When it came time for me to start packing for college, I was overwhelmed by the thought of cramming most of my belongings for the next four months into two suitcases and a backpack. In a top-notch display of my problem-solving capabilities, I decided to handle the situation by avoiding the issue until a week before moving cross-country from California to New York. Nonetheless, between the items I traveled with and the items I purchased in or had shipped to New York, I wound up with more than enough supplies to get through the semester. Now that my first semester is winding down, I have a much better handle on what items were and weren’t useful. However, in particular, there were six items that ended up being way more useful than I expected and I’d personally recommend buying if you’re shopping for your dorm.

1. Yoga Mat

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Even though I’m not super dedicated to fitness, having a yoga mat has been way more useful than I anticipated. First of all, being able to exercise in the comfort of my own room has been great; I don’t have to worry about the gym being too crowded, and I can’t use the excuse of the athletic complex being too far out of the way. Aside from that, if I ever feel like squeezing in a quick workout, I don’t feel obligated to commit a certain amount of time to exercise; I can easily just roll out my mat for five minutes as a study break. Also, bear in mind that a yoga mat can be utilized for numerous other exercises besides yoga; I typically use mine to follow a variety of workout videos on YouTube.

2. Mattress Pad

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I don’t know a single person with a reasonable sleep schedule at this point in the semester, and I’ll personally admit that my sleep schedule has needed improvement since day one. Like every other college student, I always seem to have a million different responsibilities on my plate, whether that be homework, errands or otherwise, and as a byproduct of this I’ve grown accustomed to perpetual sleep-deprivation. Because of this, having a mattress pad is extremely useful for the rare moments when you can find time to sleep. Mattress pads make your bed way more comfortable, which in turn make it much easier for you to relax and fall asleep.

3. Storage Ottoman

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A great thing about storage ottomans is their versatility. For one thing, you can store things inside of them to help maximize space in your room. Most dorm rooms don’t have a lot of floor space, so this is super convenient. Perhaps even more helpful, though, is that you can keep your ottoman closed and use the flat surface for a variety of different purposes. When some of my friends have visited my room before, they’ve sat on the floor and used the ottoman as a table or simply used the ottoman itself as a chair. Apart from that, though, I've also regularly used an ottoman to climb onto my bed in lieu of a ladder.

4. Fan

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For the first few weeks of school, my roommate and I were sweltering in 80-degree heat, left to desperately rely on gusts of wind to flow through our window and keep us cool. So when my grandma let us borrow a couple of spare fans from her house, it was a total game-changer. If you live somewhere that gets pretty hot and, like us, your dorm doesn’t have air conditioning, in my opinion, a fan is a definite must-have. You’ll be able to better focus on whatever you’re doing when you’re working in a more comfortable environment and aren’t distracted by the heat. 

5. Floor Mirror

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Realistically, you probably won’t have time to get dressed up on a day-to-day basis—especially if you have morning classes—but it’s still nice to have a full-length mirror to briefly glance at before heading out in the morning. On one hand, it’s always good to leave your room feeling confident, but beyond that, there also may be moments when you’ll want to look professional, such as job interviews or presentations. In these instances, it’s valuable to have access to a mirror to make sure you’re able to present yourself as desired.

6. Command Picture Hanging Strips

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Command Picture Hanging Strips can be used to secure things like picture frames—or in my case, string lights—on your walls, and aside from being super easy to use, they peel off of surfaces without leaving any damage or residue. They’re great for people who want to personalize their dorms a little more by adding extra wall decor. Since my residence hall (understandably) doesn’t allow us to mark our walls up with things like nails or push pins, these picture hanging strips were a great solution to hang up my decorations.

At the end of the day, none of these products are essential to have a good college experience; you definitely won’t die without a yoga mat or a mattress pad, and a lack of room decor certainly won’t jeopardize your education. That being said, these items have all come in handy for me over the course of the semester, and I appreciate the ways in which they’ve improved my dorm life. With that in mind, I strongly encourage looking into these products if you’re hoping to find a few new items to add to your dorm room.

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