dorm room shopping advice
Don't let the stress of shopping for your dorm room overshadow your college experience! (Illustration by Ro Odendahl, Montserrat College of Art)

How To Stay Organized and Stress-Free While Dorm Room Shopping

Is getting everything ready for college starting to become overwhelming? Read on to find out how to prepare all of your supplies without feeling anxious.

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dorm room shopping advice

Is getting everything ready for college starting to become overwhelming? Read on to find out how to prepare all of your supplies without feeling anxious.

As the fall semester begins and students prepare to move into college, many are also starting to shop for dorm room essentials. With so much to buy and so little space to fill, finding everything that you actually need for your dorm room may seem overwhelming. Luckily, this article is here to share tips on how to enjoy a stress-free shopping experience.

1. Make a List

This may seem like an obvious tip, but making a list is a super important first step to begin your dorm room shopping experience. Not only can you keep track of items as you buy them, but you can visualize how many things you’ll need. You can also sort your list into separate categories, such as school supplies, cleaning supplies or kitchen equipment. This makes it easier to shop in different store departments.

If you have an Apple device, such as an iPhone or iPad, you can make a checklist in the Notes app on your device that automatically moves items to the bottom of the list as you check them off. This helps avoid visual clutter when checking your list, and it allows for a cleaner, more streamlined method of organizing.

Even if you don’t have a smart device, however, a written checklist is just as effective. Just avoid erasing anything off your list, and instead add checkmarks next to the items you complete or draw a line through them. That way, you can see how many items you have and how many items you still need. By making a list, you fulfill the first step to achieving an orderly, uncomplicated transition to dorm life.

2. Take Note of What You Already Own

Once you make a list of everything you’ll need, preferably sorted into different categories, you should then take inventory of items you may already have at home. You may already own essentials like kitchen gadgets, snacks, cleaning supplies and writing utensils, so make sure to pack these and take note of them. This will help you save tons of time and money.

Be sure to go through your storage areas as well, such as your basement, closets, garage, etc. These are places you may not visit often; thus, you might not realize how many useful things might be stored there. Items like storage bins, containers, laundry baskets, clothes hangers, desk lamps, mirrors and drawers may be hidden from view, but they will prove to be incredibly useful and cost-efficient to bring from home. To avoid wasting your funds and your time, be sure to follow this step when preparing for dorm room shopping.

3. Shop Smart

Start shopping! Although most people head to Target or Walmart, your first stop should be any variation of a dollar store, such as Dollar Tree, Dollar General or Family Dollar. Such stores carry a wide range of products that are sure to be on your list, including room decor, kitchen equipment and cleaning supplies. You can also find personal items like hand soap, shampoo, body wash, loofahs, mirrors, cotton swabs and pads, feminine products, bandages, hand sanitizer, face masks and even great knockoffs for popular makeup products!

Additionally, dollar stores are a great place to shop for school supplies, especially during the back-to-school weeks. They often display a section dedicated to items like mechanical pencils, pens, mini whiteboards, pencil sharpeners, mini staplers, desk calendars, planners, highlighters, tape and pencil cases. For your mini college kitchen, dollar stores carry items like small pots and pans, plastic dish drying racks, cooking and eating utensils, condiments, spices and the ultimate college student meals: mac and cheese and cup ramen. Be sure to pick up some plastic containers to store your leftovers and grab some snacks to stash for those all-nighters, too.

In terms of tech-related items, dollar stores meet many of these requirements as well. They often carry batteries, USB charger cables, phone cases, screen protectors, earbuds, nightlights, lightbulbs and extension cords. All of these products are incredibly useful for the average college student.

Other miscellaneous yet useful items found at dollar stores include medicine organizers, reusable water bottles, plastic utensils, fake plants, keychains, hairbrushes, combs, combinations locks and zip-top bags. Therefore, to continue on your money-saving dorm room journey, be sure to stop by a dollar store before heading to larger, more popular — and more expensive — shops.

4. Invest in Storage Products

College dorm rooms are notorious for being tiny, so optimizing your storage options is key. Most stores often carry plastic bins, baskets, drawer organizers and caddies to help keep your belongings as compact as possible.

These stores also provide cleaning supplies such as dish and laundry detergent, disinfectant wipes, cleaning sprays, sponges and scrub brushes — items which, while necessary, aren’t exactly dorm-friendly in size. The great thing about getting such items from the dollar store then is that they come in small sizes perfect for a college student! Since you’d only be doing dishes or laundry for one person, the smaller versions of these products are great for your dorm. They don’t take up a lot of space but still provide enough product to meet your needs.

It’s no secret that college is expensive. Students often find themselves left with very few funds after spending hundreds of dollars on textbooks, tuition, dining plans and other school fees. On top of that, the transition to college and studying after summer break can be slightly chaotic and nerve-wracking. So, being organized helps to avoid adding any more stress to an already tense situation. To help alleviate some of the financial burden and anxiety that accompanies adapting back to college life, keep yourself organized when you’re dorm room shopping, and keep in mind the above money-saving tips when doing so!

Writer Profile

Salma Heram

George Washington University
Biology, minor in Korean and Public Health

Salma is a sophomore at the George Washington University and lives in Richmond, Virginia. When not juggling her college course load, she loves photography, writing, exploring different cultures and trying new foods.

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