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Dorm rooms- must haves?


sassenach
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I'm moving a kid into dorms for the first time in my parenting career (and neither dh nor I ever lived in dorms). I would really like to not overbuy but I bet the hive has some items that we shouldn't pass up.

What are your must haves for dorm kids?

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I feel confident in advising that you want to move in using Ikea Frakta bags, which are available on Amazon and, often, not at Ikea. They are rectangular zippered bags that hold massive quantities of stuff and then collapse.

Extension cords.

There is a good, exhaustive thread on the college board. It is probably pinned.

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I am a fan of the IKEA bags. I actually gave them as a graduation gift this year (not to my own child). I was like “this seems dumb now but you’ll appreciate it later”.

My boys have packed very lightly choosing to pick up things they find they need locally or Amazon Prime rather than packing for any possible circumstance. This has made moving around pretty painless each time. 
 

I think medicines/first aid are the most important thing to pack “just in case” because you don’t want a sick kid trying to figure out how to get Benadryl or whatever. 
 

Very basic cleaning supplies, a set of dishes, disposable utensils and napkins/paper towels for use with takeout. A nice water bottle and/or coffee tumbler. 
 

Mine weren’t convinced they needed rain gear but they did. Rain jacket/umbrella/boots were not things they used at home but did need on campus. 
 

Some dorms with private bathrooms need a shower curtain/bath mat.

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I had two kids at two different colleges (with different personalities) and their "must have" lists were very different--and even what was allowed and on the "must have" list at one school was not even allowed at the other school.  

One child's college had minifridge/microwaves in each room and students were not allowed to bring their own.  One school allowed electric kettles, the other did not.  One school had full long beds.  One school had trash cans in the dorm rooms the other didn't...

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My number one recommendation that isn't on many lists is a decent quality air purifier and remember to ship a new filter at semester break (ours recommends a change every 6 months).  My kid has now gotten through 2 years of college without even a cold on a campus that has seen some real crud and substantial covid last fall.  

Other than that, encourage kiddo to pack light and check the lists your college recommends.  Fridges came in my kids dorm for example.  Some have pretty stringent rules about no hot plates, appliances, etc.  You can always send stuff later if they really need it.  

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3 minutes ago, Bootsie said:

had two kids at two different colleges (with different personalities) and their "must have" lists were very different-

This. Dd's college had a list online. It's worth checking-- I was the one who rooted around and found it, even though dd thought she was aware of everything.

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Lightening strip on a long cord. Outlets are always less than the bare minimum! So frustrating. Easy cleaning supplies like a swiffer. Every tike our boys came home on a break, they had to have the RA inspect the room, and the swiffer was a must. Small dust pan and broom too. There is only one for the entire hall floor, and so it was never available when my kids needed it.

Good noise canceling ear phones so student can study when dorm is noisy.

Check the room list for the school to see what is and is not allowed.

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Definitely the first aid kit. I think my dd was the only one in her wing with any supplies.
Sheets, laundry soap pods, foam/memory foam mattress topper (those mattresses are super hard), a couple of glasses/dishes/forks (for heating up leftovers), a mini fridge (we got the one from Sam's that is like two mini-frigs on top of each other), TP, hand towels, hand soap, bath things, trash can + bags, regular school supplies (notebook paper, pens, pencils, eraser, pencil sharpener, post-it notes, binder clips, stapler, etc) Some school allow the electric kettles some don't. If you have tea-drinker, they are lovely!

If your child will use one, a planner is a good idea.They should pick it out though. 

Contact roommates and see if anyone is bringing (so no duplicates)
-bath math
-shower curtain
-Vacuum (a little one will do)
-microwave
-coffee pot (if anyone drinks coffee)

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Posted (edited)
21 minutes ago, Innisfree said:

This. Dd's college had a list online. It's worth checking-- I was the one who rooted around and found it, even though dd thought she was aware of everything.

Yep, I found ours, though it's missing a few obvious things (like laundry hamper). I also enjoyed the FAQ section. One of the questions was "is there parking for uhauls?" and the answer is "If you need a uhaul, you are bringing way too much stuff."

Edited by sassenach
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Shower shoes and shower caddy

Comfy rug, pillows, and blankets (Ds’ room became a hangout and those things were a reason)

3m stuff for hanging pictures and lights

The blue IKEA bags are seriously awesome

Oldest needs a desk calendar and a smaller planner to keep track of assignments

An umbrella that easily fits in their backpack

 

 

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3 hours ago, sassenach said:

Yep, I found ours, though it's missing a few obvious things (like laundry hamper). I also enjoyed the FAQ section. One of the questions was "is there parking for uhauls?" and the answer is "If you need a uhaul, you are bringing way too much stuff."

