Scenario: You walk into Linens and Things, Target, Bed Bath and Beyond, or ____________ (insert cheap dorm supply store here). You realize you have no idea where to start on your dorm room shopping. You don’t want to be the student with so many suitcases your roommate can’t get through the door, but you don’t want to be the weird kid with only a backpack and one pair of underwear. So, what do you do?
Naturally, you end up doing one of two things. You either over-pack and become the roommate who takes over the entire room with their crap, or you under-pack and get labeled as the weird kid who never changes his or her underwear.
If this sounds like you, worry no longer. There is a way to avoid this situation entirely! Yes, due to the experiences of some kind, caring upperclassmen that have already been through the GW first-year housing experience, we mere freshmen can save ourselves from dorm hell and social embarrassment. With the help of various GWU sophomores, juniors, and seniors, I have compiled a “Top 10” list of tried-and-true dorm items that you simply cannot live without.
10) A reliable alarm clock. It may seem trivial, but many of us freshmen are stuck with at least one morning class a few days a week. Having a reliable alarm clock will not only ensure that you wake up for this class, it will ensure that you wake up for this class on time. If you like music, try an iPod alarm clock. Just attach your iPod the night before and wake up to some smooth tunes. 5-in-1 Wobble Clock, Brookstone, $30. iHome iH9 Dual Alarm Clock Radio for iPod, Apple Store, $99.95.
9) Last minute cleaning products, particularly Febreze and a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. Perfect for almost every “sticky” situation, Febreze and a Magic Eraser will work miracles. Febreze is a great odor eliminator, easy to use, and most importantly, requires no effort. Just pull the trigger when your friends (or even worse, your parents) are seconds away from walking into your smelly dorm room. Mmm, the fresh scent of meadows and flowers. Magic Eraser, which really is magic, will take any sticky or nasty substance (yes, even when you’re not sure what it is) off of almost all solid surfaces. All you do is wet the sponge and rub the gunk. Alas, instant clean up. Febreze Air Effects Air Refresher Meadows & Rain, CVS, $3.29. Mr. Clean Magic Eraser Disposable Household Cleaning Pad 2 count, CVS, $3.19.
8) Any poster or décor for the walls. Your dorm will be your home for nearly a year. Make it feel like home. Whether it be, for us native Miamians, a painting of our gorgeous South Beach shoreline, or your favorite Animal House poster, put something up on your walls! You may not be planning to spend too much time in your dorm room, but it is a comfortable touch for when you are attempting to sleep (for once). College Posters, AllPosters.com, $6.99-$29.99.
7) Kitchen supplies. So, we freshmen may not get kitchens, but we do get microwaves and refrigerators. We will buy a limited amount of groceries (soda, cereal, milk, bread). We will probably go out to eat, and will probably save our leftovers for a late-night snack. Do yourself and your roommate a favor and don’t drink straight out of the milk carton, and don’t burn down your dorm by heating up your food in those plastic containers they give you your leftovers in. Buy some cups, a few plates and bowls, and a few sets of silverware. Your roommate and your flammable items will thank you later. Kitchen supplies, Urban Outfitters, $3.49-$17.99.
6) Shelving with removable joints. This shelving is ideal for storage in our small freshman dorm rooms. Whether you put it next to your desk, beside your bed, or in your closet, these stackable compartments are helpful to organize all of those things you might usually lose. Poly Cube Set, Target, $14.99.
5) A Swiss Army knife or a multi-use tool of some kind. Make sure it has screwdriver attachments and pliers. The simple reason for having one is that chances are, by the end of your freshman year, you will need a screwdriver or pliers. The more complex reason for having one is with, in addition to the main blade, a smaller second blade, tweezers, toothpick, corkscrew, can opener, bottle opener, slotted/flat-head screwdriver(s), phillips-head screwdriver, nail file, scissors, saw, file, hook, magnifying glass, ballpoint pen, fish scaler, hex wrench w/bits, pliers and key chain, when won’t this tool come in handy? For you more technologically-advanced students, the newest Swiss Army knives are being made with a laser pointer and a 2 GB flash drive. Whichever you choose, make sure you’re set with your basic needs for a quick fix-up when your best friend trips over your laptop and steps on your Xbox. Swiss Army SwissChamp, Swiss Knife Shop, $15.95-$70.95.
4) Laundry supplies, and Complete Idiot’s Guide to Doing Your Laundry. Ok, ok, don’t get excited… because that book doesn’t exist. But according to a GWU student, laundry supplies are essential. “I wouldn’t have survived the first week without detergent, a drying rack, a laundry basket, an iron and ironing board, and a Tide-to-Go Stain Stick,” the sophomore recalls. Luckily, the great thing about some of these larger items, such as a drying rack, is that they can be shared between you and your roommate. So, sort out with your roommate who is going to bring the iron and who is going to take the laundry lessons from Mom, and viola! Clean and pressed clothes. Laundry supplies, Target, $2.99-$69.99.
3) The obvious technological devices. Had to throw this one in here because it’s horribly important and it could potentially be forgotten. GWU doesn’t provide you with some of the most important things we use in this day and age, including a laptop, TV, DVD player, Xbox, Wii, iPod… the list goes on and on. Bring the technology you see being a part of your every day life. Chances are, you aren’t going to want to go down the hall to watch your favorite TV show, and your friends probably aren’t going to be nice about letting you run on the treadmill with their iPod. Like the laundry supplies, you might want to work out with your roommate who is going to bring the TV and who’s responsible for the Wii… and keep in mind that you don’t need more than one DVD player when you only have one TV to watch movies on. Don’t forget to bring the appropriate chargers and cables to run your entertainment systems, either. Technology, Best Buy, $20.99-$399.99.
2) A lock box. As much as you think you’ll remember on move-out day where you stuffed your Social Security card at the beginning of the year, or that your passport isn’t fair game when it’s under the socks in your dresser, you’re wrong. Prevent loss or theft of your most important items by bringing a security box to put your identification and money items in, like your money, checkbook, insurance cards, passport or visa, and Social Security card. You won’t regret it when you’re able to get out of your dorm with your extra cash that much faster on the way to a shopping spree at the Eastern Market. Black Security Box, Target, $19.99.
1) Bed elevators. Why the most frequently recommended item? See for yourself. “There just isn’t enough storage space in the dorm room, and the beds are too low to fit things under. I couldn’t have fit half of my items in my room without making this extra storage space under my bed.” Bed elevators are simple to set up, and will save you from having to cram your empty suitcase in the back of your closet. Simply slip one under each of your four bedposts and the underside of your bed becomes instant storage space. Best of all, they’re sold right out of our school bookstore. Bed elevators, GWU bookstore, $12.99.
Hopefully this list will equip you to take on the nightmare of move-in day. Other less common suggestions that you should consider purchasing are a tool box, a first aid kit, a hanging shoe rack for your closet, extra tea/coffee, your own work desk chair, a full length mirror, some kind of lamp for extra lighting, and extra batteries. GWU has a great checklist of items as well, which can be found here.
Additions? Subtractions? Additional advice from upperclassmen? Questions from freshmen? Feel free to comment, of course.
Thanks to upperclassmen Cory McCrummen, Logan Dobson, Steve Casazza, Joe Buono, and many others for their input. Now you underclassmen know who to thank when your grade in Chemistry 001 is saved by your alarm clock or when your mom compliments you on how clean and Febreeze-y your dorm room smells when she comes for Parents Weekend.
And freshmen? Do yourself a favor and pass this blog entry on to your future roommate; you don’t want to end up with their excess crap taking over your half of the room, or having to wonder about that same pair of dirty underwear night after night.