I love shopping for anything, even groceries. So as soon as I found out where I would be staying and what I needed for my college life, I was practically dragging my mother to Bed, Bath and Beyond to look at things for my dorm.
Now that I have everything for my dorm and have started college, I've learned a lot about shopping to fill a space. So, even though school is underway, I figure that if I say this now, none of you seniors will be scrambling when you're in my position a year from now.
First, once you learn where you'll be staying, analyze the space. For example, I have my own bedroom, a kitchen, a living room and two other girls. Even though I have my own room, not everyone does. If possible, find out who your roomie is beforehand and discuss how you can use the shared space. For example, I need kitchen implements because I have a kitchen, but I don't need to get everything for it because one of my roomies just came into new kitchen gear.
Second, see what you have here that you can use there. I needed to get an extra-long twin for my bed at Brigham Young University in Provo, so my current sheets wouldn't work, but my comfy dish chair with the amazing ottoman does, as do most of the decorations in my bedroom right now. So, I can actually use quite a bit of what I already have.
Also, I learned when I got to college that they only allow me to use certain things -- command hooks and sticky tack -- on the walls. If you can't find this out beforehand, ask when you get there and head for a store, because you will be making grocery runs fairly soon anyway.
Another thing to remember is how to salvage. This trick is versatile, and you can use it for almost anything you can find and, well, salvage.
Variation No. 1: Get it before the DI does. This summer, my mother and I cleaned out the storage room. We found old Christmas lights and decorations, and other things that I actually needed like a bigger recipe box. You can save quite a bit of money by using stuff around your house that nobody else does.
Variation No. 2: Profit from new purchases. My father found a deal on a flat-screen TV, so he decided to replace the main one in our kitchen. We never did sell it, so I got that old TV for my new living room. Also, my mom got a few new kitchen utensils, so I got the old ones.
Variation No. 3: Don't overlook spare parts. I saw the cutest cork board at TJ Maxx -- an old-fashioned frame painted bright blue around a modern corkboard. I begged my mother to get it, but it was still $20 and even I didn't want to shell out that much cash. On the other hand, I still really wanted it. But then I thought, "Well, I could find an old frame like this at the DI or some such place, paint it blue myself, and make my own board and customize it for less than $20, so I'll do that."
Finally, packing -- this is an adventure and a half. If you're taking all your stuff to college in one trip, see what space in the cars/trucks you and your parents will be driving are available. Take advantage of the ordinary legroom spots and seats as much as you can. If you're close enough to take multiple trips, pack only what you'll need until your next trip home.
Try to stabilize hard items with each other and cushion both the car and fragile items with things you're taking anyway like pillows and bedding or towels. Remember to take advantage of parent nights and events -- my dad came and I got a zucchini-bread care package and some needed files!
My final piece of advice is to be completely fearless in what you put in your new dorm room -- be yourself! Let your personality shine. Everything in my new home is in my favorite colors -- lots of black and turquoise, very eclectic. But it is me, 100 percent. Yes, this can be done on a budget.
As Tim Gunn says in "A Guide to Quality, Taste and Style," a favorite book of mine, "Make it work!"
Lindsey Larson is a recent graduate of Roy High School. She enjoys reading, writing, acting and watching movies. E-mail her at email@example.com.