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Originally published September 6, 2013 at 8:04 PM | Page modified September 7, 2013 at 8:31 AM

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Making the dorm room feel like home

There are thousands of products college-bound students could buy to enhance or decorate dorm rooms, but their focus should be on essentials.

Sacramento Bee

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As I was packing up my tiny dorm room on the last day of finals in June, I couldn’t help but laugh as I found items I had promised my mom that I would use all the time but that had been collecting dust all year.

Among these forgotten and unused items: a laptop bag and lock, a travel mug and a somewhat-expensive Keurig coffee maker.

There are thousands of products college-bound students could buy to enhance or decorate dorm rooms, but their focus should be on essentials.

From a personal perspective, I wouldn’t have been able to survive my first year without my Command adhesive hooks, a fan and my comfortable body pillow — the latter kept my laptop from falling off my bed when I fell asleep doing homework.

Each student will assess what his or her essentials will be.

According to U.S. retailers, expected back-to-dorm spending will be down to $836.83 per student from $907.22 last year — welcome news for parents who will already spend thousands on their children’s housing.

Hans Greenawalt, a marketing specialist for Ikea, suggests that before students shop, they contact their schools to get room measurements, and to find out what comes with the room and what they can and can’t bring along.

Greenawalt’s dorm essential: lighting.

“In a lot of those rooms, you don’t necessarily have the proper lighting for your study habits,” Greenawalt says. Ikea offers a variety of table lamps, clamp spotlights and hanging lamps. When you’re studying until 4 a.m., your roommate will thank you for remembering to buy a small lamp that you can keep on your side of the room.

Another tip: Be mindful of limited space.

“You’re sharing the room with another person,” says Jane Heaton, associate director of housing and residential life at California State University, Sacramento. “You don’t want to bring everything under the sun.”

The living space you’ll be sharing will be small. The average dorm room at CSUS is about 11 feet by 13 feet. Heaton says the campus expects about 1,000 freshmen to move in this fall.

At the University of California, Davis, the nearly 4,800 freshmen moving in this month will find the living space is a bit roomier — about 10 by 20 feet, according to Ramona Hernandez, director of business and financial services in housing.

“Once they move in, there’s the ability to loft the bed and move the desk and dresser underneath,” Hernandez says. “That might give them a little more floor space.”

A new product from Bed, Bath, & Beyond — a set of four power bed risers — will raise a bed 7 inches while adding power and USB outlets. But not all schools allow extra bed risers.

“You’ll want to check with your school’s dorm-room checklist,” says Jessica Joyce, Bed, Bath & Beyond’s public-relations manager. The retailer offers more than 2,000 in-store checklists for individual schools.

“If you do the research ahead of time to make sure you’re not purchasing things that you might not need, this will help you have a successful shopping trip,” she says.

Joyce also has advice for making use of space in a small dorm room: “One thing about storage is you really need to think about using it throughout your room.”

She says students should think of using the door for extra storage by adding a rod for more hanging space or an over-the-door mirror to save on wall space.

Ahryun Han, a third-year English major at the University of California, Davis, will be a resident adviser for a second year this term. She says her dorm essentials include “comfortable blankets and pillows.”

“I don’t feel too homesick if I’m comfortable in my bed,” she says.

Han says she’s seen many students buy things that they didn’t end up keeping long-term.

Cassidy Shen will attend UC Davis in the fall. Although she didn’t have an exact shopping plan in mind as she moved through the aisles at Target recently, she was looking forward to personalizing her dorm space.

“I’m just excited to have everything that’s mine and being able to pick everything out and just do whatever I want,” Shen says.

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