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FOOF: Dorm Do & Don't
July 2006


(Pictures to come... depending on The Slacker-Hacker's whim. Which may mean sometime in 2009)

It’s that time. Even with all the other chaos, I can’t escape That Time. Despite La Casita being torn up for remodeling, papers for my Spring classes being due, and all the usual other stuff life has to offer, it’s time for me to start packing and shipping stuff for summer school. Six weeks in Virginia. What do I need? What will I take? Where will I put it? What will I forget!?

Me being me, not only do I have a Super Anal-Retentive Checklist for this summer, it’s also an ongoing, year-by-year Anal-Retentive Checklist. I’ve gotten pretty adept at this. And yes, I can still bring ‘most everything I need to Fully Foof my walls in ONE! MANILLA! ENVELOPE!

So I’m sure some of y’all’re gonna be headed off to college next month, or know someone who’s headed off to college, and with that in mind, The Goddess of Foof can help you sort out the Dorm Room Do and Don’t Lists. I’m sure you’ve already discovered that the Internet is crammed with ‘em, and even your school housing department itself may have sent you one, itemizing everything from paperclips to mops and vacuum cleaners (er, no) that they insist you need to survive dorm living and college classes. But, aside from the obvious – because surely, you know you’ll need pens and pencils, a backpack, and clothes – sometimes the advice can get a little muddly, and you might actually be convinced that you cannot live through one semester of school without a popcorn air-popper, plunger or an ironing board. How do you figure it all out, and still manage to Nest accordingly? From years of personal experience, lemme tell you….

What you DO need:

Lamps. Multiple lamps. A desk lamp. A night-table lamp. A good, bright lamp. Your dorm room will likely only have one shoddy, dim, crummy, middle-of-the-ceiling light, and it’s not gonna be nearly enough. You may want to wait until you scope the room first, or you may want to pack your favorite Jesus Night Light in anticipation, but you will need several lamps. Plan and budget accordingly.

File box, folders, three-hole-punch and labels. Get them. Use them. Before classes even start, get a three-ring binder (in a different color) for EACH class. Label each one clearly on both the front and the spine. Every single article/photocopy/handout that you are assigned for class should go in it. Separate them with tabs, and write either the class date or the sub-subject on the tabs (i.e. if your Intro to Psych class spends two weeks on Freud, have one section for Freud. If your Bio lab meets once a week for discussions and demonstrations, have one section per class day. Figure out which makes the most sense). Add folders or sleeves to keep your tests and returned assignments all in one place. You will be much happier that you can easily find each thing for each class when you are putting together your final presentation or writing papers or studying for midterms. Set up another folder for nothing but financial aid stuff, and make copies of everything. And set one up for all your registration stuff. Set up another with all your medical insurance information and doctors’ phone numbers and emergency contacts. Keep all non-class-specific stuff in one file box. Do not ever shove it all into a drawer or one corner of your desk. You will only need to get to this stuff when you are frantic or stressed out, and having to scrabble through a pile of random papers in hopes of finding the copy of that FAFSA form that you KNOW you submitted is only going to make it worse.

A mini-fan. More likely than not, August and September are gonna be fucking HOT. And your room will be stuffy. And you may or may not have air conditioning. If you do, it may or may not be working. So have a little something to provide a bit of a breeze. Immediately.

A laptop computer, with wireless access, and a printer. No matter what it says in the handbook, no matter what you might think about the space your printer’ll take up, the school computer lab will never be able to meet all your needs. You will want to be able to print up response papers three minutes before you run out of the door to class, print up headlines from The Onion to paste on your dorm room walls, print up the ten million pdf.files of critical articles your professor puts up on Blackboard (and you’ll want to be able to access Blackboard, for that matter) at 2AM, print up multiple copies of the pictures of Ryan sound asleep and drooling on the common room couch and tape them all over his front door-

