The Starting Line: Scouting For School Supplies

[Meet Margaret. She’s a recent high school grad gearing up for her first year at Yale. We’ll check in with her every week to see what she’s doing, who she’s Facebook stalkin’, what she’s packing, and what new college surprises she’s tackling (or freaking out about) next. Oh, to be an incoming freshman again….]

Dorm shopping is kinda like going on a safari. Not just because there are waaaay too many sheet sets out there with zebra print on them (you guys, zebra print can be totally cute, but no doubt it also is reminiscent of Austin Powers’ sex pad which is kinda less than groovy…unless that’s what you’re into), but also because it is so overwhelming and exhilarating you kinda don’t know what to do with yourself.

I mean, with “I Heart College!” Bed, Bath & Beyond ads hitting your mailbox every week, it’s hard not to buy that cushioned toilet seat or $26 stainless steel trashcan. I just wanna look super fly come college time and every little thing counts, even a steel trash receptacle.

But from the mouth of a wise woman (my mom): “Darling, if you really want it we can get it. But don’t be stupid.” Real talk: We all want to walk into college with swagger, but a steel trash can probably will not accomplish that. Nor will a cushioned toilet seat, much as your ass (or face, after a long night at the frats) would beg to differ.

So fellow freshmen, unless you’re Emma Watson and have Harry Potter cash to blow, let’s consider what we really need before we get sucked into Target’s cute dorm deco displays:

Sheets: You could potentially be using these sheets all 4 years, so make sure you get ones that will last. Feel the sheets before you buy them. A lot of times, sheets will be incredibly cute but ultra scratchy, which isn’t exactly prime for helping you sleep. Also consider the fact that your bedding probably has a high chance of getting gross stuff on it (Spaghetti-O’s, Easy Mac, barf…..), in which case a snowy white comforter may not be your best option. Quality is important when it comes to sheets; don’t waste money buying multiple crap bedsets rather than just buying one nice bedset.

Trashcan: Quality is not so important here. Find a decent looking plastic one. (Editor’s Note: Avoid a mesh one. Just trust me on this.)

Hangers: Tiny shared closets and too much clothing? Get attachable hangers; they enable you to hang more clothes than you normally could, saving you valuable space.

Laundry Hampers: Plastic basket or mesh bag? Up to you. You can put folded clothes back into the baskets… but the mesh bags are easier to hold, take up less space, and are more flexible to allow a month’s worth of clothing to be stuffed inside.

Picture frames and the like: Get them at TJ Maxx or a similar store. They have pretty high quality and cute picture frames there, but at a much lower price. Just remember: you won’t be able to nail ’em in the walls, so don’t go too crazy stocking up.

Shower caddies: They all accomplish the same thing and are generally pretty durable; don’t blow your cash on these. THEY WILL BE ON THE NASTY SHOWER FLOOR.

Chairs: A lot of dorm rooms are kinda small so figure out if you can fit a chair in before you buy one. (As a sidenote, so many colleges have stores nearby where you can buy things to furnish your dorms. You may want to wait until you move-in to see if you need/have room for things like a chair, a rug, a futon, etc.)

Storage boxes/racks: In a room this small, you’re going to need to be organized. But when it comes to storage boxes/racks/organization ish, plan ahead what you’ll use each one for. That will make unpacking – and living – a lot easier. And don’t go too overboard. We’re never as organized in real life as we picture ourselves to be.

Desk Lamp: Living with a roommate, this is a major essential. Look for one that won’t overheat your area (fluorescent bulbs usually help with that) and can be adjusted for different lighting conditions. Try not to be tempted by totally cute but totally overpriced modern art desk lamps. It’s hard, I know.

Decorative pillows: Okay you don’t really need them. Yes, they look so cute.  I know. Yeah, the ones from Anthropologie are amazing. But let’s be honest. No.

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