Practical Storage Ideas & Assembling Health Kits for Dorm Life

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by Joan and Nancy on August 10, 2010

Here’s the last of our four part Practical Mom Guide to Outfitting Your College Student. This pieces focuses on setting up a health kit and finding storage pieces that not only work but will be useful for years to come.

The Dorm Medical Kit

Do you know the number one reason students do poorly in school their first year? It’s not excessive drinking and partying. It’s lack of sleep and getting sick. As we mentioned in our introduction both Joan and Nancy had kids get severely ill their first year in college. The costs of outfitting a basic college medical box can add up but we think it’s one of the most important things you need to do.

The Basic College Medical Kit

  • Pain relievers (ibuprofen, acetaminophen, naproxen, aspirin) whatever is the drug of choice for your family. Be sure to discuss dosing with your student.
  • Thermometer
  • Allergy medications
  • Benadryl gel (for itchy rashes)
  • Soft Kleenex
  • Salt (for gargling)
  • Bandaids
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Hand sanitizer (Costco sized container)
  • Ice pack
  • Cough drops
  • Lip ointment
  • Chicken broth
  • Vitamins (as preferred by your family)

Cleaning Supplies

Your student may not clean their room but it’s helpful to be able to say, “Why yes honey, I did leave you with supplies to clean your room.” Because space is at a premium we suggest a very simple cleaning kit:

  • all-purpose cleaner
  • window cleaner
  • dust rag
  • roll of paper towels

Most all dorms provide a broom, dust pan and mop and many have a vacuum cleaner. Vacuum cleaners are bulky, space is at a premium and students tend not to use them much. Save this purchase for apartment life.

Practical Storage Solutions for College Dorm Rooms

There are tons of fun, cute, practical and impractical storage containers in stores right now screaming out to young college freshman women (and their moms.) As a general rule of thumb remember square and rectangular shapes always store more efficiently than circles and ovals. Before you start buying think a bit about what you need to store. Here are the basic categories:

  • Clothing (other than what you can fit in the closet and in your dresser.)
  • Food
  • Toiletries
  • Odds/ends

Storage Carts & Cubes

The most useful and ubiquitous storage unit we know is the clear plastic 3-5 drawer storage cart. We have yet to see a dorm room without at least one. These tend to have shallower drawers at the top and deeper drawers at the bottom. We believe this type of unit stores things most efficiently. Small things (like  items from a first aid kit, easily fit in a shallow drawer. Bulkier things, surplus toiletries, paper goods, food items like cereal, crackers, etc. fit well in the larger drawers. These types of units are useful for many years to come. Look for sturdy sets with a decent set of wheels and drawers that slide in and out easily. In a college apartment units like this can easily do double duty as night stands and small tables.

Recently we were on a field trip to The Container Store and saw fun clear plastic storage cars on castors. They would make great bed-side stands and hold out-of-season clothing. Paying a bit more for good quality storage carts is worth it.

Storage cubes are useful because they stack vertically which is always an efficient way to use space. There are several fabric/hemp/eco storage cubes in the stores now whose best purpose would be for storing clothing or towels. They do not hold their shape without something bulky in them and for this reason don’t stack well. We would steer clear of them.

Stacking Boxes

There are so many beautiful boxes available right now. As much as we like to look at them, experience tells us they aren’t very useful. Students tend to put things in them and forget about them. Any time you have to add motions, like having to pull something out from under something else and then open a lid, you are reducing the likelihood this will be an efficient storage unit.

Closet Extenders

There are many useful organizers for closet spaces. The size and space in the closet will help determine which type laundry basket works best, the square plastic basket with hands or the collapsible mesh bag.

Over-the-door hooks extenders are excellent for hanging towels, jackets, purses, etc. Look for decent shaped hooks that are deep enough to hold your towels. Shallow shaped hooks are useless.

Double hang closet rods are an excellent way to maximize storage space in a closet for students who like to hang pants and shirts.

When selecting a shoe storage system think carefully. If most of your clothes are folded then a hanging storage bag will do the trick. If you are looking at a unit, a shoe shelf storage rack, like this, works best when most of your shoes are flat. Be careful with shoe rack storage systems, if you wear shoes with heels, test them on the racks. In our experience sometimes the racks are placed too far apart and the shoes fall between the rods.

Also in this series:

The Practical Mom’s Guide to Outfitting Your Student for College: Dorm Life

The Comforts of Home in the Dorm

Dorm Tech Tools and Office Supplies

Julie’s Uber-Complete College Dorm Packing List


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