Ask A Boston Expert: Essentials When Dorm Shopping

July 23, 2013 6:00 AM

File Image (Photo by Jordan Silverman/Getty Images)

Photo Credit:

Photo Credit:

If you’re headed off to college or have a child going off to college, the first impulse is to buy, buy, buy. But with the ever-growing expenses of college and with the shrinking size of many dorm rooms, you really need to plan out what you buy and how you’ll use it.

Megan Polcaro, former resident assistant at Westfield State College and current family programs assistant at Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art, recommends that students don’t go wild buying for their dorm room until they actually get to college.

Photo Gallery: Must-Have School Supplies

“Unless you have the opportunity to discuss decor with your roommate, stay simple,” she says. “Less really is more!”

Economy Hardware
219 Massachusetts Ave.
Boston, MA 02115
(617) 536-4280

“Dorm rooms are notoriously small, so organizational products are key,” advises Megan Polcaro. “The ceilings are often high, so making use of vertical space gives you more room for chilling with your friends.”

Economy Hardware is a great one-stop shopping destination if you’re looking for products to help you organize your dorm room. Besides a variety of storage solutions, you can also find many shelving options, which are exactly what you’ll need to get things up off the floor and make use of that otherwise wasted space.

Home Basix
325 Centre St.
Jamaica Plain, MA 02130
(617) 983-0055

Along the same lines, you’ll find plenty of organizational tools at the lowest prices imaginable here at Home Basix. It’s also a great place to pick up things like towels, sheets, curtains and other linens. Many customers have compared the store to a steeply discounted Bed Bath & Beyond. The only downside is that the store can be hit or miss with selection. Luckily, Home Basix has a friendly staff that knows every inch of the store, and the merchandise is constantly being updated. If you don’t find what you need one day, it might just be sitting on the shelves the next.

Related: Best Places To Buy Gifts For Grads Around Boston

671 Centre St.
Jamaica Plain, MA 02130
(617) 524-6800

Midnight snacking and dorm rooms go together like, well, freshman year and gaining 15 pounds. There’s nothing worse than an all-night study session and nothing to eat while you do it. Kitchenwitch is a tiny little store in Jamaica Plain that you will find absolutely jam-packed with gadgets, food storage items and necessary little foodie items for your dorm. Prices can be slightly higher than your typical big box store but you’ll definitely see the difference in the quality.

“Food plans have come a long way, so you won’t need to dedicate a great deal of storage space for food,” warns Polcaro. “Remember to check your college’s recommendations for use of electric tea kettles, microwaves and coffee makers.”

Related: Boston’s Best Shopping Malls

Basics Carpet and Furniture
1119 Commonwealth Ave.
Boston, MA 02215
(617) 254-2250

Most dorms come already packed with furniture basics like a bed and a desk. But some will give you the option using your own. If you’re in the market for furniture and are working on the typical college student budget, Basics Carpet and Furniture is a great place to start looking. It offers absolutely anything you can think of furniture-wise at incredibly low prices. Better yet, it delivers.

1731 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02138
(617) 497-0137

Abodeon has been picked for a number of local “Best of” awards. Abodeon keeps a wide variety of colorful, irreverent home goods that you just aren’t going to find anywhere else. If you really want to make your dorm unique, it is the place to go to grab a small rug or oddball knickknack.

Renee Mallett is the author of several books about art, culture, and New England. She was the owner and director of an art gallery and has written about arts and entertainment on a national level for several print and online journals. Her work can be found at