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The ultimate guide to decorating your kid's college dorm

These must-haves will make any dorm room feel like home.
/ Source: TODAY

Incoming college freshmen and their parents all across the country are currently scrambling to prepare for their first dorm room. No matter where your child is going to college, there are certain things that are back-to-school must-haves.

Meredith Sinclair, author of “Well Played: The Ultimate Guide to Awakening Your Family's Playful Spirit” stopped by TODAY to break down exactly what your college-bound kid needs in their new home away from home.

For their bed

It’s awesome that dorm rooms come with furniture and a mattress, but it’s equally not awesome thinking about how many people have slept on that mattress before your kid. Before tackling cute sheets and throw blankets, addressing the mattress is a must. Finish out the suite by decking out their sleeping area with the best tech and add-ons for the ultimate snooze experience.

Cooling Mattress Protector

Sinclair said that a mattress protector is “an essential first step to protect you from bacteria, bed bugs, dust mites and the like.” This pick from Target is not only great because of its price tag, but because it features cooling technology. Most dorm rooms don’t have air conditioning, so this will keep your student nice and cool during the first few months of school. It's also waterproof so no need to worry about a moldy mattress if anything spills on the bed; simply wash the sheets and you are good to go!

Memory Foam Mattress Topper

Dorm room mattresses are not exactly known for being the most comfortable, so topping your kid’s with an additional layer of memory foam is definitely going to help them get a good night’s sleep. According to Sinclair, “this one has maximum breathability for a cooler nights sleep…and cooler sleep means better sleep.” We won’t say no to that!

Power Outlet Bed Risers

‘Maximize’ is the key word when it comes to dorm rooms. In order to maximize the amount of space under your child’s bed, attach these easy to use bed risers, which lift any standard dorm room bed a whole 7 inches off of the ground. Not only do these help create more space underneath the bed, but one of the risers comes with two grounded power outlets and two built-in USB outlets. They'll have easy access to plug their phone in and you won’t have to worry about them missing class because their phone died!

Powered Headboard

“Add style and functionality to your room with this beautiful headboard that’s also another power source,” said Sinclair. This add on fits both twin and twin extra-long beds and features trendy nail-head detailing on the trim.

Button Down Sheet Set

Sinclair loved these unique sheets because they keep your bed from ever being unmade. Featuring a top sheet that buttons to the fitted sheet, as well as pockets on the top sheet for storing your phone, this set (which comes with two standard size pillowcases) is perfect for the kid who hates making their bed. Pair this set with a matching duvet cover from the same company and your kid will be ready to go.

For their decor

Dorms are notorious for what my mom has nicknamed ‘early American cinder block’ (hi mom!). The painted, almost popcorn-ceiling like walls aren’t as trendy as exposed brick, so many students opt to cover it up. However hanging tapestries and photos isn’t always enough. Sinclair’s picks make it easy to transform that ‘early American cinder block’ from drab to fab in minutes.

Removable Wallpaper

“Create a one-of-a-kind dorm room with this easy to use temporary wallpaper from Dormify!” said Sinclair. Because it is made of vinyl, the wallpaper wipes clean super easily, and it comes in 7 cool patterns (including chalkboard!). Use this on one side of your kid’s room to create an accent wall, or use one of the lighter patterns throughout the entire space to create an airy feel. This wallpaper is easily removable and reusable so they can even switch it up between semesters.

Stonense Rug

Vinderup Rug

Ikea makes amazing furniture at great prices, but their room accessories are a hidden gem. An area rug is necessary in any dorm room, whether it's furnished with hardwood floors or wall to wall carpeting. Chances are the carpeting in your kid’s room isn’t the cleanest or the softest. And if they have wood floors (lucky!), they will want something soft to step onto first thing in the morning. According to Sinclair, “the dense, thick pile” of these Ikea rugs “dampens sound and provides a soft surface to walk on.”

Light-Up Photo Clip Grid

This photo grid is “a fun and functional way to display your favorite photos of family and friends,” said Sinclair, and we agree! With lights to illuminate your kid’s favorite photos, this is a great present to surprise your child with. Fill it with family photos and some little notes from friends and family, and it will be their source of inspiration during their first semester away from home.

For their hygiene

Sharing a bathroom with a sibling is not so much fun. Sharing a bathroom with all of the other students on your dorm room floor is worse. Sinclair has picked out her favorite items that help make maintaining hygiene a little bit easier when living in a dorm.

Classic Shower Caddy

A shower caddy is a must for any student using a communal bathroom (which is almost all of them). Sinclair digs this one because it has separate pockets for all of your kid’s hygiene necessities. Make sure your child knows to either hang up their caddy so it fully dries or to place a towel underneath to soak up any excess water.

Hanging Shower Dopp Kit

For quick trips in the morning to brush their teeth, a dopp kit is perfect. “This hanging shower dopp kit organizes all your shower stuff with an easy-hang hook and loop handle and dual zipper closure,” said Sinclair, which makes it perfect for anyone with a quick routine.

2-in-1 Laundry Backpack

According to Sinclair, this 2-in-1 laundry hamper/backpack is the way to go when it comes to doing laundry at school. “It has a 60-pound capacity, is made of super durable oxford fabric, and has a reinforced nylon handle and strap for various ways to carry,” she reported. It might not help your student do laundry as often as you might like, but it will definitely help them get from the dorm room to the laundry room.

For their storage

Storage is one of the most integral parts of a dorm room according to Sinclair. In order to maximize your space (there’s that key word again!), Sinclair suggested employing tools like the ones below to make the most of your kid’s room. In addition to these multipurpose items, make sure to stock up on clear bins and boxes for storing winter gear, extra towels and sheets, and anything else that can be hidden underneath the bed until they are needed.

Expandable Multipurpose Hanging Organizer

You might think that the only things that can be hung in a closet are clothes. Well, let this expandable hanging organizer prove you wrong! Designed to fit anything and everything, the unique honeycomb design of this multipurpose organizer is Sinclair’s favorite part. Expand it to fit bulky shoes, or keep it pushed together to hold accessories like scarves and hats.

Cube Closet Organizer

Does your child’s dorm room closet only have one hanging rod? This cube closet organizer is the answer. It doubles the space in the closet via a second hanging rod that is attached to the cubes at the top. Sinclair suggested hanging items like shirts and pants on the bottom rod, and storing items that might stretch (like sweaters) in the cubes. This organizer attaches to the existing rod in your kid’s closet with ultra-strong velcro, so no need to worry about anything falling.

Collapsible Storage Cubes

Whether your kid has mountains of baseball hats or a nail polish collection to rival the pros, these storage cubes are a necessity. The perfect size to fit in the bedside stands and TV consoles that many big box retailers market towards college kids, these cubes are great for storing just about anything that you don’t want laying around. Bonus - they collapse so that you can fold them up and bring them with you to your kid’s next college abode.

No-Nail Wall Organizer

Nails are a big no-no when it comes to dorm rooms. Many colleges will fine you for even scraping the paint on the walls, so it is best to err on the side of caution when hanging anything on a wall. This organizer hangs from double-sided adhesive strips that come with it, so there will be no harm to your walls. It is perfect for dorm room desks that don’t have hutches, or to hang next to your child’s bed as a faux bedside table.

No matter where you child is heading to school, it will be scary. Whether you are a first-time college kid parent or a seasoned pro, sending off one of your most prized possessions is never fun. However, designing their room together is a fun way to ease the anxiety and get excited about the year to come. These ideas from Meredith Sinclair are a great starting point, and will help keep your kid’s room (somewhat) organized and (somewhat) clean, even when you’re not visiting.

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