It’s so interesting to read all of the responses. We’ve never had a laundry hamper in our house, so it’s not something I would ever have though of for a dorm room. We just use laundry baskets.

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I was lucky that my dd's University was only a few miles from our closest Ikea.  Grab the tool kit if you go there.  They'll need it for all sorts of little jobs . . . and some sort of heavy duty scissors or blade that'll cut open difficult packaging.

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3 hours ago, FuzzyCatz said:

My number one recommendation that isn't on many lists is a decent quality air purifier and remember to ship a new filter at semester break (ours recommends a change every 6 months).  My kid has now gotten through 2 years of college without even a cold on a campus that has seen some real crud and substantial covid last fall.  

Other than that, encourage kiddo to pack light and check the lists your college recommends.  Fridges came in my kids dorm for example.  Some have pretty stringent rules about no hot plates, appliances, etc.  You can always send stuff later if they really need it.  

Agreeing with these.  If your student comes back home next May, you'll have to find room to store everything.

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4 hours ago, Bootsie said:

I had two kids at two different colleges (with different personalities) and their "must have" lists were very different--and even what was allowed and on the "must have" list at one school was not even allowed at the other school.  

One child's college had minifridge/microwaves in each room and students were not allowed to bring their own.  One school allowed electric kettles, the other did not.  One school had full long beds.  One school had trash cans in the dorm rooms the other didn't...

This.

I'd purchased a dorm fridge in great condition from a friend and it was over the cubic feet/amp limit for one of my kids. That dorm also didn't allow any electrical appliances with heating units so no toasters, hot pots, etc.. The next kid on a different campus was able to use both the fridge and small appliances. 

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13 hours ago, KungFuPanda said:

I was lucky that my dd's University was only a few miles from our closest Ikea.  Grab the tool kit if you go there.  They'll need it for all sorts of little jobs . . . and some sort of heavy duty scissors or blade that'll cut open difficult packaging.

YES on the TOOL set.  It doesn't have to be big or fancy, just some basic tools.  I had one and was the hit of our building as I had screwdrivers and small socket sets and a hammer and nails, etc.  Get a set of Allan wrenches and precision screwdrivers as well.  And a good scissors or something to open those annoying plastic packages that you can't tear open.

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My college kid returned to campus in January after being home since last March. Students had to be able to move all of their stuff in--no one could help them. We employed the "travel light" approach--we have half of her stuff still here at home. And she has ended up moving four times since January, always by herself, so it's been a good thing. Now as youngest prepares to go off to college, there is some wisdom to "traveling light," but I'm sure both girls will have a bit more than older dd has right now. I've been asking older dd if she needs her (whatever), or if younger sister can use it. She decided she wants her bathrobe and chair-back pillow thing, but she's not sure about the refrigerator or her under-the-bed drawers.

Off the top of my head, here's what I know we'll have for youngest:

-Twin XL mattress pad and sheet set, pillow, duvet w/cover, chair-back pillow thing (she loves her sister's)
-Laundry basket or bag--she's not sure which yet, plus Tide pods
-Shower caddy bag thing with all the toiletries. Towel, and university says bring your own hand towels, bathrobe, flip flops, hair towel thing
-computer, surge protector extension cord with USB connections too, probably not a printer though she could probably take her sister's
-all the school supplies, including some art supplies for this kid
-maybe her sister's electric teapot (sister got a new one she can make mac and cheese or ramen in). maybe a fridge. This kid wants a microwave and she would use it--need to see if it's allowed.
-one real fork, spoon, knife. Waterbottle. Paper towel roll, kleenex box, a little medicine/first aid kit
-her sports gear--she would like to do club soccer and club track

I think both girls may end up leaving a lot of winter clothes here. They go to school in CA which is a little warmer than OR, plus they could bring back a few things after Christmas if needed.
 

Edited by Ali in OR
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The most critical thing we bought for DD was the first set of Twin XL bed sheets so she'd have them to put onto her dorm room bed the first night after flying in from Colombia and getting to her dorm that night. We knew after that, the next day, she could go to Target or WalMart and buy more bedding. Pillow, blanket, etc. Possibly she took a very thin blanket with her too. And a towel. Just enough for the first night, until she could go shopping near the school.

I am sure that she bought a Mattress Pad and probably a Mattress Protector, if those are separate items.

