DORM LIFE: What to Pack and Leave Behind

Our Must-Have Dorm Essentials: What to Pack and What to Leave Behind

Sending your child off to college is a big milestone, and one of the most daunting tasks can be figuring out what they need to bring with them. The goal is to pack efficiently and effectively, ensuring they have everything they need without overpacking. In this blog, I am sharing my must-have dorm essentials, from bedding and kitchen supplies to tech gadgets and study essentials, as well as items that are better left at home. Hope it helps you too as you are preparing for college.

Bedding & Room Essentials

Must-Have Items:
  1. Comfortable Sheets and Pillowcases: Twin XL size is standard for most dorms.
  2. Mattress Protector: For hygiene and comfort. She is a hot sleeper and really liked this one the best, from Amazon. Quick tip: You will want to open it before you get to the dorm so it can open up and air out.  We wrapped it back up like a sleeping bag - go ahead and place the fitted sheet and top sheet on it, flip it upside-down and roll it up! It's easier with 2 people to help smoosh it! Then, we "tied it" with some packing tape, or if you have 2 belts, one on each end...then tucked it inside a trash bag to easily toss in the car!
  3. Comforter or Duvet: Choose something cozy and easy to clean.
  4. Pillows: One for sleeping and perhaps an extra for lounging or decorating.
  5. Blanket or Throw: For extra warmth or a cozy study session. Keep the super sentimental ones at home, but for sure bring one from home too for comfort. Weighted blankets are great for light sleepers or if your kiddo has some anxiety or nerves happening.
  6. Diffuser: For air quality as well as emotional support. Here's our favorite LED one from Amazon.
Leave Behind:
  • Multiple decorative pillows: They take up space and are rarely used.
  • Heavy, oversized comforters: Dorm rooms can be small and warm.

Kitchen Supplies

Must-Have Items:
  1. Mini Fridge: Great for snacks and drinks. We found ours at Home Depot. Some colleges have re-sell groups too!
  2. Small Blender for Protein Shakes: Quick healthy options for a meal or snack without all the sugar from the store bought ones. This is ours.
  3. Microwave and/or Crockpots: Convenient for meals, although some may not allow it. Many floors have a mini-kitchen set up.
  4. Reusable Water Bottle: Staying hydrated is key. Here's our favorite one. Plus it fits in Jeeps! Don't forget the bottle brush to clean it.
  5. Dishware: A few plates, bowls, and utensils.
  6. Coffee Maker: If your student is a coffee drinker, a small coffee maker can be a lifesaver. I would buy this one of she was.
  7. Fridge Containers: A designated shelf with labeled containers is helpful when sharing a fridge with other students. Grabbing these!
  8. Paper Towel & Cleaner Combo: Roomates can share the refilling - grabbing this one from Amazon for her room and the shared kitchen space
  9. Trash Can & Liners: Depending on set up with roommates, having a large one in the room is helpful. Super basic to Bougie!
Leave Behind:
  • Large kitchen appliances: Space is limited and most dorms have communal kitchens, and may not allow certain appliances like toasters and instapots.
  • Excessive dishware: A few key items will suffice.

Tech Gadgets

Must-Have Items:
  1. Laptop: Essential for classes, homework, and staying connected. We are an Apple family and use the MacBook Pro.
  2. Phone Charger Station: Vital for organization of Phone, Watch and Earbuds. We have had this one for 2 years now.
  3. Power Strip with Surge Protector: Dorms often have limited outlets. Here was our choice from Amazon.
  4. Portable Charger: For on-the-go device charging.
  5. Noise-Canceling Headphones: Great for studying or blocking out noise.
  6. Wireless Earbuds: These have been great and inexpensive.
  7. Batteries:  Few AAA and AA on hand for devices.
Leave Behind:
  • Desktop computer: Takes up too much space and is less versatile than a laptop.
  • Large sound systems: Can be disruptive and are often unnecessary.

