Life After Parents

August 23, 2010

Ah, the beginning of a new school year.

It’s always a momentous occasion.  But the most momentous school year of all is that first one away from home, the freshman year of college.  I remember when my parents drove away, and it dawned on me I wasn’t at church camp, and I wouldn’t be going home in a week.  There are tons of challenges in moving away from home for the first time.  One of the biggest tasks is outfitting a dorm room with everything a student needs to live in the comfort of a small cinderblock room with community showers.  Chances are your first home away from home won’t look like the Olsen twins’ penthouse or for that matter, any TV dorm room, so you’ll have to pick and choose what you bring to school.

Now that I have a home and I’m married, it amazes me that just a few short years ago, all my worldly possessions fit in the back of a small pick up truck.  However, of all the items I could’ve packed for college, there were eight absolutely necessary ingredients for dorm or apartment living.

Of course, videogames and iPods are obvious essentials, but there may be a lot of items that are missed on that last trip to Wal-Mart before classes start.  Today, I’m helping out our new college students with this handy dandy list of eight essential products for life after living with your parents.

Eight Totally Necessary Items for College Living


Febreeze is a miracle product.  It came on the market just as I was entering college, much to my great satisfaction.  Look, college students are extraordinarily busy and important people, always with places to go and…books to…read.  Mundane tasks like cleaning your room or doing laundry have never been less important than they are now.  However, you don’t want to have your girl or boyfriend over to visit and your room smells like old socks and sour milk.  In the olden days, a few cleverly placed car fresheners would have to do the job, but today, a few spritzes covers a multitude of sins. 

Five Laundry Baskets

There’s probably a washer and dryer somewhere on campus.  But who has time to go on a wild goose chase trying to locate it?  It’s probably way down in the basement of your dorm in a creepy, dimly lit, poorly ventilated room.  Plus, there’s usually a line of people waiting to use one broken machine.  Besides that, with you being away from home for the first time, it would really warm your mother’s heart to visit her on the weekend, with five baskets of laundry for her to wash and fold for you.

Sharpie Marker

Remember those notches your parents put on the wall to mark how tall you had grown when you were a kid?  Well now that your diet consists of cafeteria food and Easy Cheez, you’ve probably stopped growing, at least vertically.  However, you can start a cool new growth chart.  With the help of a Sharpie marker, you can keep track of just how high you can pile the milk jugs and McDonald’s wrappers in your wastebasket without it toppling over!  It’s just like Jenga.

Christmas Lights

Living in a dorm is a little bit like being an animal in a zoo.  You’re always on display, people always passing by, tapping on the glass.  With piles of trash and laundry in your room, a little Febreeze may cover the smell, but there’s the little issue that your squalor is sort of in plain view.   Not to worry, my friend.  There’s no need to show of your mess with flourecent lamps or natural sunlight.  Just shut the blinds and hang a few Christmas lights.  Your room will look festive and inviting, while the light is dim enough that no one will be able to tell if they are sitting on a beanbag chair or your dirty boxer shorts.


Okay, so you’re rocking the Christmas lights and Febreeze, and now you’re having a modest little soiree in your room with a few friends.  You’ve got some burgers cooking up on your George Foreman grill, which is knocking out the fat directly onto your record breaking four foot pile of trash, and everyone’s enjoying the virgin daquiris.  Oh no!  Someone’s annoying boyfriend spilled his drink.  Party foul.  Now you’ve got a big red splotch right in the middle of your room…Or do you?  Just rotate the rug until it’s under the bed, and presto!  Clean floor!  Rugs are easily obtained from the dumpsters behind carpeting stores.

Alarm Clock

Like I said, college students are busy people, and it doesn’t pay to be tardy.  You need a nice, loud alarm clock so you can be sure not to be late to your 2 pm class.

Flip Flops

College professors are often reputed as being really smart, but a bit eccentric in their clothing choices.  My dad had a professor who wore a suit and tie, even in summer time.  But in order to not overheat himself, he had his suit pants hemmed into shorts.  Nothing else about the ensemble changed, including the knee high socks and shoes.  Deal with that for a moment.

