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Must-haves for your college dorm room

Don’t sweat the small stuff, but don’t forget to bring it either. By Traci McMurray
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Getting the basics for college is easy. Look at any WalMart or Target ad, and your essential items are pretty much spelled out for you. Then take a stroll down the office supply aisle, grab the necessary goods, and you’re all set — for the most part.

But when planning for dorm life, don’t forget simple everyday items that you have around the house. After all, they’re not going to be in your dorm room.

I was lucky to have an older friend who passed down the “master list,” a helpful guide of handy items I would have otherwise forgotten. By remembering the small stuff, you’ll soon find yourself as the “go-to” guy or gal for your new dorm floormates.

1. Zip-loc bagsYou never know when you might need a helpful container or two, and baggies can serve many purposes. Not only are they good for storing leftover slices of late-night pizza in your new mini-fridge, but they are also good for keeping other trinkets. For me, they have functioned as a place to save spare change for that upcoming spring break trip, and were tacked to the bulletin board to hold important receipts and coupons for the Chinese food joint down the street.

2. SunblockJust because school isn’t always a beach, doesn’t mean you won’t be spending much time in the sun. Football games involve long hours in sunlight reflecting stands. You never know when a random weekend road trip to a nearby lake, or the ocean, might pop up — and generally, professors aren’t too pleased when your excuse for missing that test is a second-degree sunburn.

3. StampsCollege will bring many things worth writing home about (and maybe some things you won’t want to write home about). You may also have to be more responsible for your own finances. Having stamps on hand helps you not procrastinate in paying bills, and just might ensure that you send out Grandma’s birthday card on time.

4. Plastic-wareLet’s face it, you’ll probably be too busy with class, studying and social endeavors to do dishes. Save yourself the trouble and mess by having plastic utensils on hand. Same goes for paper plates. Just be sure to have at least one real set of silverware around for food that calls for something a tad more sturdy.

5. First aid kitAt some point during the year, you’re going to need a band-aid. Chances are it could be from wearing cute shoes while walking around campus all day or a severe paper cut from all the textbooks you’ll be reading. But nonetheless, a small kit with bandages and antibiotic ointment is guaranteed to be useful.

6. BatteriesThink about what other items you are bringing that run on batteries. Alarm clocks, digital cameras, remote controls and calculators will probably require them. AAs are always a good bet, but it doesn’t hurt to have a variety on hand.

7. UmbrellaI recommend getting a small umbrella that will easily fit into a pocket on your backpack. You never know when a downpour will catch you between classes, and sitting through a lecture soaking wet usually isn’t the best learning environment. One more tip — don’t leave it in the hallway to dry on a rainy day, or it will disappear like socks in the dryer.

8. BucketNot only are buckets good for holding all of your cleaning supplies to keep that dorm room nice and clean, they also work for other purposes. To put it nicely — if you aren’t feeling quite so well, and the room just won’t stop spinning — your bucket is probably a lot closer than the bathroom. Enough said.

The idea in packing for college is to bring everything you probably will need, and nothing you won’t. Space is limited, so sort through your belongings as well as possible. Be prepared, and remember that if you pick up the odds and ends before you get to school, chances are more likely that your parents will be buying.

Traci McMurray is an experienced college student, and MSNBC summer intern, currently packing for her senior year at the University of Missouri - Columbia.