10 Essential Dorm Items (That You Probably Didn’t Think Of)

Got room for some condoms in there?

OK, so you have your bedding, your towels, and your laptop; you think you’re ready to move off for your freshman year of college. Before you go, though, there are a couple of things that a freshman might not think to bring that will make dorm life a million times easier.

Take it from me, after 2 years in the dorms, I have this down to a science. Make room in those duffels, people; there are ten more things you’re going to have to squeeze in there.

#1 Tool Box
Yes, seriously, a tool box. My freshman year roommate had a brilliant aunt who bought her a mini tool kit as a high school graduation present (it was pink and girly). We used that thing more than anything else in the room. Yes, even our TV. Your bike break? A nail fall out of that little nightstand you bought from Ikea? Your ex leave something valuable at your place and you want to smash it? (JK….sorta.) You’ll have everything you need in that little box. Guys down the hall even borrowed our tools, so it’s even a social item!

#2 Condoms
This should just be common sense. Even if you don’t plan on having sex in college, you seriously never know what will happen, so be smart and prepare! The best part is that this one you don’t really even need to buy; most schools give them away for free at the student health center, so hop on over there and stock up.

#3 Duct Tape
This one is along the same lines as #1; it pretty much fixes anything. But beyond that, there’s some awesome stuff you can do with duct tape for really cheap room decor! I’ve seen everything from duct tape vases to closet doorway “beads.”

#4 Oven Mitt
Believe me when I say the stuff that you make in your little dorm microwave is HOT. I’ve burned my fingers on too many Easy Mac bowls to not give this as advice. Save your fingers, get a mitt!

#5 Febreeze
Whether you ran out of clean clothes and don’t have time (or quarters) for laundry, you spent the night at a frat party surrounded by drunk smokers, or you’ve been doing your own smokin’ in the dorm room and don’t want the R.A. to find out, Febreeze will save the day every time.

#6 Mini-Vacuum
Probably my dumbest move of freshman year was getting a navy blue rug. That sucker showed every.single.spec.of.dirt.EVER. I ended up buying a little, mini-vacuum for $10 and it was soooo handy, and not just for the rug. Or all those times I spilled Rice Krispies. Without being able to open windows, dust gathers much faster in a dorm room. It was a life saver for my allergies.

#7 First Aid Kit
Make your mom happy and get a small thing of Band-Aids, aspirin, triple antibiotic ointment, and various other helpful items. You’re not going to be invincible; you will get cuts and scrapes…and hangovers. This will be your best friend until the end.

#8 Message Board for Your Door (with an attached marker!)
This is crucial if you have a roommate. You will most likely go days without seeing each other with all the studying, classes, and late night activities you’ve got going on. This is the best way to keep in touch with a hectic schedule. My roommate and I always had a “code drawing” so that if we had a guy in the room, we’d draw it and the other roommate would know to vacate the premises. It’s also great to leave each other nice messages to cheer each other up!

#9 Book Light
Yeah, desk lamps are great, but one you can clip on to your book is even better. Roommates often live on opposite schedules and you must prepare for that. My freshman year roommate always studied when I was trying to sleep, and my sophomore roommate always slept when I studied. It really makes everyone happy when you just get a mini book light. You can see what you’re reading, and your roommate won’t be disturbed.

#10 Sewing Kit
Buttons fall off. Clothes rip. Costumes need jerry-rigging. So much stuff can be fixed with a needle and thread. Fortunately, I worked in the theater department’s costume shop my freshman year and learned how to sew. If you don’t know how, find someone who does and get a quick lesson before you head off to college. Then pack this tiny life saver. Hell, it might even be a form of income; the guys next door to me would pay me to fix their stuff for them. Beautiful.



    1. cissy yee says:

      Where can you buy a mini vacuum for $10?????????

    2. Rachel says:

      For the love of God, BUY A FAN. The non-air conditioned dorms give you a good reason to hang out at the library your first two months of school, but you need to sleep in your bed eventually.

    3. Emily says:

      Fuzzy slippers! I lived in a dorm and the sorority house and I lived in my slippers. Plus if your dorms were like ours they won't turn the heat on until it is frigid cold socks and slippers will be your best friends in a drafty dorm. TRUST ME

    4. Leigha says:

      I've been in college for 2 years and never had any use for most of this (the only time I had any need for a tool kit was to put my TV together, and I just borrowed a screwdriver from the RA for 5 minutes).

      And I've been microwaving things my whole life and never gotten burnt. If a 5 year old can manage without an oven mitt, an 18 year old really should be able to.

      And I don't think most people go days without seeing their roommate. I've only had one, freshman year, but I barely went hours without seeing her. I've heard a few people say they rarely saw theirs, but if anything, I've heard more say they saw way too much of them.

      That said, Febreze is a very good idea. My RA used to borrow Febreze from my roommate all the time. She had regular and flowery scented (he always opted for the regular kind haha). She also used it to attack the hockey stuff our neighbor left in the hall closet because it smelled gross (which I guess is why he left it there).

    5. Sarah Marshall | 12 says:

      I have to agree with you… I'm surprised I don't have third degree burns on my hands from my microwave! An air mattress is a good item to invest in too. I had a ton of friends crash in my dorm freshman year, and that made their night at least a little bit more comfortable.

      I was reading this other blog the other day on the top 12 things found in a college dorm fridge. Not gonna lie, I was definitely guilty of having a few of these items:)

    6. Mel says:

      You don't need to invest in an oven mitt. Just take two paper towels and fold them so they're thicker or use one of the many washcloths that seem to come in sets when you buy stuff for the bathroom. But otherwise, I say it's a pretty decent list. AND it would be very good to get some of this stuff so that you don't have to worry about it when you get an apartment (even if you DON'T need it in the dorm).

    7. Jody says:

      I like the idea of a list and most of the items are great. I'd add that iron on hem stuff – and an iron. It beats sewing. Also, just an FYI, there's a company that will ship your stuff back to school so you don't have to. It's and they are pretty reasonable.

      And the oven mitt is not a bad idea. Especially if you use a hot plate instead of the microwave.

    8. The Raisin Girl says:

      I agree with adding a fan to this list. And the toolbox is incredibly practical, as is the first aid kit. My roommate sophomore year had one of those giant dad-toolboxes under her bed, and you'd be surprised how many uses we found for those things.

      Needle and thread is invaluable. Febreeze is invaluable. I love this article.

      Ooh, those desktop ironing boards are great, too! I highly recommend having an iron handy. You think you will NEVER need to iron your clothes in college, but occasionally there's a job interview or a career day that needs wrinkle-free clothing. Not to mention they can be used to stretch your jeans waistbands a little when you gain that Freshman Fifteen.

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