Microwaves, mini-fridges, coffee makers, and other kitchen equipment. Don’t risk buying and hauling/shipping big boxes of appliances only to discover your dorm common room has a couple new microwaves, or your roommate brought a mini-fridge for the room, or the RA does careful checks twice weekly and confiscates anything resembling an electronic appliance, or you use the espresso maker once and then abandon it for the cozy coffee place by the library. Check out things first, and, after a week or so, if you still think you might really need a mini-fridge or coffee pot in the room, THEN buy one. For that matter, the same goes for…
TVs and DVD players, TiVo. If possible, make your laptop the site of all your Viewing Pleasure. But if you can’t live without telly, check out the dorm digs first. Maybe the one in the common room is fine. Maybe your roommate has one already. But if you get to campus and discover there’s no DVD player in the common room or you become part of a group that has a fun, daily de-stress watching The Colbert Report, it might be worth getting a small telly with DVD and/or TiVo for your room so you can hang out together there. Nothing too expensive, though!
Curtains/shades. It’s likely that you’ll want something to cover up your windows, but wait until you’ve checked out your digs first before you start buying kernifty bamboo roll-up blinds. There may be serviceable blinds already installed. Or at the very least, you’ll want to measure the windows before buying curtain hardware. Heck, you may just decided that the pretty Indian sari wrap you’ve had draped across your headboard at home is just the thing to tack up in front of a window in your new dorm or college apartment.
Candles and incense. Your dorm may have regulations about any sorts of burnable/flammable/smellable items, but once you get there, if it’s okay and if your roommate is okay with it, go get some candles and some incense and get rid of that musty dorm room funk! In fact, I highly recommend it!
Bean bag chairs. Who’d’ve thunk that these horrors from my childhood would make such a strong college comeback? But wait and see what you have room for in your dorm first before you haul in the giant squooshy bean bag chair. Or any other of those butterfly chairs or dish chairs or things like that. If you only have room for one chair, make it your desk chair. It’s harder to work on your laptop in a beanbag than you’d think.
Tchotchkes. Generally speaking, it’s obviously not a good idea to bring along your entire collection of Dunny (Series 3!) Action Figures or Mars Attacks! toys. But on the other hand, maybe a couple little knick-knacks will make you feel happier and more at home, and would be groovy personal décor. So go ahead, if you want to bring along some frabjous thingamabobs for your shelves; I’ll let you get away with it if it’s nothing too expensive or irreplaceable… or too much, because your roommate(s) may not want the entire third season of Buffy acted out via action figures on every available surface.
Hot Topic/Spencer Gifts décor: Go easy. Okay, so maybe that fiber optic mushroom light is kinda amusing, but I don’t recommend plastering your entire room with Fallout Boy and Green Day posters, blacklight pictures of marijuana leaves, Napoleon Dynamite and Hello Kitty paraphernalia, Jenna Jamison posters, Johnny Depp posters, smoking gargoyle fountains, and neon Guinness signs. Sorry, dudes, that’s just sad. Try some variety… and maybe even a few grown-up elements.
And because I am, after all, The Goddess of Foof, I also have some suggestions for a few super-easy, super-cheap, super-non-space-takey-uppy décor touches. So after you’ve finished sulking about me layin’ the smack down on your Hello Kitty stuff, consider some of the following:
One roll of brown wrapping paper. You know, the kind to wrap up parcels. You can use it to line gross dresser drawers. You can just tack up a huge swath of it on the wall, and commence to writing things or drawing things on it by way of décor. You can tape it over your ugly bookshelves or desk top for a stark, utilitarian look that helps camouflage all the scrapes and graffitis of 47 previous occupants. You can cover one of your big boxes with it and turn it into an impromptu night table. You can cover your books with it, if you’re that anal-retentive. You can tack a square of it up on the front of your door in lieu of a message board. You can come to the rescue for party décor in the common room by using sheets of it as tablecloths.
String. Plain old string. This can be the basis of any number of Foofing possibilities, from impromptu curtain rods to garlands. Tack a bunch of string horizontally on the wall with small nails, and hang things from it with little clips, like postcards or Polaroids. Tie some across your top-bunk bed bottom for an impromptu clothesline when you wash your bras.
Newspaper. I prefer foreign-language newspapers or the ones that have all the ads for “personal massages” with pictures of trannies and stuff like that, but even your hometown local can work fine. You can cut it up into paper-snowflake-garland or you can fold it into origami shelf-lining garland, which looks more interesting when it’s done with newspaper. Or you can just stick a couple of sheets of it up on a wall or the back of a door as a base for added décor.
Postcards. I’ve mentioned before, I horde the free ones in those dispensers outside restaurant bathrooms or in music stores, as well as art postcards from my favorite museums. These make for great wall-collage décor. Once you get that newspaper background up, layer a bunch of themed postcards: all ads for those weird DJ parties at local clubs, or 20 of ‘em from your trip last spring to Paris. Make a collage over your bed of art postcards or postcards of favorite authors. Personalize your front door with a couple special ones.
Paper lanterns. The kind you get in Chinatown for dirt-cheap. These squoosh down to almost nothing, and are bright, colorful and fun. Use the string, and make a garland of paper lanterns to hang across the ceiling, or around your lower bunk, or along the top shelf of your bookcase. Add them in to your wall-hang-thingie. Parcel them out by color or shape, or just mix ‘em all together.
Cut-outs. Like, from a couple magazines or newspapers. Or even printed up from online. Grab a couple celeb gossip rags, cut out the pictures of Paris scratching her crotch or Drunk Lindsay, and stick ‘em to your front door and encourage your dorm mates to graffiti them or caption them. Cut out headlines from newspapers or fashion magazines, and tack “Bomb Plot Uncovered!” over a picture of Crazy Tom Cruise in MI:II, or “Your Best Hair Day Ever” over a picture of your just-rolled-out-of-bed self. My personal favorites are the Weekly World News and The Onion, but you can unearth gems anywhere. When things get really stressful, I’ll often go on a rampage of sticking cutouts to friends’/dorm-mates’ doors to lighten the mood. Like when Ellen came back from a brutal creative writing workshop to discover “IS YOUR TOILET THE GATEWAY TO HELL?” on her front door….
Magnets. *sticks postcards and cut-outs to fridge with collection of brightly colored round magnets* That’ll take care of that sucky dorm-room fridge! Ha!