The dorm

via  Vassar College Archive  on Flickr

My sister-in-law called the other day with three post suggestions. Her first child is leaving for college in the Fall, and she has some questions she'd like addressed on Nest & Launch. 

Me too! 

#1. When are my kids coming back? 

Anyone? Anyone? 

My sister-in-law, however (not being the freak that I am), is a tad more practical. She's wondering about the DORM. What to bring? How best to set it up?  

Guys . . . I LOVE the DORM. I love everything about it: its efficient use of space, its proximity to campus, the cafeteria where you NEVER HAVE TO COOK, the abundance of cool people all around you. Also, as a parent the dorm offers a sense of security. It's more like dropping your kid off at a really long summer camp. Or boarding school. That's what is is -- boarding school. Not college! Not grown up!

Seriously though, the dorm, at least for me, is one of the fun parts of launching -- so I just launch the heck out of it. Here's a few things I learned last year (Look at me! I'm a serial launcher!):

Practical considerations: The majority of the kids in our community go to Texas schools. This generally means they are only a few hours from home, which allows for some degree of back and forth -- both with people and STUFF. This also means they can just fill up the back of their cars TO THE BRIM and mosey on to school. Going to school out of state is a whole different ball game.  

Here's the mistake I made: We flew with Jordan to Utah to get her set up. She brought two large suitcases and a carry on. Then Sterling and I checked two boxes EACH of additional stuff. THEN, when we got to Provo we visited the Target/Walmart approximately five times and bought everything needed to set up her room. I'm talking a duvert insert, egg crate mattress thingy, printer, bins, school supplies, large containers of shampoo, conditioner, lotion, etc. PLUS, she accumulated a bunch of STUFF over the year. So, then, when school finished up at the end of April, we sent her a plane ticket and told her to COME ON HOME! 

Really? She could have set up house for a small family. We lucked out in that my sister-in-law's parents were driving from Utah to Texas just around the time school let out. They very kindly drove to Provo and picked up FIVE LARGE BOXES, which saved Jordan from selling all of her belongings on the street. Obviously, most out-of-state students make arrangements to store their goods while they are home for the summer. But because Jordan wasn't returning to school for 18 months, most of it needed to come home to roost.

My advice? Don't start off with so much stuff. Also? Plan on storing/transporting her belongings at the end of the year. I already know Madison won't finish up the year with just enough stuff to fit in two pieces of luggage and a carry on. We'll plan better this year. 

With that said, here are the bare bones necessities for the well-stocked dorm room: 

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  1. Bedding. Madison has been sweating the whole duvet vs. comforter vs. quilt delimma over here. She finally went with this cute set from Target. Note: While the comforter set is in stores now, the duvet set is only available online. The price is incredible. Jordan went with a similar graphic duvet from Urban Outfitters last year, but at this price you could even change it out mid year.
  2. Command everything -- hooks, picture hangers, poster hangers. Gather a good supply of these for hanging everything from pictures to towels. Hint: These are often sold out in college towns around dorm-move-in time, so buy early. I went crazy and hung a whole collage on Jordan's cinder block wall. Because I love dorms. Have I mentioned that yet? 
  3. Medical supplies (and how to use them). Chances are your college student is going to get sick. It's helpful to have common over-the-counter medications on hand since Momma won't be there to run to Walgreens. I went over this in greater depth here
  4. Shower caddy. Maddie's dorm has the old-school bathroom down the hall, so she'll have to schlep her shower supplies back and forth each day. 
  5. Laundry basket. And a prayer. Actually, Madison is pretty particular about her clothes, so I feel confident she will wash her clothes. Some boys I know? It's questionable. 
  6. Printer. Lots of kids don't have printers in their dorm rooms because the university does provide a number of convenient print centers. However, Jordan was super glad she had a printer, and the scanner on top came in handy a number of times when she needed to send documents to us at home. Her printer is sitting in a basement in Utah right now . . . just waiting for Madison.
  7. Decor. To decorate? Or not to decorate? We tried to homey the place up enough so she would be comfortable, but not so much that she'd need a professional moving service to bring her home (that didn't work out exactly as planned). A few pops of color help to tone down the institutional nature of the place and give those babies a little practice nesting themselves. Look! I brought that full circle. 
  8. Storage. Because the dorm is so small (about a quarter of my girls' room at home), organization is key. After assessing the closets and shelving, we bought a bunch of different sized bins to keep stuff together -- some with lids, some open. We also bought two large under-bed boxes for ski clothes and bulky sweaters/jackets that she didn't need to access everyday. 
  9. Dishes. And silverware! Jordan's dorm had a full-service cafeteria where she ate all of her meals, which led us to believe she wouldn't need any dishes in her room. But she had a small refrigerator, so she would bring home leftovers when she ate out. And she ended up eating cereal in her room most mornings, which necessitated a bowl and spoon. Then she told me one day she was making hot chocolate in her cereal bowl. Ummmmm, get a mug sistah. 

One of my favorite things in Jordan's dorm last year was a watercolor painting of our home. It was done by Rebekka Seale, an incredible artist who includes a digital copy along with the original painting. I just printed one up, threw it in a Target frame, and  . . . voila  . . . instant don't-forget-your-momma art. I'll be making another for Maddie for sure. (Yep, that's our dog, Indie, out front). 

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