She went up there (to the USA) in mid-August 2019 so this is a little fuzzy...  Among the things that DD bought there or that we bought for her online and had shipped to her school Mail Room was a big surprise: A room divider to block the Light, when her roommate was up studying with a light on, when DD was trying to sleep.  DW and I spent several hours one Sunday afternoon looking at probably 100 or more room dividers on Amazon USA.  I found one that looked like it could block light and we bought that for her and it worked out great.

DD and her roommate (an International student) hit it off great and her roommates mother was there for the first several days. One of the first things they bought was a small Refrigerator. 

After COVID-19 hit and they switched from in-person to Online courses, our DD was "stranded" in the USA, because Colombia shut down our airports for approximately 6 months. Thank God, she was able to pay the school and continue to live in her dorm room and she was in a safe place (her roommate had gone home).

I remember during that time, DW consulting with DD about Cookware DD should buy. Not those sets with 6 or 8 pieces, but individual pieces, that DD would actually use, and use frequently. Not inexpensive, but an investment. High quality Cookware is an investment.  So DD did a lot of her own food preparation while she was there and taking on-line courses or in between semesters.

This past semester DD was home, taking Online courses, which saved some money, but in mid-August she will be going North again, to begin her 3rd year at Carolina.

She and several  other students rented a mini-warehouse and her stuff is there, in 2 or 3 boxes, plus the Room Divider I mentioned above.

There are probably a lot of things DD bought or that we bought for her very soon after she arrived in NC that I can't remember after almost 24 months or more.

ETA: I can't remember if they bought a Microwave Oven or if those are allowed.

Edited by Lanny
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2 minutes ago, Lanny said:

The most critical thing we bought for DD was the first set of Twin XL bed sheets so she'd have them to put onto her dorm room bed the first night after flying in from Colombia and getting to her dorm that night. We knew after that, the next day, she could go to Target or WalMart and buy more bedding. Pillow, blanket, etc. Possibly she took a very thin blanket with her too. And a towel. Just enough for the first night, until she could go shopping near the school.

I am sure that she bought a Mattress Pad and probably a Mattress Protector, if those are separate items.

She went up there (to the USA) in mid-August 2019 so this is a little fuzzy...  Among the things that DD bought there or that we bought for her online and had shipped to her school Mail Room was a big surprise: A room divider to block the Light, when her roommate was up studying with a light on, when DD was trying to sleep.  DW and I spent several hours one Sunday afternoon looking at probably 100 or more room dividers on Amazon USA.  I found one that looked like it could block light and we bought that for her and it worked out great.

DD and her roommate (an International student) hit it off great and her roommates mother was there for the first several days. One of the first things they bought was a small Refrigerator. 

After COVID-19 hit and they switched from in-person to Online courses, our DD was "stranded" in the USA, because Colombia shut down our airports for approximately 6 months. Thank God, she was able to pay the school and continue to live in her dorm room and she was in a safe place (her roommate had gone home).

I remember during that time, DW consulting with DD about Cookware DD should buy. Not those sets with 6 or 8 pieces, but individual pieces, that DD would actually use, and use frequently. Not inexpensive, but an investment. High quality Cookware is an investment.  So DD did a lot of her own food preparation while she was there and taking on-line courses or in between semesters.

This past semester DD was home, taking Online courses, which saved some money, but in mid-August she will be going North again, to begin her 3rd year at Carolina.

She and several  other students rented a mini-warehouse and her stuff is there, in 2 or 3 boxes, plus the Room Divider I mentioned above.

There are probably a lot of things DD bought or that we bought for her very soon after she arrived in NC that I can't remember after almost 24 months or more.

ETA: I can't remember if they bought a Microwave Oven or if those are allowed.

Lanny, I can only imagine how stressful that all was for both you and your wife, and your dd. 

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4 minutes ago, sassenach said:

Lanny, I can only imagine how stressful that all was for both you and your wife, and your dd. 

THE MOST stressful thing was for her to get from the airport baggage claim to her dorm room safely.

Fortunately, we were blessed by someone whose kindness we will never forget. He picked her up at the airport and took her to the dorm and she checked in and she was OK.    I  thank God that he did that and include him and his family in my daily prayers.

Those last few miles were the most dangerous for DD and we are deeply thankful to him for helping like that.

Note: I had purchased a Red Pocket Mobile SIM card and 90 days of very limited service for DD to put into her phone between flights in FLL (Fort Lauderdale).  She had a long layover (better IMO than a short one) and the WiFi in the airport was flaky and she was unable to activate her cell phone service on the Red Pocket Mobile system that day. (She did that the next morning on the WiFi in her dorm room, without any problems)

Somehow (on airport WiFi in RDU and WhatsApp?) she was able to communicate with the man who picked her up and they arranged where to meet. I had told her not to leave the Baggage Claim until she spoke with him, but I did not anticipate that she wouldn't have a working cell phone at that time...

