Eight Pro Tips About Dorm Shopping for Boys, From Mom with Three Sons

There is a definite Venus and Mars effect to sending offspring to college. While there is the commonality of parental emotions surrounding the event, the mechanics of it can be vastly different.

Now, I know that there are some gross generalities in this post. Some girls don’t care about matching comforters and underbed skirts. Conversely, some guys are invested and actually want their room to make a good impression. 

But for those with boys, you may find yourself wistful — like me — for the shopping, planning, and giddiness over college accoutrement that is associated with a freshman girl here are some lessons to soften the blow.

Mom of three sons has advice about dorm shopping with boys. (Twenty20 @annalise17)

What this mom learned through sending three boys to college

1. Step away from Pinterest

You know all those matching, decked-out dorm rooms gracing the internet? Yeah, no, that’s not your reality. Scrolling will only serve to torture and disappoint. 

There will be no transformation or padded headboards, just a slightly less sad version of the college-issued necessities. I had to settle for making sure that all the stuff we brought was neutral and somewhat coordinated but we never spoke of it, like a dark secret that would have scarred the transition.

2. Frames are overrated

With my first son, I meticulously compiled a framed photo collage of high school highlights which came home at Christmas after taking up too much space in his closet for the semester. 

With my second, I packed his framed senior poster as a member of the state championship football team. That one went right back in the car for the ride home on move-in day.

Message received people, my third will not have to suffer the indignity of framed memorabilia. There is hope, however, a smattering of family pictures will be deemed acceptable and anything that has to do with the family pet is much adored and without restrictions which honestly stings a little. 

3. Flying the flag

For as much as frames are out, flags are in. American flags, school flags, sports team flags, state flags and others with sayings parents would rather not be privy to are proudly displayed in boy dorm rooms as we speak. This is the male version of wall tapestries I guess in that they are large and can cover up a crapton of cinderblock if placed correctly.  

4. Bedding beatdown

While I was given permission to speak to roommate parents ahead of move-in, discussing bedding or color schemes was clearly not allowed (see #1 above). A little part of my soul died each time I made up the bed the first day.

We stuck with blues and grays in comforter sets that I picked out with a sturdy mattress topper. No extra pillows, coordinating lamp shades, or blankets. I was given the go-ahead for the “husband“ pillow for propping up against the wall but not one boy cared about color, pattern or sheets. They would just as happily have pulled the comforter from home and plopped it on the new bed. Sigh. 

5. Multiple mania

We brought tons of everything because I did not trust the boys to go to the store to buy necessities (other than Pop-Tarts), visit the laundry with any frequency or to not just keep re-wearing dingy, threadbare socks and boxers.

I planned one semester at a time for toiletries and supplies and bought enough underwear to last almost that long as well. I was optimistic, for sure, but had been living with these creatures long enough to know the score. 

6. Gaming the system 

My very own, unscientific research asserts that more males play video games than females. In particular, among the college set where they are a double-edged sword. Many a friendship has been forged in the dorm hall through an invite to a game.

On the other hand, many kids will just stay in their rooms with the door closed and play with strangers not only on a different campus, but on a different continent. Our boys did not take gaming systems with them mostly because I still had boys at home who would have been deprived.

However, they always managed to find someone to let them join in. Ultimately, you must know your child and whether this will be a pro or con. 

7. Don’t Get Attached to Anything 

Packing up and cleaning the dorm room after 9 months of cohabitation morphs from a rescue mission to a recovery mission. Go in knowing that you will not be able to resuscitate everything you find.  Rugs, sheets, mattress toppers, and towels are a sampling of what makes the trek to the dumpster in May.

If your kids are like mine, they move to off-campus housing after freshman year in search of improved accommodations that don’t include a Twin XL bed and eating and socializing where you sleep. This is great except a security deposit ups the ante and anxiety.

8. Look for bargains

Saving extra cash is the only upside to boys not really caring about all the extras. Plus, it makes it that much easier when it gets ruined/lost/stolen in the laundry room.

Set a budget, figure out what is expendable, and move on. Your son already has and is not giving his room décor one thought.

I can only speak to my experience which is that I still have an overwhelming desire to start an #AdoptaBoyMom movement. I just want to tag along on one college campus shopping trip with someone who sees the value of strings of fairy lights above a bed with coordinated throws and a tufted ottoman. 

Is that too much to ask?

More to Read:

How to Do All Your Dorm Shopping at Target

Easy Ways to Make a Guy’s Dorm Room Look Great

About Maureen Stiles

Maureen Stiles is a Washington DC based freelance journalist, columnist and editor. With over a decade of published work in the parenting and humor sector, Maureen has reached audiences around the globe. In addition to published works, she has been quoted in the Washington Post and The New York Times on topics surrounding parenting and family life. Maureen is the author of The Driving Book for Teens and a contributor to the book Grown and Flown: How to Support Your Teen, Stay Close as a Family, and Raise Independent Adults as well as regularly featured on Today's Parenting Community and Grown and Flown.

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