As we sail into the latter half of summer, students have to start thinking about heading back to school. Sorry, y’all. For inhabitants of dorms, back-to-school essentials like bedding, bath accessories, gadgets and storage accoutrement can ease the transition into (or back into) those tight quarters.
Whether you’re going back for your final round or it’s your first time away from home, you should absolutely invest in a few of these nifty college dorm essentials.
I’m sure you’re already well aware that a shower caddy is absolutely essential for navigating communal bathrooms. While lugging your shower goods to and fro is super-annoying, it’s also a necessary evil of college and probably builds character or something. As far as shower caddies go, this 5-compartment model is great. Super-simple with separate compartments for shampoo, toothpaste, razors and anything I needed in the bathroom. You can even keep your toothbrush and toothpaste in the detachable compartment in case you just need to go for a quick brush before bed.
In case you haven’t been enlightened yet, in college dorms, everyone all sleeps on a twin bed. It’s not ideal, but it is what it is. “XL” stands for extra long, so college beds are like if you stretched out a twin bed to be a few extra inches long. This is to give you more under the bed storage space, which you also need.
Around this time of year you’ll start to see Twin XL sheets popping up in just about any store that sells bedding. When I was hunting for Twin XLs I came across these Pure Beech sheets and I was instantly sold. These are so soft and Bed Bath & Beyond carries them in a ton of colors and designs that it’s guaranteed you’ll find something to match your bedding.
Read more: How to pick the right sheets
If you haven’t already, you’ll soon learn that college is all about saving what little money you have. This means making food last as long as possible, so you’ll need to come up with better ways to store dry goods like cereal. In their regular boxes, Cheerios and oatmeal dry up and become stale very quickly, so airtight plastic containers will become your best friends. Your snacks, coffee and tea will last much longer, and this set of three containers comes with its own measuring spoons and labels so you can go full Khloe Kardashian on your dorm room.
You may be freaking out about how much space you’re not going to have when you go away to college. Do you need to leave three of your favorite shirts at home? Will you survive without all 15 pairs of black leggings? I promise you, these are not questions you need to ask yourself before going to school.
These House Day brand “Magic Space Saving Hangers” are a great way to adjust to a closet that’s about a quarter of the size of the one you have at home. One long hanger has five holes cascading downward, so you can get five articles of clothing in your closet with one hanger, and this is a package of 10.
I prefer not to have my phone within arm’s reach when I’m sleeping or I’ll totally reach for it when I needn’t. But you don’t want to sleep through class so a smart clock can provide the essentials: alarm, a quick voice check on the weather, setting timers and it even provides a bit of light when you need it. The Lenovo is just $30 will help with a more restful night’s sleep without the distractions of your phone.
If you’re out of the dorms and furnishing a bigger space, the Coddle Convertible Couch is a novel idea for our world of power-hungry gadgets: a convertible sofa with built-in USB ports. The comes in microfiber comes in a few colors and it’s comfortable as both a couch and an extra-large twin bed. And — unlike other, less expensive models that also have integrated USB ports — it’s got backrests fold down independent of one another. But the $1,1149 price is admittedly steep. If you don’t need the fold-down backrests, you can find this similar convertible model from Sam’s Club, this one at Amazon or this decent-looking standard sofa from Wayfair, each for $400 or less.
Remember what I said when we were covering airtight containers? College is about saving money. I didn’t have a reusable water bottle; I would buy cases of water bottles and have my dad carry them up every time he dropped me back at school. But do you know how much money I spent doing that? There are water fountains all over college campuses, and no one is stopping you from filling up 50 times at the cafeteria or gym. The Simple Modern Ascent water bottle is designed to keep your water cold and prevent spills, so feel free to bring it with you to class, practice or the library.
Read more: You’re not cleaning your water bottle often enough
To put it lightly, college life can get incredibly and overwhelmingly stressful. I mean, I was at a point where I could pop melatonin like Tic-Tacs and I’d still be up all night wondering if I’d forgotten to write a paper. Essential oils released via a diffuser such as this one can help bring stress levels down and mask other odors you may be trying to escape. (Just ask your roommate before you get the peppermint or orange blossom pumping on full blast). Oh, and don’t forget the actual oils. You’ll need those too and this six-pack is just $20.
For the love of all that’s good in the world, please don’t go to college without a fan for your room! I am constantly cold. I shiver at work in the summer, I need my bedroom to be 80 degrees in the winter, and I sleep with three comforters year-round. So when I tell you I was sweltering in all my dorm rooms, please take me seriously. Rarely will you find a dorm room with AC, and even if your room does have AC, it probably won’t work as well as you’d like it to.
If you’re feeling fancy, this oscillating Dyson Tower Fan works about as good as any.
Here’s another product I kept in my dorm room. I stashed a slightly different SentrySafe electronic lockbox I found on Amazon all the way in the back corner under my bed, and I even fastened it to the bedpost with an old bicycle lock. In the lockbox was all the cash I took out for the semester, personal documents like ID cards and things of that nature and any sentimental items like cards or pictures from family members.
Call me paranoid, but you don’t know the person sleeping 10 feet away from you (at least not at first).
Listen, roommate life isn’t always rainbows and butterflies like it is on TV. Sure, some of my college roommates were and are still to this day my very best friends, but I had my fair share of the more … eccentric ones. And I know firsthand that your studying for midterms or trying to go to bed does not always stop your roommate from making a sappy Facetime call with a long-distance partner or trying to learn a new instrument. So, headphones that block out the background noise are a necessity.
You have two basic choices: noise-isolating or noise-canceling models. The former block out external noise with either full-size, around-the-ear designs or in-ear buds that penetrate a bit into your ear canals. The latter actively cancel out droning sounds like air conditioners (but don’t expect them to convert a roommate’s heavy metal soundtrack into silence).
In terms of noise-isolating in-ear models, the $180 Beats Powerbeats Pros are excellent, but the 1More Stylish True Wireless and Anker Soundcore Liberty Air will get the job done at less than half the price.
A great pair of noise-canceling headphones will cost you upward of $300 or more. The two biggest contenders are the Sony WH-1000XM3 and 2 Bose models, the older QuietComfort 35 II or the newer Bose 700. But if you’re on a budget and just want big ol’ around-the-ear models without active noise-cancellation, check out the Tribit QuietPlus (under $80).
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This article was written by Toniann Pasqueralle for Chowhound and has since been updated with contributions from CNET staff.