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Before college, I was all about buying new clothes and a trapper keeper for back-to-school. But with my foray into adulthood—or faux adulthood—August was the time for outfitting my dorm. Need help deciding what to bring to campus this year? Whether you want that one perfect thing to make college life better, or you're doing a total room makeover, we've picked out nine essential items that'll bring your dorm to the next level.
Smart Dorm: Amazon Echo
The Amazon Echo will make your dorm room the place to be. It can be used to order Domino’s at 2 am, hail an Uber for your drunken friend, play music from Spotify, or tell you a quick joke. Adding it to a wishlist? Tell your parents that it also makes a great alarm clock, tracks to-do lists, posts news briefs, and can tell you your class schedule.
Is the Echo essential? Probably not. But after a few weeks with Alexa by your side, you might wonder how you could survive college without her. And if you want to know all the things you can buy that work with Alexa, we've got that, too.
Chair: Lucid Shredded Foam Chair
If there's one thing every dorm room has in common, it's uncomfortable furniture! Sure, you can pick up a cheap bean bag, but those go flat in no time. Meanwhile, fancy foam-filled bags from Chill Bag or Lovesac can cost $200 to $2000. Goldilocks knows: The Lucid shredded foam chair is a "just right" compromise, with a foam filling and a common sale price just south of $100.
One more thing... this Lucid chair has a removable, washable cover, making it easy to toss in the laundry. Dorm life can be messy, and most furniture like this will get filthy fast.
Lamp: Simple Designs Table Lamp
For around $11, this Simple Designs table lamp is a great way to bring a little extra light into your dorm room. And if you live with roommates, you'll definitely want to invest in a lamp—whether it's for staying up late reading or getting up early. (Don't blast those bright overheads when your roomies are sleeping!)
What’s even better is that this compact chrome model comes in a bunch of fabric shade colors, so it’s as decorative as it is functional. Don’t forget that you'll need a 40W candelabra-type bulb—not included with the lamp.
Portable Bluetooth Speaker: iHome Kineta iKN100
There are dozens of Bluetooth speakers out there and all of them will let you stream music from your phone for a good study session or dorm party. But what if you want to bring tunes to the college green? A friend's room? Make sure you limit your search to wireless rechargeable speakers like this one.
We love the Kineta from iHome because it goes one step further, giving you a pop-out rechargeable battery that you can use as backup power for your phone.
Headphones: Audio-Technica ATH-M50x
There's a reason we love Audio-Technica's M50x headphones as much as we do: They're the perfect companion for anyone with eclectic taste in music. A balanced, crisp, and distortion-free soundscape means these headphones will suit any type of tunes. Read our full review.
These cans don't have active noise cancellation (you have to pay a premium for that), but there's enough memory foam padding to block out your chatty roommates so you can study in peace. And though they're a bit of an investment at around $150, they do frequently go on sale for closer to $100. At either price, this is a seriously killer pair of headphones.
Fridge: Igloo 3.2 cu. ft. Mini Fridge
No dorm would be complete without a place to store your food and drinks. Our choice: the Igloo 3.2-Cu.-Ft. Mini Fridge. It comes in eight different colors (ranging in price from $120 to $170). Sure, it’s small, but it's more than enough space for one person—or 100 cans. With adjustable shelves, a can rack on the door, and a small freezer for personal pizzas, it offers surprisingly flexible storage.
We also happen to know that this little fridge performs well, too: We chose it as our Best Value pick for the Best Beer Fridges of 2016. Just don't put beer in it. (Unless you're 21.)
Fan: Honeywell HT-900 TurboForce
Depending on where you go to school, a fan can be an absolute must. Lots of college dorms these days still lack central air, which means no air conditioning in those first few days of summer and some aggressively heated buildings during the winter. We love this inexpensive pick from Honeywell: Similar models have long been dorm room staples, but the HT-900 is lightweight, compact, and inexpensive—perfect for a desk or nightstand.
And even if you don't need the temperature regulation, a fan by your side can circulate air in a stuffy dorm room, or give you the white noise you need to drown out the sounds of a snoring roommate!
Laundry Basket: Sterilite Ultra Wheeled Hamper
Let's be honest: You're probably not going to buy a laundry basket. This one is for mom, dad, grandma, or whomever is looking out for their favorite scholar at college.
Since dorm rooms are little more than walk-in closets with bunkbeds, space is at a premium. That's why we picked the Sterilite Ultra Wheeled Hamper as the best laundry basket for a collegiate lifestyle. The 4.7-cu.-ft. capacity is big enough to handle a decent load of laundry, but not so large that you can let the dirty clothes pile up.
And here's the kicker: the whole unit is on wheels! So not only is it easy to wheel laundry down to the communal washers, but it also doubles as an extra suitcase when it's time to move out.
Poster: Draplin Design State Posters
You're gonna get homesick in college. It happens to everyone, especially if you're going to school in some far-away land. What's the best way to cope with these feelings? Beautiful wall art, of course! Are you crying for California? Missing Mississippi? Got Georgia on your mind?
These gorgeous state posters from Draplin Design Co. are exactly what the doctor ordered. They offer 39 states and 5 cities in this colorful, art deco style. Conquer your homesickness, show off your home state pride, and spruce up your dorm room—all with a single poster. Buy now for $30.