Bedding. Even if they issue sheets and pillows at your dorm, they are going to suck. Foofing your bed is one way to up the comfort level of your room – indeed, your LIFE – several notches. If you’re gonna splurge, this is where you should do it. Get the silk patchwork bedspread, or the fuzzy flannel blanket, the brightly-colored stretchy t-shirt sheets, extra pillows and pillowcases and throw pillows. Your bed should be able to do duty as your sofa, your reading nook, your snogging spot, and brooding place. It’s going to be the focus of your room and your personal space. So have enough pillows to stack up behind you while you’re watching your Gilmore Girls DVDs or slogging through a hundred pages of Bertrand Russell. Have an extra blanket to pull up over you when the dorm air conditioning goes nuts or when you just want to catch a quick afternoon snooze. Shake the cookie crumbs out of your sheets (and change them every so often while you’re at it). Smooth up the blankies in the morning, and your dinky dorm room will suddenly look ten times less cluttered and ratty. Make sure your bed is cozy and personal enough to work on multiple levels. But before you start shopping, check first and see if they have those extra-long twin beds in your dorm. Some do, some don’t.

Towels. Remember what I said about dorm-issued bedding? The same goes for their towels. Bring your own. Or at least one big bath sheet towel. Launder that regularly too.

Flip-flops. They’re not just for the bathroom area, although that’s where you’re gonna get the most use out of them. Get a no-slip, lightweight pair and keep ‘em by your door, because you will never, ever, EVER want to go into the dorm bathroom/showers, kitchen, or even most of the common areas without something on your feet. Eyeeew.

Favorite kitchenware. Not the whole kitchen cupboard, mind. But bring your favorite cereal bowl, coffee mug, drinking glass, popcorn dish (and if you find the right kind of big, ceramic mug, those items can be all one in the same), and a couple things you use regularly, like a sharp knife or a certain frying pan. The stuff in the dorm kitchen, if there even is any, is going to suck.

Headphones. Don’t be a jackass. Your roommate doesn’t want to listen to your music, your movies, your video games, or your iFilm and YouTube downloads. And you don’t want to listen to your roommate snore, mumble, coo on the phone to an SO, practice their monologue for class, or try to engage you in conversations comprised primarily of Will Farrell movie references. And don’t forget the ruckus from the couple in the next room bangin’ one out, or the group down the hall that has initiated Monday Night Stale Baguette Jousting. Bring ‘em. You’ll need ‘em.

Pictures. Lots and lots of pictures. They don’t take up much room! Make a collage of favorite photos as part of your room décor. Surround yourself with ones that make you happiest. Bring a CD of ‘em, or have a file folder on your desktop, and print up some new ones for a Revolving Bulletin Board Display every few weeks.

Rugs. Not only to cover up the ugly scuffed floors and/or grotty carpets, but rugs are also helpful for visually divvying up space, whether you’re sharing a room or not.

Shower caddy. Sure, it sounds dorky, and you’d think that it’d take up too much valuable storage space. But it’s worth it. When you’re stumbling around at 7AM before your morning class, you don’t need to expend effort on digging through drawers for your bottles of shampoo, your toothbrush, your facial scrub, your razor, and anything else that you will need the second you are in the shower down the hall from your room. Get one that has holes so water doesn’t collect in it, and has a sturdy handle. Keep all your shower stuff in it, even the hair treatment that you only use once a week. Grab and go.

A First-Aid kit. It’s worth the extra effort… and space. Get one of those plastic containers or a big plastic bag. Stock up on everything you might need: aspirin, cold meds, antacids, anti-itch stuff, Band-Aids, Neosporin, all that junk. Make sure you know where it is and can get to it quickly. Because when you wake up at 1AM with hives, the flu, heartburn, or a bad headache, you aren’t going to have much luck convincing your roommate to drive to the all-night Walgreen’s off-campus for you. And when you freak out on the drive to school with an attack of nerves, you’ll need that Immodium. Now.

Post-it Notes. Not only will you need them for tabbing sections in books and annotating things, leaving messages for your roommate, reminding yourself of meetings with profs, and ten million other things, you can also use ‘em as kernifty decoration.

