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updated: 7/31/2014 6:15 AM

Back to school brings dorm-room dilemmas

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  • College students should participate in the selection of new furnishings for their dorm room.

      College students should participate in the selection of new furnishings for their dorm room.
    Dorm Refined Photoscourtesy of Gerstad Builders

 
By Christine Brun

Millions of households in America are sending a child off to college next month. This single act dredges up numerous issues, some good and some bothersome.

One obvious effect is an empty room left in the wake of their departure. There have been humorous commercials on TV that show parents racing back into the house right after a kid drives off for college and immediately beginning remodeling. For some households, this means converting an entire room into a much-longed-for home office or den. It may mean that two other siblings can finally get their own room by one moving into the older person's bedroom. Dual function in the freed-up room is likely as well. The bedroom might be used as a guest room and a home office. It is advisable to conduct a bit of research on the best way to arrange the new room, and it might be best to invest in practical new pieces that deliver greater function.

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The student leaving home for the first time can experience anxiety mixed with excitement. Most dorm rooms are empty shells that are purposely designed to adapt to any color scheme. The residential hall experts advise that the student bring along a few mementos from home to keep an emotional connection. These items range from stuffed animals and framed family photos to a favorite chair. Young people bring posters and bulletin boards. They pack up their favorite bathrobe, blanket and pillow. Many even bring string lights, hanging tapestries and peel-off decals of a wide assortment for decoration.

At the very least, students are encouraged to participate in the selection of new furnishings. Resist the impulse to decorate your child's room. This is a significant moment in your child's life and is the start of them making hundreds of decisions for themselves. Leave them alone. If he or she picks black for their decor, so be it. If they pick lime green and red, turn and walk away. It no longer matters what you think of their choice. Allow them self-expression.

The big lesson from the experts is that this is an opportunity to take advantage of over-the-door storage ideas that can stash shoes, CDs, underwear or clothing accessories. Under-bed storage is the secret to packing it all into one shared room. Look at plastic storage boxes on wheels that allow for clothing or bedding extras to be neatly packed. Leaning shelf systems and closet storage systems are also useful.

Here we see a clothes hamper under the bed, but your student might need to store ski gear or other sport clothing and small equipment.

Some residence halls allow for a personal microwave or tiny refrigerator. Often kids coordinate with their roommate on who will bring what to the room. They should discuss items such as area rugs, lounge chairs, lighting and utility furniture that they can share. If your student is lucky, he or she will like their original roommate assignment. Sometimes it isn't a good match, and the students part ways when the semester ends. Nevertheless, they will hang onto their personal bedding choices and wall decor. Their favorite items may survive and make it into their first home. While your student cannot take a great deal with them, whatever they do take is important as an expression of self and an anchor to home.

• Christine Brun is a San Diego-based interior designer and the author of "Small Space Living." Email christinebrun@sbcglobal.net.

2014, Creators.com

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