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Here’s a dorm room/move in funny story:

When dd was moving into her first dorm, I was helping her set up her room; dh was at the college, but wasn’t in the room at the time. Now, let me just say here that dh is a spatial genius and I am a spatial dunce. This comes into the story.

DD’s bed had a drawer running beneath it, which was meant to suffice for most of her clothing storage. But we were puzzled because it would only roll out an inch before bumping into the air conditioning/heat unit at the top end. We puzzled and puzzled about this problem. The roommates parents - one was a doctor - puzzled and puzzled over it too. Finally, I said, “Go get dad! He will figure something out!” Dd said, “What’s he going to do?!” I said, “I don’t know, but he’s good with stuff like this.” 

So dh comes up, we demonstrate the problem and he says, “Oh. Just move the bed down a couple of inches.” Oh. Yeah. Good idea! 😄🤪

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If anyone has suggestions for the air purifier, please post!  That wasn't on my list.  Also on my list (which may be too long, but im trying!)

Drying rack, laundry lingerie bags, iron or steamer if they will need to dress up occasionally (could share with whole suite), still working on logistics of laundry 😉

Umbrella, rain boots, rain coat, big zip locks to put computer in if its raining and she has to go across campus with it- we have read this repeatedly for this college, obviously they say it rains a lot 😉

 

 

 

 

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For us, meds were number one.  Sheets that fit the actual beds (dorm rooms vary) was number two.  Everything else was way, way, way down the list. Especially as they will probably have roommates who are ALSO bringing things.  If your child gets roomie info ahead of time, they can co-ordinate who buys what--silly to have two teakettles (for example).  

Double-triple check anything to do with electricity/electrical appliances and putting things on the wall.  A PP suggested a multi-outlet because not enough plugs....  That would be a strong NO in a number of situations.  Our daughter couldn't hang the flag of her native country even following the "how to put things on the wall" rules--it was considered a fire hazard....  (She was able to keep it inside a Wardrobe--hanging inside the door, so still somewhat visible.)

Less is definitely more--all that stuff has to be moved/stored AGAIN in a relatively short time....

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Amazon has some dorm basics lists. I found a really great first aid/minor meds kit listed there. Even if you don't want to order through Amazon, it's nice to have it in one place. I used it to make a wish list for those who wanted to give a physical graduation gift. 
 

We're planning to wait to buy almost anything we don't already have until we get there. I know that we've bought sheets, etc for summer programs only to find that we'd bought "extra long", but the dorm beds needed "extra-extra long". And yes, it would be nice to coordinate with roommates so we don't end up with three refrigerators when only one is allowed per room. 
 

 

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22 minutes ago, BusyMom5 said:

If anyone has suggestions for the air purifier, please post!  That wasn't on my list.  Also on my list (which may be too long, but im trying!)

Drying rack, laundry lingerie bags, iron or steamer if they will need to dress up occasionally (could share with whole suite), still working on logistics of laundry 😉

Umbrella, rain boots, rain coat, big zip locks to put computer in if its raining and she has to go across campus with it- we have read this repeatedly for this college, obviously they say it rains a lot 😉

 

 

 

 

Both of my children had irons/ironing boards provided in the laundry room on their hallway.  I know that at least one of their schools did not allow irons in individual rooms.  

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10 minutes ago, Bootsie said:

Both of my children had irons/ironing boards provided in the laundry room on their hallway.  I know that at least one of their schools did not allow irons in individual rooms.  

Thank you,  I may have her ask.  We looked in the laundry rooms and did not see them.

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My advice is to travel light: bathroom sundries (including toiletries, thin bath towel so it can dry easily, and flip flops for gross floors & showers) bed linens/mattress zip cover/ thick mattress pad for greater comfort/blanket/ get cheap plastic box from dollar store and fill it with band-aids, aspirin, scissors, cold medicine, cough drops, thermometer, etc)/ notebook & pens.  I would suggest holding off for anything else until they see what actually needed then have it mailed directly from store to dorm - everyone loves getting packages!

 

Edited by Myra
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A collapsible laundry hamper is super convenient if you have room for it.  

Check on lighting and supplement depending on what you find out.  We were surprised that DD’s dorm apartment did not have overhead lights except in the kitchen area and the bathroom.  We ended up buying a cheap floor lamp at Target in addition to the normal desk lamp.  Another girl bought strings of round lights and wound them around the support pillars in the living room, where they looked awesome.  Those are quite popular to put around windows or drape along the ceiling now, too.  Quite festive.

