What to Bring to Your Dorm Room

[This post is the last in my Back to School Series]

So you’re going off to University. You must be terrified. Holy moly! Even as I was packing my bags this year, I was remembering my sheer terror as I packed them last year. Luckily, for me that has passed, but maybe you’re still feeling that way? All I can say is: it’s going to be okay! And read this if you want more encouragement. :)

As my last post in my very fun-to-write back to school series, I’m talking about what to bring.

Dorm Room Necessities


My dorm room!
My dorm room!


Besides the obvious – school supplies, bedding, books and knicknacks – there are tons of things that fill the average dorm room. Food, snacks, and beer abound, along with dirty laundry and stacks of paper. Depending on the size of your room, it could be neater (small space = higher organization!), but nonetheless, most dorm rooms are crammed full of lots of goodies. Now, I know you’ve been scouring the articles online about what else you might need, and you’ve probably heard it all. In case you haven’t though, here are a few awesome lists of what to bring: very comprehensive!

But maybe you’ve read it all before, and want my personal opinion on the subject. The verdict: for rez, you don’t need that much stuff!! I know how exciting it is to be moving away, and I know you want to take everything with you (I sure did..). But remember, you’ll be moving home for the summer most likely, so pack light! I had way, way too much stuff when I moved home! So besides the absolute essentials and a few homey touches, here are my picks for enjoyable dorm living:




On a notebook, far, far away
Image by midnightglory via Flickr


For me, one of the most indispensable items to have in your toolkit. Even if you can’t manage to journal every day about your crazy adventures, it’s still incredibly useful for when you feel sad or scared or just plain frustrated! I swear by my journal, and always pick ones that are bright and happy. You could also use a sombre Moleskine to record all your seriously serious thoughts.. :)

Plate, cup and cutlery

Because who knows when you’ll be munching on some real Thanksgiving dinner or lemon ricotta pancakes with blueberry sauce or a full Hanukkah feast? (Yes, all of which occurred my first year, along with countless brownies, cookies, muffins and other munchies.) Always be prepared! Who knows when the opportunity for food will come along?


Sleeping Bag



A person in a sleeping bag
Image via Wikipedia


Very useful! Bring with you when you visit friends, or when they visit you! Also can be used for extra warmth if you live somewhere ridiculously cold.



iPod Earplugs
Image by wmbreedveld via Flickr


So important! Who knows when the guy directly above you will blast Aerosmith and Led Zeppelin until two in the morning, while bouncing a tennis ball against his wall. Oh wait, I know when he’ll do that! Every stinking night. Avoid the drama and use earplugs. Use them when an ultimate frisbee tournament goes on for a month, every night, until midnight. Use them when you’re at the library for total peace. Love earplugs. Totally a necessity.


Flat plastic storage boxes


31 January 2007 (2): Stacking Boxes
Image by Ulleskelf via Flickr


These are perfect when you have a small space. They fit so neatly under any dorm bed and can act as your little pantry/pharmacy for the year. I kept extra kleenex boxes, contact solution, extra lightbulbs, and way more tucked into those handy little spaces. Great use of space, especially when you don’t have much!

Extra floor lamp


Image by Matzelchen via Flickr


Ooh. So indispensable for me first year. When it gets dark at 5 in the winter, I get thoroughly depressed, especially if all the lighting I have is an overhead light and a desk lamp. Not feeling it. I favour tall floor lamps, cheap at Ikea that can stand in one corner of your room and cast a loving glow over the whole space. Lovely. :)




Image via Wikipedia


My rugs kept my feet warm, my room colourful and my floors cleaner. Love rugs. Yay rugs!


Your musical instrument



DanElectro & Kay Guitars - Ottawa 01 08
Image by Mikey G Ottawa via Flickr


I found that playing my guitar was a huge stress-reliever last year. anytime I felt overwhelmed, I could just reach into the corner of my room and strum away. I also play the piano, and nearer to the end of the year I started playing the pianos downstairs in our rez. If you don’t play an instrument, sorry! But I really recommend bringing yours if you do have one.

Related Articles


How exciting!

Isn’t it fabulous to move into a new place and start making it your own?! I love that feeling of settling in somewhere so much, of laying all your things our and getting organized and making everything look absolutely gorgeous! I’m moving into my very first apartment tomorrow, and I couldn’t be more excited to make it wonderfully mine. I’ll keep you posted on that front!

What do you think about my picks for comfy dorm living? What changed your life when you were living in a tiny room? Let me know!

Good luck with the transition my loves!


