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Heading to college? Ten dorm room must-haves

On August 23, 2011

  • For college bound students, it is all about striking a balance between the essentials and enough to fit into a small dorm room.

(ARA) - As teens get ready to head off to college, chances are you'll hear more discussion about what to pack than what courses to take. Striking a balance between bringing the essentials for living on one's own and fitting it all into a dorm room not much bigger than a walk-in closet, can be daunting.

"The best strategy is to travel with the necessities, and then order additional items once you've checked out the lay of the land," says Ginny Bean, founder of Ginny's catalog and "In many dorms, for instance, students have access to a communal microwave and television, so these popular items may not be necessities. Incoming students may also want to wait and see what their roommates have."

The top 10 dorm room must-haves, according to Bean, who has two college-aged sons of her own, are:

Coffee maker - Long nights of studying have turned many incoming freshman into coffee drinkers. For any student who doesn't want to walk to the corner coffee shop whenever she gets tired, a coffee maker is pretty much an essential.

Alarm-clock radio/CD player - What coffee can't accomplish, an alarm clock must. With space at a premium, combo items are wonderfully practical. And since most dorm policies prohibit playing a large stereo at full volume, a smaller unit is perfect.

Laundry hamper - Wheeled hampers are great for lugging heavy clothes back and forth from the laundry room. In addition to storing dirty clothes, a hamper can double as a storage space or an impromptu end table.

Shelves or closet organizer - Few students have ever found enough room in their dorm dresser to hold all their sweaters, jeans and other bulky items. Shelving units and shoe racks can provide a lot of extra storage space and help curb the urge to use the dorm room floor as a second closet. Another nifty invention is the door-mounted jewelry organizer which takes up less space than a jewelry box, and has lots of hooks for keeping necklaces, bracelets, scarves and other accessories handy and tangle-free.

Rolling storage cart - A cart with drawers is great for holding all those awkward-to-store items: sheets, hair styling tools, hats and gloves, even food. And, since it has wheels, it can easily be moved out of the way or positioned to use as a temporary writing surface or nightstand.

Fan - Even if a dorm room has air-conditioning, it may not be reliable. A free-standing or window fan is a good backup.

Stocked toolbox - There's no more borrowing dad's tool kit when you're away from home. At minimum, a college toolbox should contain the dorm life survival essentials: a regular and Phillips-head screwdriver, hammer, nails, screws and wrench. Having some putty or spackle to repair walls at the end of the year can be key to saving deposit money.

Dishes for two - Even if a student has a meal plan, he'll want dishes in his dorm room for snacks, take-out and eating on the run. Remember forks, knives, spoons, plates, bowls, cups and mugs. And don't forget the can opener.

Sheets and towels - Check with the college housing office for the correct sheet size to buy for the mattress, and always include a pillow.

Sandals - Anybody who's ever shared a public bathroom will understand how important these are.

To request a catalog or place an order, log on to or call (800) 693-0809. You can also find Ginny's on Facebook.

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