A small mirror. Even if your room has one, it may not be in the best spot you need for putting on makeup, plucking your eyebrows, examining your teeth, putting in contacts, or ten billion other things that you won’t want to do in the community bathroom. Pick up one of those little flippy mirrors with a magnified side and a stand from the drugstore.

A t-shirt and/or sweatshirt from your new campus. It’s always an acceptable mode of dress to throw on a college t-shirt with your ratty jeans, sweats, or even pajama pants for a quick run to the library or a morning class. Order one from the campus bookstore now, wash-and-wear it a couple times around the house so it loses that brand-new-shirt look, and psych yourself up.

Don’t bring!

Stuff from high school. Don’t bring your high-school yearbooks, your Whatever High School team t-shirts, your class ring and name cards, your prom dress, your pennants and pom poms. No matter what you think when you’re packing up in August, you aren’t going to want to wear your last May’s taffeta to a winter formal at the university or your football uniform for a costume party. Your college roommate doesn’t want to spend an evening pouring over your yearbook pictures of you and all your friends on the tennis team, the Key Club, SAAD, Debate, Model UN, and wrestling team. And wearing your high school class ring or letter jacket or t-shirts emblazoned Pleasant Hill High School Poozers just looks really silly on a college campus. Don’t advertise that you’re still wet behind the ears, dear. Bring a couple framed photos or a small album with you for your own personal benefit, and leave it at that.

Your entire music collection. With iPods and mp3s and everything, there’s really no need to haul a hundred CDs with you or clutter up your limited space with storage crates or towers of jewel cases … to say nothing about your whole collection of obscure import 12’ vinyl hip-hop mixes from Finland. Don’t bring all that crap along. For that matter, leave all the DVDs at home too, unless it’s something rare or something you might need for a class or the Happy Stretchy Yoga disc you work out to a couple times a week; I usually bring my collection of Various Versions of Little Women and The Secret Garden with me to school, because every single semester we have some discussion of the cinematic interpretations of the book and I usually host a Watch-and-Discuss afternoon or lend my BBC version to someone. But you don’t need to haul along your ten million Chick Flicks. Chances are, if you’re desperate for a viewing of something brainless and Hollywoody, your library will have it.

Expensive electronics. Don’t bring your gaming stuff, your gonzo stereo equipment, your top-of-the-line camcorders, or your three different flatirons. You’ll be – or SHOULD be – too busy with schoolwork and other activities to spend all-nighters playing Danger Axis 5000: The Ultimate Challenge, and from experience, having that stuff around when you have a bad habit of procrastinating is more trouble than it’s worth. Ahem. (*shifts The Sims further back in the desk drawer*) Yeah. But especially, having a roomful of costly multimedia stuff and electronic gadgets is thief-bait. So leave that shit at home and be happy with your iPod, camera-phone, blowdrier, and laptop. That’s enough. You’ll live.

Sports equipment. Or music equipment. Or any bulky equipment, really. If you play the guitar or tennis every day, that’s one thing. Bring your racket or your guitar, sure. But don’t haul along a bunch of weights and hockey sticks and basketballs or amps and monitors and mutli-track recorders that you think might be fun activities in college.

Any reference items that can be found online. Sure, Grandpa and Grandma got you that huge (if anachronistic) set of encyclopedia for your high school graduation with the expectation that you’d take it to college. Sure, you’ve had that old dictionary on your desk since middle school. Sure, you love that quotation book. But if you have an 8x12 room to share with another person, you can only bring so many books, and you can look up a lot of quickie stuff at dictionary.com or wikipedia. Believe you me, I understand the pain involved in scaling back books. There is a deep sense of separation when I leave behind my thesaurus that I got for Christmas when I was 11 and have sewn the cover back on three times, but if I’ve limited myself to three- well, four- no, okay, realistically, make that six boxes of books, I have to pick and chose carefully. I make an exception for my beloved Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory, because I have a lot of notes and markings in it. But for the most part, if I can look it up online, I don’t need to take up bookshelf space with an identical source.

