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Column: What I brought to move in my first year — and how much I actually used it

Cheryl Autry helps her son Dylan, a sophomore at UNC, move in to his on-campus dorm on Thursday, Aug. 11, 2022.

I am not the first person to share this advice, nor will I be the last. Moving into your first college dorm room is a formative experience in your young adult life and I’m here to make sure you have everything you need to be a full-time Tar Heel.

Dorm living doesn’t have to be complicated, messy or expensive, despite what you might have been told. I moved into Craige Residence Hall — also known as Crusty Craige for its less-than-modern accommodations — in the fall of 2019. 

Despite sharing a single bathroom with seven other people and grappling with the dorm’s crusty reputation, I am glad to say I made the most out of this living experience. I want to help you do the same and prove you can have an MTV-worthy crib without breaking the bank.

Things to consider

If you stop reading right now and only heed one bit of advice, make it this one: bring additional lighting. Bring additional lighting.

Overhead lights in dorm rooms are less than ideal. They’re bright, they might bother your roommate and they usually kill the vibe. Invest in a cheap desk lamp, salt lamp or maybe even those colorful LED light strips (but, fair warning, they have been known to take the paint off walls. Remove with caution).

If you’re anything like me and you have way too many items in your wardrobe, consider bringing a second dresser. I used a three-drawer plastic storage space under my bed and it made all the difference. 

A three-tier cart on wheels. You can probably imagine the one I’m describing — every major retail store has its own version and TikTok has already launched this item into popularity. It can help you move in and out and will serve you even after you don't live in a dorm.

Don’t forget to be prepared for the rain, because it will rain and you will get caught in it. An umbrella is of the utmost importance, but consider rain boots and a rain jacket, too.

If you’re moving into a suite or any other shared bathroom situation, you may want to get another retention rod, shower curtain and curtain rings. During my first year, we used them to separate the toilet from the rest of the bathroom for more privacy and it was a game changer.

Whether it’s the frat flu or spring allergies, you will inevitably be ill, especially during your first year. Bring portable hand sanitizer or use the dispensers available in the dining halls, have tissues handy in your dorm and consider making a first-aid kit with all the medicine you may need. 

You need shower shoes. Please trust me on this one. Dollar store flip-flops work perfectly.

Save some cash by printing your own posters and artwork for your walls. Most office supply stores and some UPS Stores have printing centers that tend to be cheaper than buying artwork online.

Things to avoid

Do not try to make your dorm room look like a Target display room because it won’t. The dorm furniture industry is big and full of stuff you may not really need, so be wary of items that seem like “dorm hacks.”

If you know you are going to work in the library a lot, don’t invest in a bed desk. If you don’t plan on having people over often, reconsider that futon. And how many decorative pillows do you really need and how many will end up on the floor?

You don’t need a Nalgene, a Hydroflask and a Stanley cup (or whatever other internet-famous water bottle the kids are into nowadays). Let’s be honest, you only need one and you probably won’t even wash that one often.

Things to reconsider

I have been living on my own for several years now. I have not, at any point in my adult life, had enough clothing hangers. If you don’t want to be like me, I recommend buying bundles of hangers for cheap at a dollar, bargain or thrift store.

You don’t need all your clothes at once. Consider leaving your winter clothes at home until Thanksgiving and keeping the shorts and tank tops away until Spring Break. If you travel home often, this will save you storage space and frustration.

In short, do what works for you this move-in season. Find items that you can use year after year and find ways to make your new space uniquely your own.

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Welcome to UNC, Tar Heels, and happy move-in!


@dthopinion |

Caitlyn Yaede

Caitlyn Yaede is the 2023-24 print managing editor of The Daily Tar Heel and oversees weekly print production. She previously served as the DTH's opinion editor and summer editor. Caitlyn is a public policy master's student at UNC.