7 Unexpected Dorm Packing List Items You Need

If you're prepping to head off to your first year of college, you're probably making a lot of lists: classes you're taking, buildings you'll have to find, and of course, dorm furniture you'll need to bring. Chances are good that you've already looked at your school's official packing list and added the obvious items, like a lamp, a shower caddy, and a bean-bag chair, to your own tally. But, in the headache of trying to pack all this stuff into the back of your parents' car, you might forget some of the more unexpected dorm packing list items. These things, though, are essentials, so you'll want to make room for them.

"But what are these oh-so-important essentials?" you may be asking yourself. Well, I will tell you. Since I survived four years of living in various dorms at the University of Virginia, I've got a pretty good handle on the kinds of items you'll need to make dorm living a positive — not just bearable — experience. The items below don't take up much space, but will let you do things like bond with your hallmates, kill it at the costume party, and make some pasta in a snap, among other uses. You're not going to get any of that from a set of twin XL sheets.

1. Board Games

On a slow weeknight, when you don't have enough homework to keep you in your room but nothing to do otherwise, board games are a fantastic way to meet people in your hall. I'm not talking about Monopoly or Candy Land — I mean new and innovative games, like Cards Against Humanity or Betrayal at House on the Hill. I know it may not seem this way, but having a board game collection can make you the most popular person in the dorm.

2. Suspenders and a Top Hat

You probably already know that a few costumes are a must — don't leave your discarded Halloween costumes or theater props at home! — but they can take up a lot of room in an environment where space is at a premium. If you're trying to sort through all of your costume choices, or are building a costume supply from the ground up, start with suspenders and a top hat. You can turn this into so many things: a magician, Charlie Chaplin, Columbia from Rocky Horror, Abraham Lincoln, a classy vampire, a Downton Abbey character, a steampunk lady... the list goes on.

3. Clothesline or Clothes Rack

At most colleges, laundry isn't free — you'll have to pay for the privilege of using the washing machine and dryer. The washing machine is unavoidable, but you can save a buck or two each week by using a clothesline or clothes rack. You can find stretchy lines with suction cups that will stick to anything, as well as collapsible racks that can go into the closet when you're not using them. Plus, keeping clothes out of the dryer is actually better for them in the long run, especially when it comes to delicates.

Portable Travel Clothesline, $5, Home Depot; Collapsible Drying Rack, $23, Amazon

4. Iron and Ironing Board

You never know when you'll score an interview for that summer internship you want, or a pre-professional mixer that requires business attire. Make sure you're prepared by bringing an iron and a desktop ironing board. These things don't cost much, but they're absolutely necessary for getting creases out of button-downs and dress pants.

Black + Decker Easy Steam Iron, $15, Amazon; Tabletop Ironing Board, $10, Bed Bath and Beyond

5. Air Mattress or Sleeping Bag

You're probably more concerned with the sheets for your own bed right now, but take a moment to add an air mattress to your list. Maybe you have a sibling or cousin whom you're close with, and you want them to spend a weekend enjoying your college town with you. Maybe your best friend is going to school an hour away, so you've scheduled a mid-semester reunion with her. Unless you have room for a futon, an air mattress or sleeping bag is the way to go. Plus, you can drag your extra bedding into lounge spaces for sleepovers.

Single High Queen Air Mattress, $20, Target; Cold Weather Sleeping Bag, $29, Target

6. Hot Plate

Before you throw one of these into the mix, make sure to check your school's dorm regulations first. For some universities, this is on the list of things you're not supposed to bring. But hot plates make dorm life so much easier, since they let you make pasta, grilled cheeses, eggs, and other easy staples. This induction plate is a little more expensive than a basic hot plate, but it'll save you both time and money in the long run.

Nesco Induction Plate, $60, Amazon

7. Nerf Guns

Nerf 'n Strike Maverick, $32, Amazon

For triumphing over your enemies. Duh.

If you've got all these packed away and ready to go, but you want to make your room feel more like home, check out these other dorm essentials.

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