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Susan Martin: Creating the homiest home away from home

As the packing process continues leading up to the big college send-off, I notice how a few things have changed since preparing for my own freshman year.

One of them: the options for making up a dorm bed.

As I recall, I brought along a mattress pad, two sets of sheets, two pillows, a blanket and a comforter for the twin bed in my dorm room.

Sure, everything was color-coordinated. And my mom sprung for new sheets in a splashy floral pattern.

But back then I don’t think we had prepackaged “sets” in Twin XL that included a comforter, sham and decorative pillow. Or six-piece “Bed-in-a-Bag” sets stuffed with a comforter, sham, bed skirt, flat sheet, fitted sheet and pillowcase.

Or, if we did, I didn’t know they existed.

Similarly, I didn’t have a memory foam mattress topper or fiber bed to make a standard-issue dorm mattress more comfortable. Although some of my friends tell me they used egg crate pads designed for mattresses in their dorm rooms.

Thinking back, I believe I found my dorm room bed comfortable enough.

Or could it be that I was so exhausted from studying that when I finally climbed into bed at night I didn’t notice otherwise?

Nor do I recall having the option of ordering Value Paks online through the university bookstore that included bedding, towels, pop-up hamper and, depending on the Pak option chosen, various other items for dorm living.

This is now all so convenient for any busy incoming freshman. And the many options available – from soft-as-your-favorite-T-shirt jersey-knit sheets to bed risers that will create extra storage space under the bed – make it easier for dorm dwellers to create a comfortable and stylish home away from home.

And, you know what? I love a lot of this stuff.

Long before our daughter even started thinking about colleges, I used to enjoy checking out all the cool dorm essentials on display in stores. The storage carts. The shag rugs. The desk organizers. The removable dry-erase dots and other wall decals designed to not damage walls. The throw pillows printed with phrases such as “Just chillin’” or “Believe in your dreams.”

From time to time, I would even pick up a few things I felt were well-suited for our own home. Who can’t use a few more packages of Command Hooks (damage-free!) or another storage bin?

Now, however, the dorm shopping is for real. Our daughter has made some purchases: XL sheets, a shower tote, a compact accordion dryer for hanging the clothes that shouldn’t be tossed in the dryer and, yes, even a mattress topper.

Of course, I want her to have a great dorm room – well-equipped, homey, attractive and neat. OK, maybe I’m just dreaming about that last one.

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