Part One of a three-part series for college students.

CollegeCollege students around the country are gearing up for the start of a new academic term. For first-year students, making a dorm room a home sometimes gets a little out-of-hand. Hard to believe it, but decades ago, folks did not have a small moving truck in tow when they arrived on-campus for fall semester. So how to bring a taste of home to campus while keeping clutter at bay? Perhaps the following tips will be of interest to a college student near you.

1. Start with a vision of what you want from your half of the dorm room. Be realistic. Do you want it to be party central? an art studio? a place to relax? a study zone? some combination thereof?

2. Next, identify which items will enhance the space you wish to create in your home-away-from-home. A disco ball may not be the best addition to a study zone. A lava lamp may be the perfect touch for party central. Before packing the station wagon or filling boxes with your gear, ask yourself if each item will truly support the atmosphere you wish to create. Whenever possible, every item should have a practical use. Just because it has sentimental value doesn’t mean it’ll go through the main campus gates.

Tip: Consider bringing only the essentials and select family and friend photos to campus – and then purchasing some cool, accent creature comforts after you’ve gotten the lay of the land at school.

3. Recognize that you’ll probably have at least one roommate and space constraints. Plan accordingly. Your roommate’s wishes count. If possible, talk with them in advance about what will feel homey to them, too. Everything you bring should fit in your half of the closet, room, bureau, shelves, etc. You don’t want their bean bag chair to encroach on your side of the room; they’ll appreciate it when your shag rug stays next to your bed.

4. Costs count. If you purchase a dorm refrigerator, who’s footing the energy fee your school may tack onto your bill? Be alert to the costs associated with the items you bring to college. In some cases, skipping the meal plan and paying for a mini-fridge in your room could be quite cost-effective.

5. Climate makes a difference. Dorm room closets are famous for being the size of a postage stamp. If you live near campus, consider leaving your winter gear at home and swapping it with your fall attire when the air has a chill. This will help you to save on closet space and dorm room clutter.

Part of attending college is getting to know yourself in a new light. It’s about learning new things,  meeting people from all backgrounds, and exploring the academic interests that make your heart sing. And for college to be an aptly transformative life experience, you don’t want to be held back by stuff. By clutter. By unnecessary items that take up space, require cleaning and care, and don’t contribute to organizational bliss. As Oprah says, “your home should rise up to meet you.” And the same goes for your home-away-from-home. Wishing you joy as you embark on this new adventure.

* Photo by Tom Spitznas

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