Trash cans. All you need for your wastebasket requirements in a dorm room is a brown paper bag. When it’s full, throw the whole thing out. No worries about cleaning sticky puddles of Pepsi at the bottom of it. Sure, your Dr. Seuss Cat in the Hat trash can is kick-ass, but it’ll be waiting for you when you get home next summer.

Laundry baskets. As with trash cans, these take up too much room, so nix on the cute thing with the separate compartments for detergent and bleach. Use laundry bags instead. Breathable, washable ones. Ones that you can wash along with your laundry. Because peeyew.

Most stuff you can buy once you’re there. Aw, isn’t that sweet that Mommy wants to take you shopping and buy you a whole bunch of Top Raman and giant bottles of Tylenol and dryer sheets and all the other stuff that she just knows her baby’s gonna need at school? But, unless you’re moving to a dorm room or apartment twenty minutes from home, hauling all that crap in a bunch of suitcases is pretty dumb, even if the local Ralph’s has Top Raman on sale 12/$1. Convince her to order those essentials for you online via Target.com or Drugstore.com or someplace and have it shipped directly to your dorm. Same goes for your supply of Laura Mercier makeup and Bumble + Bumble haircare products; don’t stock up before you move… order that shit from beautysak.com and have it waiting for you at Dorm Central when you get there.

High-maintenance clothes. After my first summer at Hollins, I learned my lesson. Don’t bring anything that needs ironing. Even if your dorm has an iron and ironing board, you won’t use ‘em. Don’t bring anything that needs dry cleaning. They’ll just sit in a huge pile of stuff to take to the dry cleaner “sometime.” Don’t bring specialty clothing that you think you might maybe need. You won’t need your padded bike shorts and matching jacket, collection of trendy beach cover-ups, a selection of nice dresses in case of dinner dates (with shoes to match), your ski parka, your vintage dress that will look gorgeous if you just lose ten more pounds. Don’t bring anything that takes up too much room or needs special storage. Just bring a couple items that can work dressed up: a couple nice shirts and pants and a tie, a simple black dress, a favorite skirt… but that’s it. You won’t need ‘em as much as you think. Even if you were voted Best Dressed at your high school, once you’re in college, I’ll bet you a dollar you won’t give two shits about coordinating and wardrobe-planning once you hit midterms.

High-maintenance personal accouterments. Like that wax-dipping-manicure-and-pedicure thingie. Or the facial steamer. Or the big, giant exercise ball. Or the big kit of aromatherapy oils. Or anything else that’s stored in a big box. You won’t use them. You won’t need them. If you need some decadent beauty rituals, go to a spa.

Supersized anything. If storage space is limited, you are going to curse every time you trip over the huge container of laundry detergent. And you ain’t gonna want to schlep THAT to the laundry room, neither.

Plants. Like you’re gonna remember to water it… if you can even find it under the stacks of books on your desk, anyway

A tool kit. You may bring two small screwdrivers, a flat and a Philips, in case you need to assemble or disassemble something. That’s it. No, you don’t need a cute tool kit with wrenches and hammers. You can borrow those from Maintenance. It’s not like YOU’LL be the one to fix the messed-up light fixture or the closet door if they break, anyway

Furniture. You may have big plans of altering your dorm room by replacing their motel-grade furniture with your own personal touches… a writing desk, maybe, or a futon or a nifty metal bookcase or a kit to turn your bed into a loft. Don’t. Bring tablecloths or dresser runners or other small fabric things to change the way the crappy furniture looks, and don’t try to schlep along furniture. Besides, the housing folks may not have places to store the crappy included-with-the-room furniture you want to replace in the first place, so what’ll you do if you’re crowded with both the groovy IKEA metal storage thingie as well as the crummy dorm dresser? Hardly helps.

Illegal substances. Don’t be a moron.

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