As a man or woman of higher education, you are no longer in need of any footwear, except flip flops.  Doesn’t matter if it’s summer or there’s ten inches of snow on the ground.  Proper college footwear is flip flops.  Flip flops are the only footwear that will give you the calloused, disgustingly filthy feet of a true scholar.


It’s inevitable that along the way, you will have a rival in your dorm.  And when your rival steals your shower head or leaves a pack of wild ducks in your room, you will have to answer in kind.  With a few pennies, you can trap your rival in his or her room, while they sleep.  Just push really hard on their door, and shove the pennies into the door jamb.  Bam.  Punked.

Okay, help out the new college students out there.  What was your first home after moving out of your parents’ place?  What were the items you had to have when you first left home?

33 responses to Life After Parents

  1. I’m living in a dorm right now. Can be an interesting experience!

    I agree on the lights. I haven’t got christmas lights but a few small lamps in my dorm room instead. Gives the room a much nicer feel than horrible fluorescent overhead lights.

    If you can afford one, get your own small fridge rather than using the shared one in the shared kitchen. Very convenient and saves you from having your food contaminated by other people’s food that’s been in the fridge three months too long or being stolen.

    A good fabric stain remover- A lot of what you will eat or drink, especially at parties, does not come out of clothing easily. Since its best if you deal with stains quickly, you can’t just wait until you next see mum. I even took some of my preferred stain remover with me when I studied abroad- that’s how much I end up needing the stuff.

    A reasonable quality camera to capture all the social events and misadventures. At some point in college you will probably end up doing something people won’t believe when you tell them so getting it on camera is a good idea. I’ve also found taking photos at parties a good way of getting out of the pressure to drink too much. If you’re taking photos it looks less awkward that you don’t have a drink in your hand and drunk people love having their photos taken.

  2. Dang Matt! Where were you when I went to college for the first time? Oh yeah, that’s right, you weren’t even born!!! Deal with that one. I have to. LOL. this list is absolutely great. I chuckled and was so glad I had nothing in my mouth when I hit the rug one. I am pretty neat since I was pretty poor growing up so I had to hang my clothes up, etc. But moving the rug around was great. My first home? a college dorm room. Had to have? Ever heard of an ironing board and iron. yep, one of them ancient things. I also brought momentos to fill up my empty bookshelves.

  3. I didn’t get the “real” college experience since I commuted. But I lived in the apartment 1 month before my wife and I got married. You talking about all the books college kids would “read” it reminded me of a story an Architect told me once. The construction workers out in the field wanted the specs he made for the job and he couldn’t believe they were actually using them. He goes out to the job site and they’re using it as toilet paper.

    Coffee Maker – For the college peeps and the career types. You need to have your caffeine.

    I wrote a blog last year with a list of 10 things that a college (more so male) freshman needs. You can find it at

  4. Wow, a lot of inventions since I was in college! IE: iPods, Fabreeze and Sharpees. I am feeling ripped off. (does anyone use that phrase anymore?)

    I looked at colleges with my mom. I had a choice of going to a school that had its first male freshman class – that’s right, 11 to 1 girls to guys ratio, or one that had a back parking lot strewn with empty beer bottles. I chose the latter.

    Here is a short list of what I remember bringing in mom’s 1974 Mercury Comet. 1 Les Paul guitar, 1 Fender amp, cords and guitar picks, lots of jeans and t-shirts, flip-fops (forgot real shoes) posters of Jimmy Page and Jimi Hendrix, a tooth brush, a picture of the girl I would never see again, stereo and 300+ vinyl albums. Thank God my roommate had a few bucks and brought a small fridge and case of Heinekens to get us through orientation.

    However, we found an old LP record jacket with the back slit, an ample amount of baby powder and a hair dryer to powerful enough to blow it under the door, sufficient enough to make any room look like a winter wonderland – just wish we’d have thought of the Christmas lights – that would have been a nice touch.

