Thousands of tiny white rooms on campuses across the country are beginning to welcome their newest residents and their carloads of stuff. Freshman orientation for the Class of 2016 has actually been in full throttle for months at big-box stores (brick-and-mortar and online), at specialty sites such as Etsy, on Facebook pages, Twitter feeds and on Pinterest boards. Incoming students have been stockpiling decorating ideas along with ramen noodle soup.
Students will spend an average of $907.22 this year on everything from comforters to hand-held vacuums, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation. Thats up from $808.71 last year.
While college-issue furniture for an average 225-square-foot dorm room is usually a bed, desk, chair and dresser, trending design topics on dorm blogs include wall decals, felt pillows, monogrammed dry-erase boards and tiki bars. Some students, maybe weaned on a diet of HGTV network shows, have faux-fur throws and paisley bean-bag chairs on the brain.
For the past 10 years, students have wanted their rooms to look like they came right out of the pages of a design catalog, said Maggie Burkhart Evans, director of residence life at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va.. They have shown up with lounge chairs and futons and crammed them into their rooms.
But word is getting out that colleges cant provide storage space for unwanted furniture: Whats in the room stays in the room.
Students are best served sticking to accessories that personalize or organize, such as pillows, bins, lamps or storage ottomans. They can use social media to plan shopping. At Targets Ustyler, students can design their own virtual dorm room online and then share it with roommates through Facebook, Twitter, blogs and Pinterest. Twitter feeds are great sources of insider information: Will I need a wool blanket before Thanksgiving? Should I bring a rug? What condition do I have to leave my dorm room in at the end of the year? Pinterest has dorm boards filled with real-life DIY solutions you wont find in a catalog.
Interestingly enough, overbuying at warehouse and big-box stores continues to be a problem for freshmen, who arrive with cases of laundry detergent and stacks of bottled water.
Resist the urge to stock up for the whole semester, Evans said. Just bring what you need for the first month and reassess.