For care packages, I sent consumables every month for the first year, including a little food (fruit and candy) and seasonal goods like Thanksgiving paper napkins or Valentines hand towels.  I was really conscious of not burdening DD with anything that was big or heavy and would have to be moved in and out every year.  But I also wanted her to be able to casually celebrate things with her friends.  

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50 minutes ago, madteaparty said:

Every year I read these threads, and every year I marvel at kids with ironing boards and first aid kits. Never have I ever. 
🙇‍♀️🙇‍♀️🙇‍♀️

One of my friends, who is a student support advisor at a community college and has three college grads (her last is the same age as mine and did co-op and homeschool stuff with us until they moved) bought a specific kit for L that she gives to all high school grads. It is basically a set of standard OTC meds, labeled as to where they should be used very clearly. Her reason is that many college kids are used to asking mom or going to the medicine cabinet to get OTC allergy meds, headache pills, medication for cramps if they're girls, etc-but haven't actually purchased the stuff themselves. So, having a starter kit labeled that "use this for menstrual cramps" and that also gives, on the package, a list of generic and name brand names for the same thing lets the student find what they need now-and also know where to look at Walgreens to replenish. 

 

I'm not planning to send an iron since it mostly gets used for doing heat transfers, and I'm not planning to send my vinyl cutter to college. I'm pretty sure there is a maker space at the school that has one. 

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1 hour ago, Dmmetler said:

One of my friends, who is a student support advisor at a community college and has three college grads (her last is the same age as mine and did co-op and homeschool stuff with us until they moved) bought a specific kit for L that she gives to all high school grads. It is basically a set of standard OTC meds, labeled as to where they should be used very clearly. Her reason is that many college kids are used to asking mom or going to the medicine cabinet to get OTC allergy meds, headache pills, medication for cramps if they're girls, etc-but haven't actually purchased the stuff themselves. So, having a starter kit labeled that "use this for menstrual cramps" and that also gives, on the package, a list of generic and name brand names for the same thing lets the student find what they need now-and also know where to look at Walgreens to replenish. 

 

I'm not planning to send an iron since it mostly gets used for doing heat transfers, and I'm not planning to send my vinyl cutter to college. I'm pretty sure there is a maker space at the school that has one. 

Well this mom would have to drive to CVS (or run downstairs to Duane Reade) as we don’t really keep the stuff in the house...we are odd, I know. 

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A mini sewing kit is not a bad idea. DD20 got one for Christmas from one of her aunts. She had never sewn anything in her life but was able to figure out how to use it when her orchestra pants tore in the crotch seam an hour before a concert (yes, they had concerts this year, but we could only watch online). 

Edited by Longtime Lurker
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Seconding a fan (we've found it essential for dorms in both cold and hot climates and like that it doubles as a white noise machine). A clip-on fan might make the most sense with a top bunk, while the freestanding models are more powerful.

For our avid trail runner/hiker, we sent a boot dryer because the stink of wet shoes would be nightmarish in a dorm room. At home she sets them by the radiator and they dry quickly. Basically just think through whatever they (or you) do at home to take care of their health, diet and gear/supplies/equipment, whether for sports, art, music, etc. I sent ammonia to add to the wash for workout clothes.

Sending a first year off to college during Covid, we put together a small Rubbermaid bin as a medicine cabinet with a contents/instruction sheet. Dd18 also enjoyed picking things out for her snack shelf because they were confined to their rooms for the first couple weeks. When she goes back this fall I don't feel like we need to pack everything, since she should be able to run out to buy things from the drugstore or grocery store. 

She really loved her electric tea kettle for tea and ramen. Her college said they didn't allow them but they DO allow coffee makers, so we decided it was for instant coffee (or tea!). 

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On 6/12/2021 at 6:44 PM, Pawz4me said:

A good memory foam mattress pad. Most dorm mattresses leave a lot to be desired in terms of comfort.

My dd's 2-inch mattress topper made such a difference!

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Two items my dd brought with her from dorm room to dorm room and then to her first post-college apartment, were:

1)  This rolling cart from IKEA:

https://www.ikea.com/us/en/p/raskog-utility-cart-white-20382932/

2)  And something like this to store things under her bed: (collapsable/foldable under-the-bed storage box)

https://www.wayfair.com/storage-organization/pdp/wayfair-basics-under-the-bed-storage-bag-wfbs1220.html

 

 

 

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On 6/15/2021 at 9:49 AM, madteaparty said:

Every year I read these threads, and every year I marvel at kids with ironing boards and first aid kits. Never have I ever. 
🙇‍♀️🙇‍♀️🙇‍♀️

For reals. I can guarantee, there will be no ironing.

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