    • Ah yes, the picture of the girl never to be seen again. A very important prop in the life of any male college freshman. We didn’t use LP jackets, but we had manila folders taped shut with a drinking straw sticking out, and found that shaving cream also worked. (You had to stomp on the folder for the shaving cream to blow out of the straw.)

      • @Matt – at least you know what and LP is!

        The guys in pre-med used to fill single serving milk cartons with all sorts of biological matter and it was sort of a sniper prank. Knock on the door; and as you heard footsteps in front of it, it was stomp and run.

        Fun blog. 😉

    • Those C9’s wouldn’t have had the same effect as the tiny white Xmas lights.

  5. You wouldn’t believe it if I told you. Underwear, outerwear including SHOES & SOCKS; toothbrush, shaving kit, my Sheaffer fountain pen.
    A. Troglodyte

  6. QUARTERS! For when all five laundry baskets fill up and your mom decided that it was time for you to grow up and do your own laundry.

  7. Ah…college. I’m so thankful I commuted because it would have been too dangerous for the campus to let me run amuck living there for four years!

    When I left home, I moved from Pennsylvania to New Mexico for a job. I had a TV, a VCR and some pots and pans. I slept on a cot. Yeah, not really glamorous.

  8. GIANT GREEN TRASH BAGS! Could use them for luggage, storage, even to hold trash!

    I felt awkward going to the gym in college with my clothes in a trash bag, until I saw the other 8 guys there with the same bag….how embarrassing!

  9. Okay, this isn’t so much an item to bring, but one you’ll need to create once you get there. It is super important to have a hiding spot in the bathroom for a secret towel. Maybe there’s a tile loose that you can create a cavern behind, or you duct tape one up under the counter, or whatever you come up with. That way when your towel and clothes are stolen, either unintentionally or very intentionally, you have a back up. Plus when you step into the hallway to face all the guys who are waiting to see what you’ll do, the joke will be on them because you, my friend, have a nice clean towel.

  10. 1. I can’t believe you left out earplugs. I wouldn’t have survived undergrad without these. Good for drowning out roommates, roomates’ boyfriends, The Hills, and especially useful if you live within a 5 mile radius of the local fire station. Also good for drowning out the train-like noise of a 35 year-old heater. I was asleep the first time ours came on, and in a semi conscious state I actually dreamed/hallucinated that I was being abducted by aliens because of the noise and the room shaking. Uncool.

    2. On a similar note, an eye mask, or at least curtains to help you sleep in on weekends. Yes, even men should have these. My boyfriend has one with sheep on it. Precious.

    3. A really overpriced futon. Nothing like inviting guests to sleep on a pile of sawdust with a sheet over it.

    4. Tupperware. Mainly used for “stealing” (whatever, your parents paid for the unlimited plan, right?) food from the dining halls, if you’re lucky enough to have an awesome meal plan.

  11. Paper towels are absolutely necessary for the dorm room. And whether you’re in college or out, look into Cocoa-Motion. It will change your life.

  12. I think #7 was a dig at me….. :(

  13. I would have never gotten through college without a popcorn popper. (Do they even make them any more?) Hot plates and microwaves were big no-nos! We took the acrylic lid off that converted to a bowl for the popcorn and cooked all kinds of stuff in the electric “wok-like” bottom, including LaChoy canned Chinese food, soup, and left-overs.

  14. We sent each of our daughters off to college with a tool box. Each time it turned out that she was the only one on her floor with a hammer, screwdriver, wrench, pliers, etc. And don’t forget the duct tape! Great way to meet everyone else.

  15. matt! hilarious, hysterical, and other so-very-funny words.

    not to mention, i even found that BLUE, not bright white, christmas lights made for both a greater welcoming style AND dimmer lighting!

    one critique though: clearly, flip-flops are the wear-all of college feet: because they can double as the community shower necessity! i mean, soap is one thing to forget, but flip-flops…now that’s a different story!

    haha. wow. loved the post, matt. thanks for sharing.