123 thoughts on “What to Bring to Your Dorm Room”

  1. One thing you forgot to put on your list…RESPECT! Make sure to bring your respect…for many students, this may be the first time they are encountering a lot of different cultures. Learn from them, help them learn from you…and your first year at university will be that much smoother.

  2. 1967 Florida Southern College : Underwood typewriter(cc1930) corectotype paper, pens, pencils, notebooks, paper ,college dictionary, clothing, umbrella, toiletries, two towels,some hopes, some dreams, transistor radio and $8 sent each week. The room was 8 x 8 and had a bed, lamp, and desk. They had a library there. It had books in it. And a draft card that said if you don’t keep a 2.0 you go to Vietnam. THAT’S IT. Retired 2006, 34 years inner city, minority, high school history teacher.

  3. The musical instrument is a good idea, but it doesn’t have to be a musical instrument. Whatever hobby or activity helps you escape from a stressful reality – bring a part of it with you. It doesn’t matter if it is a camera because you enjoy taking photos, car magazines because you like cars, or running shoes because you like to run. When classwork has you bogged down, and campus life is hectic and never ends – you need some activity that is just yours.

  4. I have a question for you, one that’s been annoying me for a very long time:

    I take it you like reading (otherwise, I’ve been reading things that aren’t there =( ). Well, how many books that you love to read did you/would you take along with you?
    I can’t seem to decide. I want to take books I’ve ‘grown up with’, which inevitably include Harry Potter – but I can’t take all 7 and I can’t leave any behind -_-. So, any suggestions?

    1. Ooh what a wonderful question! First year, I was in a dorm so I only brought about ten of my very favourite books, swapping some out when I went home for holidays and such. Second year, I brought enough to fill a few shelves – about 3 boxes!! It’s all up to you, but I love being surrounded by my books and they’re a total necessity for me. I say – bring all the Harry Potter books! You’ll enjoy having them with you. :)

  5. Nice list. Some intangible things to bring would be:

    *Toleration(who knows what type of roommate you’ll have and that alone will require a lot of toleration)
    *A clear set of boundaries(make sure that you and your roommate establish who does the cleaning in what areas, bed time, sleep overs with boyfriends, etc)

    I would also add that pictures are nice to bring as well. reminds you of family and friends and makes it more “homey”.

    When I was in school, by my senior year I had cut back substantially on how much I spent on my dorm room. What I learned is that it really doesn’t matter too much as long as your comfortable and in the end a majority of people end up having to sell their things as well.
    I remember at one point actually buying a futon.
    When I graduated two years ago, there was nowhere for me to put the futon–so I had to give it away.
    Make sure that people buy enough so that they are comfortable, but by items that can last all four years, and that you won’t have to give away when your done.

  6. Great post. Back in the Dark Ages, when I went to college, I had a couple suitcases, a typewriter, a hair dryer, a clock radio, a record player, a couple posters for the walls, and a cheap Indian bedspread.

  7. I’m not going to Uni for quite a few years, but when I do I intend to live in a student accommodation, hopefully with friends. Your tips for dorm room packing could also be applied to a room in a student accommodation. It’s good to be organized, especially if intending to live with others.

  8. We had mustard-coloured walls in our halls last year, which made every single room horrible to be in. I made my study area nicer by covering the beige pinboard with colourful wrapping paper….instantly more homey.

    congrats on front page!

  9. I hate the way the window opens in that dorm room. It would highly annoy me and I would most likely break it out of rage.

    Unfortunately, my college doesn’t offer dorms where I am. I can’t wait to transfer to school that does. You’re not getting the full experience until you’ve experienced the dorms.

  10. hahahah oh first year in the dorms!


    I say one must have that isn’t on your list though, that was a necessity for me, a glade air freshener! You never notice how stuffy and icky your room gets, but with an air freshener, everyone will LOVE your room; and your room won’t smell :) win win!

  11. When I went off to college I realized I couldn’t sleep without art on my walls.

    Art would be at the top of my list.

  12. I went to live in a dorm when I started to study in 1995. Most students in Germany lived in shared houses. I went in the dorm coz I knew, I will bring a baby soon…my son was born 3 months after I moved in – he is 14 now and our time in the filmschool dormitories was amazing.

  13. oh…this is pretty…hm…intersesting-i think-. I mean…this is not sth that anyone posts and it is a great way of sharing your own opinions with the others. It is actually pretty cool-who the hell am I kidding??-….so…keep writting!….ang congratulations:]

  14. Very good picks! I sure wish that my dorm room had a piano on the first floor. I’m a music major, and last year (first year of college) I had to walk really far to get to the music department, and I can’t play guitar because of some hand problems I’ve had. Definitely agree with the plate, cup, and cutlery! I had all these instant noodles, and forgot to bring a bowl.

