hope to get anything done. A comfy chair makes this so much easier to actually do. 


16.  Air purifier +  DampRid

The air quality in a college dorm isn’t always … fresh and healthy. Air purifiers can trap dust, decrease the spread of viruses, and ease allergy flare ups. Dorms can even be a breeding ground for mold. DampRid will absorb excess moisture and help keep mold at bay, especially helpful if your child is moving to a humid climate.


15. Noise-Canceling Headphones

Not only will your student want to listen to music or stream shows without bothering their roomie, but they will also need to block out the fact that dorm walls are not like the walls they’re used to at home.


14. Medicine Cabinet Necessities

Pain relievers, Pepto, Tums, Band-aids, nail clippers, cold medicine, allergy medicine, thermometer, Neosporin … 


Your freshman may start the year too young to purchase certain cold medicines. In some states, you have to be 19. Send a box along with them so that they aren’t out of luck when their first cold (of many) strikes.


13. Power Strips

The longer the cords, the better. There simply are not enough electrical outlets in any dorm room, anywhere.


12. Lighting

Fluorescent dorm lights are clinical and depressing. Whether your kid wants LED lights (check to be sure they’re allowed), funky strand lights, a neon light, or even just a simple desk or hanging light … they will appreciate being able to light up their rooms in the evening with a soft glow.


a corner in a dorm room with a hanging light and posters and pictures on the wall


11. Flip Flops for the Shower and a Shower Caddy

(yes, two items. Consider one a bonus. You’re welcome.) 


Zip-tie an “S” hook to the handle of the shower caddy so that it can be hung in the shower when in use rather than on the communal shower floor.


10. A Brita Pitcher

Make sure it will fit in the mini-fridge. Some dorms may have water bottle filling stations, but many don’t. Your kiddo has way too many cute Hydro Flasks to let them sit empty.


9. A Backpack Hamper

Or, a rolling one to help your student get that laundry to the laundry room.


Remind your child that dorm laundry rooms bring out the ugly in people. If they don’t set a timer and return as soon as their load is done, it will be moved— not necessarily to somewhere else in the laundry room. 


  • Laundry detergent sheets. Lightweight, portable, no mess … not to mention, environmentally friendly. Tide Pods are NOT recommended because often they don’t fully dissolve, whether because the water doesn’t get hot enough or the machines are older. 
  • Shout makes color catcher sheets which is a great option for teens doing their own laundry. Yes, you want your kids to call home, but not to complain about their socks and t-shirts turning pink.
  • Stain remover wipes / pens are another worthy investment. Unlike at home, college kids aren’t likely to toss something in the wash when it gets stained. If it’s going to sit for a few days (weeks?) at least let it be pre-treated.


8. Microwave-Safe Plates, Utensils, + Cups

Students will want to eat in their rooms from time to time. However, if you know your student is NOT the type who will wash dishes and utensils, especially when their options are the bathroom sink or the shared kitchen at the end of the hall, just buy paper products and plastic ware. Also, a cart with shelves for the microwave will come in handy.


7. A Door Stop

Yes, a door stop. It will make moving day a breeze, not having to worry about the door shutting and locking you out with your arms full, and you can encourage your child to use it after move-in day to prop their door open when they’re hanging out in their room. This helps a dorm room be less isolating and encourages socialization.


6. A Bed Shelf

There are many options, from a shelf with a cup holder or a pocket, for those items your student will want access to while sitting in bed. Especially helpful are shelves that have phone chargers attached.



5. Mattress Topper

Again, do not buy until you know if your student will need a Twin or a Twin XL, but once you know, this is a MUST-HAVE item. Dorm beds were not meant to be slept on. Ironic, I know. A good foam mattress topper will ensure those 8 hours of sleep each and every night before your student diligently arises for their 8 am classes.


A roll of grippy shelf-liner comes in handy here. You can use it to lay between the mattress and the topper to keep the topper from sliding around.


4. Woo Zoo Fan

Costco will make it very easy for you to buy a Woo Zoo fan, but Costco will also be out of stock sporadically between now and September, so know that you can find these on Amazon as well. These babies rotate, move air, and make all the difference in a dorm.


3. A Camping Chair

You know the chairs that fold up to store in their own carry-on bags? Chances are, you have one (or 10) in your garage / trunk right now. These chairs can easily be slid under the bed or in the back corner of the dorm closet to be pulled out when an extra seat is needed.


2. Full-Size Comforter

The sheets will be Twin or Twin XL, however, a larger comforter lets your child really wrap up in it when they sleep, and when they aren’t sleeping, hang lower on the front of the bed to hide the under-bed storage (especially those lofted beds). I can tell you that while my 6’2″ freshman wasn’t made for a twin bed, he was made for a twin comforter even less.


1. Ikea: Blue Frakta Bags

Also available on Amazon, Ikea Frakta bags allow your student to pack clothes and other random items, much like a suitcase or moving box. They are sturdy, and their straps enable them to be carried like a duffel or even like a backpack. They pack like a dream in the car, AND, once your child unpacks and settles in, these bags FOLD FLAT and store … anywhere! So much better than storing luggage under their bed or in their precious closet space. 


Finally, a small photo from home of the fam or their beloved pet will go a long, long way toward making their new dorm feel more like home.

If you would like a more comprehensive list of dorm needs, drop a comment below, and I’ll share my really, really long list with you!