Essential Dorm Room Items

Furnishing a new dorm room can be affordable, enjoyable, and uncomplicated, and making sure you stock up on a few essential dorm items can help the start of your college experience go smoother, feel more independent, and be much more relaxing. Space is almost always an issue when moving into on-campus housing, so remember the importance of assembling a small but solid collection of important items, rather than trying to bring your entire teenage bedroom to college with you! Below are 10 items that college students and recent graduates felt were essential to their routine and quality of life when living on-campus. Remember, however, that every school has different rules about prohibited dorm-room items. As a general rule of thumb, electronic devices such as coffee makers tend to be allowed, while things that are lit—like incense and candles — are almost never allowed. Make sure to consult with your residence directors and double-check which items are allowed into your dorm.

Coffee maker or hot-water maker

Buying coffee daily can get expensive fast, and sometimes a trip to the dining hall isn’t easy or possible. Having a small coffee maker in their rooms can help students speed-up their morning routines. For students trying to watch caffeine intake, or looking for a more versatile option, hot-water makers (the plug-in kind) are also a great option.

Essential oil diffuser

There is a certain kind of telltale odor that messy or overcrowded college dorm rooms can start to smell like. No one wants to live in that room. Incense and candles are often prohibited by Res Life (Hello, they’re dangerous!), but essential oils are safer, stronger-smelling, and can even help one focus on tasks or calm their minds.

Extra set of sheets and pillow-cases

Many new college students forget to factor in time for chores, such as laundry, when making schedules and managing their time. By having spare bedding on hand you can change your sheets and keep your room clean even if you can’t find the time to do a load of laundry.

Small crock pot

Dorm life isn’t exactly conducive to cooking for oneself. Yet dining hall food can get monotonous, and sometimes students just miss the taste of a healthy, warm, home-cooked meal. Crock pots are fantastic because they’re easy to use (just plug ‘em in and set ‘em), and can be left on while students are in class or out with friends. Students toss in the ingredients and the crock does the rest. (Even when prohibited from bedrooms, these can often be tucked away in a common lounge area.)

Portable storage boxes

Small storage units from stores like Ikea or Target can be a great way to maximize on minimal space. Keeping clothes, shoes, and other items in storage bins or boxes can help students stay organized, and keep the room from feeling over-crowded. Try to pick ones that are either very low, to slide under a bed, or tall, with a small footprint, to fit into the back of a tiny closet. And those with built-in hinged clips that secure the lid are best.

Bluetooth speaker

Although this item is most ideal for music lovers, what college freshmen aren’t? Whether its washing up in the shower, hanging and studying on the quad, or going on a weekend hike with new friends, portable speakers can make any event a musical one. (Note: if you’re going to play dorm-shower-DJ, make sure your playlists are agreeable and inoffensive.)

Dry-Erase board or wall calendar

Hanging a white board or wall organizer can help students keep track of time and assignments in a way that is visual and highly visible. Even the act of writing down goals can help make them more attainable. A small version tacked on the outside of the hallway door is also the go-to method for leaving and receiving notes from passing friends and neighbors.

Cleansing spray and paper towels

Unlike a hotel, dorms don’t come with a cleaning staff. For the most part, it is the responsibility of students to keep their rooms looking, feeling, and smelling clean. Having on-hand rolls of paper towels is essential for dusting and spills, and having a spray bottle of cleanser alongside it makes dorm room cleaning much easier and more efficient.


Between juggling academics, extracurriculars, social life, and sleep, it can be easy for new college students to lose track of their true selves and internal voice. Regular journaling (even just for a few minutes before bed) is a great way to stay in touch with your inner self, and a great way to process the plethora of emotions college can throw at you. Journaling can also be a time to take a break from the constant academic writing of college, and get creative with free-writing, poems, and sketching.

Refillable water bottle

When most folks talk about ‘college freshmen’ and ‘drinking,’ they’re usually more likely referring to PBR than H2O. Yet with such busy schedules, hydration is extremely important (and easy to forget) for new college students. Keeping a reusable water bottle, like those made by Nalgene or Hydroflask, is a good choice for one’s body, one’s wallet, and the environment. Dehydration can also greatly affect your ability to focus, as well as your mood, so let your reusable water bottle become as ubiquitous as your student ID or cell phone.