  15. Thank you for blogging this! I am in my last year of high school, and am currently wondering where to apply to. As soon as the application process is done with, I’ll be packing! This is a wonderful blog to help educate the “newbies” on what is needed for a good dorm life!

    If you’ve the time, check out my blog! :D

  16. Your post has me excited about living in a dorm…except I’m out of college already! Great post and I am sure other college students will find your information valuable. Have fun! LB

  17. Essentials: Favourtite mug, tea bags, coffee (+coffee making gizmo of choice), cigarettes, books and cd player.

    Also: duvet, sheets, and a wok.

    If there’s space: clothes, pens, paper, etc.

    And a new album or two, which will in time come to epitomise those early days (mine were Blonde on Blonde and Highway 61, both of which I played constantly for first month).

    Starting uni is great fun. Hope all this year’s newbies enjoy it.

    – Permanent student (i.e. postgrad)


    1. Totally 2nd the tea mug + tea bags/coffee! Hot tea was what got me through all the late nights of studying.

      My essentials: small paring knife, hand blender, and those nifty disinfectant wipes. The small paring knife was handy for all the foods that couldn’t be cut with the weak plastic butter knives from the cafes and food halls. The hand-blender was critical to making cakes/cookies at 2AM in the morning (yay for communal kitchens). The disinfectant wipes just helped keep my desk clean, which was important since I spent so much time at it!

    2. I am quite a few years out of dorm living, but this post made me all nostalgic.

      And W’s suggestion for a few new albums is great. I still occasionally hear one of the handful of songs that brings college all rushing back.

      Good times.

      Have fun :-)

  18. If there’s space: clothes, pens, paper, etc.

    And a new album or two, which will in time come to epitomise those early days (mine were Blonde on Blonde and Highway 61, both of which I played constantly for first month).

    Starting uni is great fun. Hope all this year’s newbies enjoy it.


  19. Great Post! And I agree you don’t have to bring tons of stuff, all you need to bring are essentials and things that you think may become useful for you in the long run as you stay there.

  20. It’s so funny to read your list! When I went to college in the 1980s, some of the items you listed were not even invented (read: earbuds) . . . but I agree with you on bringing a journal. For people who like to write as an outlet, it really is a necessity! No wonder I became a teacher, blogger, freelance writer, etc.

    Your list is great! Do people still bring tiny little refrigerators? Loved my fridge. It kept my pizza for me so I could eat if for breakfast the next morning! :-)

    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

  21. My first year in college, we had ballerinas live above us and they would prance around until what seemed like no end. And next door, we had a music major who was an opera singer. Seriously, she did scales at 7:30AM. The earplugs do help.

  22. Great post. It brought fond memories of dorm life (though I preferred living in an apartment waaaay more when all was said and done.) :) Good luck on your own apartment adventures!

  23. Great picks – especially the sleeping bag! I will definitely be making a quick trip to Ikea before school starts…I do need a rug and small couch, plus some extra lighting as overhead lights in dorm rooms are quite depressing!!!

    – Halie

  24. First off: Awesome blog. Second: Can’t you use that yellow computer as a journal instead of keeping an extra book in your already filled dorm.

    Either I misunderstood or I’m over thinking it…but anyway love your blog.

    1. Thanks for the compliment! And..well..I suppose I COULD use my computer as a journal, but my actual journal isn’t exactly huge! It doesn’t take up very much space at all. And I really prefer writing down my thoughts with a pen and paper – it’s therapeutic for me. :)

  25. I wish this had been there when I left for school …… so much fun to read too! Have fun at the new apartment!

  26. I wish I would have bought those plastic storage containers before I moved. Now I’m a broke college student and have stuff thrown all over. :)

  27. Let me say — I’ve been looking through your blog a bite and: 1) Wow! So helpful! 2) You have such a sincere voice, which is my favorite thing about a blogger, no one likes lame know-it-all ones. :]

    1. Thank you so much for the compliment, I do try to be as sincere as I can – trust me, I am not a know-it-all because I’m still trying to figure this stuff out!! :)

  28. BRILLIANT post.. I literally just linked this on my brothers facebook wall. He’s off to Uni for the first time in a few weeks so he will find this very helpful. Good luck in your new appartment :)

  29. Ahh… what an exciting time of year… I remember when I moved to go to college (and that was a long time ago…lol…) I moved to another cuntry abd I only had 1 suitcase of clothing, and that’s about it really… it is amazing how little you can get by with in the beginning, however, I think your dorm room list is dead on… don’t take too much, but just enough to make it your new, if temporary, home. They say it will be the best time of your life. Believe me, it is. Enjoy.