  16. I love these two lines: “Proper college footwear is flip flops. Flip flops are the only footwear that will give you the calloused, disgustingly filthy feet of a true scholar.” It’s so true too. I wear flip flops all the time. The only problem though is if you’re a science major (as I am) and you have a lab; closed toed shoes are required.

    Pennies are essential at my University but I’ve never seen them used how you describe. They are “good luck” on exams if you put them on a certain statue. Texas A&M is full of fun traditions such as this. There is a longer story, but I don’t feel like typing all of that right now. 😛 Maybe another Ag will add it.

    My first home-away-from-home was a college dorm. Essentials…hm…Quarters (for laundry – we had several machines, and they were actually new at the time), Pennies (for good luck), a camera (I take a LOT of pictures), laptop (but that’s a given), febreeze is DEFINITELY a must…

  17. My mom bought me an iron when I went off the college. I used it to make grilled cheese sandwiches because a) I didn’t know how to iron my clothes b) I didn’t care if my clothes were wrinkled. But it made some good sandwiches and heated Pop Tarts pretty well too.

  18. I went from a rural community to the heart of Charlotte, NC. It did not go over well at first but as soon as I had to move back home, I found I was not able to sleep without the police/ambulance alarms and a ‘bumping’ stereo but I am slowly getting over it.

    You forgot ramen, peanut butter, Cheetos, and a stash of candy hidden quite stealthily in your drawer. I speak from experience that if it were not for some of your list and my own list, my first round of college would not have gone well.

    I can vouch for Febreeze (Cinnamon or Vanilla Baking scent preferably) because I had to parade the halls like I was carrying a Catholic incense burner after someone smoke too much on a hall in a non-smoking dorm. I can vouch for Sharpies because I had to mark several of my things in the communal kitchen because someone stole my cheap dishwashing liquid (no lie). Don’t waste your money on giant green trashbags, get a 3 gallon trashcan and use your grocery bags. I did this for a year and it suited me fine. You MUST bring flip flops because the showers are more than likely not clean as you would like it. Alarm clocks are your friend- get a cheap one from the dollar store or use your phone.

    Make friends with the librarians and visit often to check out books and videos. Check out the discount rack at video stores. I bought several good discount movies on $3 deals at the video store next to my grocery store of choice, Dollar General.

    I must stress this: Don’t fall into the trap of constantly shopping Wal-Mart and Target for groceries. You will lose money faster than you realize. I can testify to the usefulness of Dollar General and Dollar Tree in school. Use those two, and only those two, unless you must go to the others.

    • This is how I survived living in a dorm, so this is my advice. It may not work for everyone but bits and pieces of it will be very useful.

  19. Ha Ha. I had a prof almost like that. He used to wear a safari suite with short pants and sandals all summer, and in winter all that happened was the pants got longer and he wore a thick pair of woolen socks under his sandals. He also had this tiny little hat in summer, something that a baby would wear, a skull cap with a small brim that went all the way around his head, with an elastic band under his chin to stop the wind from stealing it.

  20. When I was 18 i got on a bus destined for college in Los Angeles, CA. I had $500 in my pocket to last me until I got a job. I found a roommate and an apartment because the school I went to didn’t really have a dorm. I had to sign the lease because she was only 17. It took a couple of days for the electricity to be turned on, we had no furniture, no food and very little money. I remember sitting on boxes and eating chili out of a can; for the record, it’s not good that way. I don’t know how God did it, but it wasn’t long and we both had beds, a couch and later we even got a little TV. I had $10 a week for groceries. It was difficult but I loved it and wouldn’t trade it for anything. That is when I learned who “Jehovah Jirah” really was.

  21. haha you make a valid point with all these items!‘s free college dorm essentials guide also shares some of the coolest and and most popular items for college dorm rooms – check them out!

  22. Duvet covers! Who wants to use the manky brown and beige ones provided? ICK!

    Plus a toastie maker. Soak up the alcohol with a 3 a.m. cheese and baked bean toastie.