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PACKING for the Dorms

By Jackie Burrell
Friday, August 22nd, 2008 at 9:49 am in College Apps & Angst.

Target lamp Fellow blogger Ann Tatko did a round-up on the latest trends in dorm decor recently for the Times and Trib’s home section with helpful tips on what to bring, where to get it and how to jazz up that dreary little cell. We particularly loved Ann’s 6-step plan to find more storage within limited quarters – more on that in a moment!

But first, some caveats: If you’re moving your little darling into the dorms this fall, bear in mind that everything touted in fancy dorm catalogs and web sites is based on national averages that may not reflect the reality of your kid’s college. The average dorm room may be 12×19, but the five dorm rooms we’ve moved kids – ours and their friends – into were closer to 10×10. Also, it’s a rare college that lets you move furniture out of a dorm room – they don’t have anywhere to put it – or hammer or screw anything into the walls. Check with your specific residence hall before investing hundreds of dollars in futons, easy chairs, heavy hanging units or elaborate free-standing loft beds!

And now to Ann’s handy list of storage-finders!

CLOSETS – “Usually dorm room closets are tiny and dark with just one pole on the top,” says Container Store spokesperson Olescia Hanson. “So we suggest students pack for that season.” Also add utility to a closet with double-hang rods and hanging shelf bags or shoe pocket bags.

WALLS & DOORS – Walls and doors aren’t just for decoration. Make the space usable with adhesive hooks (Command makes some that can hold up to 10 pounds) and over-the-door racks. For hanging posters, pictures and more without damaging wall paint, try Cling Thing Display Strip ($8.49) and Removable Glue Dots ($1.99) from

DESK – Turn a small and plain space into a functional desk with stacking bins, drawer organizers and file boxes. A personal favorite: Bed Bath & Beyond’s Organizer Desk Lamp, pictured right ($12.99), which features a tape dispenser, pen holder and mini storage containers in the lamp’s base. (Note: Wait to buy stacking bins or anything that goes on top of the desk until you’ve seen the thing. Some dorm rooms have shelving units over their desks.)

LAUNDRY “You need something portable,” Hanson says. Collapsible hampers take up minimal space and come in a range of options, including an overdoor cargo hamper from the Container Store ($24.99) and hampers with three compartments for sorting as you go. (Note: You’ll be lucky if your kid does his laundry at all, let alone sorts it.)

BATH – Portable and organized are key here with students often sharing a communal bathroom. Among the many shower caddy and tote options, the Pop Up Dorm Caddy, ($3.99) from has a drain hole and a spring frame to let the nylon mesh tote stand or fold flat. (Note: Some dorm bathrooms have small individual lockers or cubbies, and you may not need a tote at all. Wait till you get there to buy.)

STORAGE – “The average college student moves eight times from a dorm to an apartment and back home for the summer, so they need flexibility with their storage,” Hanson says. The options are seemingly endless, from shelves, drawers and cubes to baskets, storage boxes and bins. A multi-use favorite is the storage ottoman (starting at $69.99, available at multiple retail stores). Remove the top to reveal space inside and a tray on the flip side.

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