  30. Fun Post! Takes me back to my days in Uni. I should say years – I went for 10 years.
    In this digital age it’s so much easier. One ebook and suddenly you’ve got 1000’s of books, notes (yes, I’d take notes convert them to pdf and upload them to my ebook – lighter than a laptop and has a longer battery) and texts!
    Also, you don’t need stacks of DVDs or CDs – just your iTunes account and a device (iPod or laptop).
    I totally agree with you – pack light. I’ve moved about 20 times. No one needs more than 6 of any top or bottom. (Underwear not included.)
    Organization is key – loved the tip about the folding boxes.
    This is a key tip for those who are short of funds – buy some glass lock-and-lock and take it with you to the food court. Most places will end up giving you more food than if you take their styrofoam. It’s like 2 meals for the price of 1. I loved my pie plate for that – I went to uni before the days of Lock-and-lock. But hey I would have loved a leak -proof lid for my leftovers.

  31. From your back-to-school series, you sounded like a very organized person. Good for you.

    I’m way out of my college years, but your series is equally applicable to a working adult. Organizing, budgeting, taking care of our well-being are integral parts of our lives. I myself have been using these methods all my life. A phone with calendar function, a huge notice board to paste all my due dates, files to store my bills, budgets for different usages. It makes life a lot more stress-free and I must say I’m happy to find those “extra” money in my bank account that I know I could use for vacations.

    I wish you all the best for second year, and all your future undertakings.

    1. Thank you so much for your comment, it means a lot. I am still trying to figure my life out – this advice is as much for me to take as for my readers!

  32. So nice! Cool list. My dorm life was as exciting, minus the guitar and rugs – and of course plenty of coffee mugs as memorabilia from friends who didn’t make it to my University.


  33. this is a great post, because I am actually off to uni TOMORROW. And i did not THINK of the floorlamp or the earplugs….thank you thank you thank you!

  34. Earplugs are an absolute must, but I often wished I had a gun. Above me I had side one of Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here, next door it was Dave Lee Roth’s Skyscraper, both on auto replay, and below me it was Techno at “Houston, we have lift-off” volume. Just recalling it makes me feel like screaming.

  35. I wish you made this blog while I was in college. Damn, I forgot alot of things! :) But, I just want to say good luck in college and in everything that you do! You got yourself one satisfied reader. Cheers! – Sheila :)

  36. One thing I wish I had brought was, and this is going to sound paranoid, a lockbox or a safe. I know you should always think positive and assume the best of people, but is that really realistic. Unless people have changed since I lived in the dorms, securing your valuables (as well as anything that you may simply want kept private) isn’t a bad idea.

  37. ordinaryblackdog

    Cheerful list & so true.

    Too bad it wasn’t 2 weeks earlier for my daughter, now settled in her first dorm room.

    For those in darker climes, full spectrum lights would be nice. And I applaud the journal or blog sentiments. Blogs can also be private for those who just want a personal record or others who can’t read their own handwriting…

    And yes, something personal. Photos, homey doo-dads, your own art, anything.

    For those moving into new territory, enjoy! Change is glorious.

  38. ifreephone.co.uk

    Gee this has certainly brought back some memories of when I first started uni!

    Just remember, as I rudely found out that at the end of term you’ll be required to clear out your dorm and that means cramming it all into your parents car and then probably having to cram yourself into the back seat with your face pressed against the Apple iMac that has all your course work on!!

    Enjoy it as I certainly did!

  39. Excellent post-I’ve finished college and was able to commute given that I didn’t live far away. Almost want to go back to experience what you described-yes the good and the bad :-)
    What are you studying at college?

  40. You forgot super-durable alarm clock! and HUGE laundry bag!

    excellent post. Agree with all the choices except the journal thing. Waaay too private an item to bring to a very-not-private place like a dorm room. imho.

  41. I’m glad you included the lamp: why is it that they never give you a lamp, or they one they do provide isn’t actually good enough to do anything? Oh and a second mug is a must: I find someone always wants to borrow one or you’re making tea for someone else. Who hasn’t washed their own mugs!

  42. Pingback: In Limbo 2010 « In Limbo

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top