Study Essentials

Must-Have Items:
  1. Desk Lamp: A good lamp with adjustable brightness and spread for late-night study sessions. I'd do this one next time.
  2. Notebooks and Binders: For organizing notes and assignments. We found best deals at the Dollar type stores.
  3. Pens, Pencils, Highlighters: Basic supplies for taking notes. Just grab those when you see Back To School Sales at the local stores.
  4. Planner or Calendar: To keep track of assignments and important dates. My Super Organized Friend made this one to print! (Reach out to her for all things organization! It's on the PDF.)
  5. Backpack: Durable and comfortable for carrying books and supplies.
  6. Additional items: Scissors, paper clips, rubber bands, small desk trash can
Leave Behind:
  • Excessive office supplies: Only a minimal amount is typically needed.
  • Bulky desk organizers: Space is limited; keep it simple.

Personal Care Items

Must-Have Items:
  1. Toiletries, etc: Shampoo, conditioner, soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, razor, toilet paper, paper towel, nail care and feminine supplies.
  2. Shower Caddy: To carry items to and from communal bathrooms. Since her bathroom is in her room, she uses a rolling caddy.  
  3. Towels: A few bath towels and washcloths or scrubby.
  4. Laundry Basket and Detergent: Essential for laundry days. We loved this one with rollers from Amazon! Tip: Buy a little Tupperware dispenser like for salad dressing, or a type of canteen so they can have a small container of the detergent and not carry a big heavy one!
  5. First Aid Kit: Basic supplies for minor injuries or illnesses. Here's the one she also tosses in her cr when traveling home.
  6. Calm Magnesium Mix: So great for stressful days of testing or pmsing, easily mixed into water or any juice. Grab it here on Amazon.
  7. Electrolytes & Lions Mane Powders: This is a powerhouse juice packet, especially if your student doesn't drink coffee or want to avoid energy drinks. 
  8. Healthy Energy Drink: For the teens who insist on drinking out of the can, here's the one our family drinks on occasion.
Leave Behind:
  • Excessive makeup or grooming products: Bring only what is used regularly.
  • Large bottles of toiletries: Opt for smaller, more manageable sizes.


Must-Have Items:
  1. Comfortable Clothing: Casual wear for classes and study sessions. Most classrooms are cold, fyi.
  2. Professional Outfit: For presentations, observations days or job interviews. Some may have dress codes, but basic black or kaki is the normal for bottoms.
  3. Weather-Appropriate Gear: A good mix of clothing for different seasons and don't forget the umbrella.
  4. On The Go Weekend or Bag: For on-the-go weekend trips home or otherwise. Something like this from Amazon.
  5. Shoes: A few pairs, including comfortable walking shoes and shower shoes.
Leave Behind:
  • Out-of-season clothes: These can be swapped out during visits home.
  • Excessive accessories: Keep it simple and practical.

Miscellaneous Essentials

Must-Have Items:
  1. Cleaning Supplies: Disinfecting wipes, paper towels, and a small broom or vacuum. Here's our Amazon vacuum.
  2. Air Purifier: We loved this little set, kept one at home and one for her room. Here they are from Amazon.
  3. Tower Fan: Dorms can be warm. We grabbed ours at Sams for around $120. It was similar to this one on Amazon.
  4. Personal Documents: ID, health insurance card, and any necessary paperwork. Keep them in a small dorm safe. Found this one on Amazon.
  5. Basic Tool Kit: Small screwdriver set and adhesive hooks. We got her this one.
  6. Decorations: A few simple personal touches to make the space feel like home. There are a variety of wall displays. Here's one from Amazon.
Leave Behind:
  • Too many decorations: Keep it minimal to avoid clutter.
  • Expensive or irreplaceable items: Dorms are communal spaces and things can get lost or damaged.
By focusing on these must-have items and avoiding overpacking, you can help ensure your student is well-prepared for their college experience while keeping their dorm room organized and functional. Remember, it's always possible to purchase additional items as needed once they've settled in. Happy packing, and best of luck to your college-bound student!

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