This is my setup. Note the second monitor and external keyboard.

So we here at HackCollege get emails every so often from companies pitching the latest product to make your dorm room the “ultimate dorm room.” Whether it’s Target trying to sell you Tupperware containers in your favorite shade or a Web app that helps you cram as much stuff into your 8′ x 10′ shared space, there’s no shortage of messaging convincing you you need the “sickest” room. To them I say: go screw yourselves. There’s been a culture of consumerism has recently uncovered this back-to-school-you-need-three-more-couches season.

This post will talk about what really makes a comfortable dorm living space and how to get by with the last amount of shit in your room.

Do the Math

Think about it this way: every new trinket you acquire will either have to be shipped home or stored somewhere for 4 months out of the year. Sure, that chair is only $70 at Target, but someone will have to look over it come summer. If you decided to store it, some near-campus storage center will easily charge you more than $70 to store that thing for the summer.

What Walmart Thinks You Need

There are many things that you can go without in this future that we are living in. Here are some common ones.

  • A TV. I’m not the biggest fan of ye olde-fashioned television anymore. I don’t care how many inches it is. A TV is generally a waste of time and a large appliance that you have to worry about moving every May/June.Take for example my younger brother, Blake. While I have disowned Blake for thinking that watching TV is a necessary part of existence, he’s still got a pretty nifty setup in his dorm room at Notre Dame.Any craving for TV I do have is satiated by Hulu or other less-than-legal means of acquiring content. And besides, if you spend a majority of your college years in front of the boob tube, you’re doing it wrong.
  • A “killer” sound system. Let’s face it. Your loud soundsystem just annoys the hell out of everyone on your floor. I don’t care how good your taste in music is; mine is still better. Please don’t subject everyone around you to your bass-thumping Euro-trash techno. And a sound system is just one more semi-fragile thing to worry about transporting later in the year.Rumor has it that a new technology has been invented that allows you to personally listen to music without disturbing anyone else. Scientists are calling the new invention headphones, but I don’t think they will catch on with such a silly name. Invest in a good pair that will hold up for a little while and ditch the 5.1 THX shenanigans.
  • Containers. Sure, the pink Tupperware sliding drawer unit fits your stuff in a cute and cost-efficient manner. But those things become unwieldy the second you try to pack them. Oh by the way, that flimsy plastic brakes once its under pressure from all of the stuff piled on top of it in your trunk. If you really have that much stuff that you might need, just use the boxes you moved in with as storage devices.
  • Extra furniture. Unless you plan on having a homeless friend sleep on it indefinitely, you do not need a Futon. Yes, I have had them in my past dorm rooms. They are cool. They are the Optimus Primes of furniture. But they are one of the most cumbersome and surprisingly fragile pieces of furniture encountered. The amount of trouble they are worth is outweighed by its cumbersomeness every May.Here’s the hack: just lower your bed to about 2 feet off the ground and keep it made. It can still function as a couch and people will think you’re a neat person for making your bed. It’s a bonus for everyone.

What You Really Need

  • Comfortable bedding. Considering that your bed is probably the one place where you spend most of your time, don’t settle for the crappy dorm room mattress. Invest in a mattress pad, unless you like the rock hardness of your standard issue dorm bed. (I actually don’t mind the firmness.) Do get high thread-count sheets and go for the dark colors. The darker colors won’t show off the beer stains as much. (That was a tip from College Fasion . Net.)And if you’re a “player,” the ladies will thank you later. Note: no HackCollege author has any sort of authority on such a subject.
  • A second monitor. A second monitor can be life-changing. I picked up a second monitor my first year and have been a convert ever since. Being able to have articles open on one monitor and the paper you’re furiously writing on the other is a real time-saver. I personally think, it also contributes to a more stress-free environment. Just don’t start multi-tasking.I’m currently rocking an old Dell 2005WFP as my second screen. I would recommend the Dell 2009W for a workhorse of a monitor. It’s a decent size with good image quality and it’s got plenty of USB ports.If you’re a real badass or can’t live without a TV, get a TV tuner for your monitor. They are pretty cheap and get the job done. People may call you a nerd, but you will at least be able to watch your favorite soaps from the comfort of your desk.
  • The perfect mouse and keyboard. Going along with this whole comfort thing, a good mouse and keyboard are crucial no matter your major. Whether you’re an English major or a computer science major, you’ll be spending a lot of time typing. Hell, I’m even typing math assignments these days. Pick a solid keyboard and mouse that you enjoy using. Mine helps me wake up in the morning, no joke.You might be a smart one and point out that your laptop has a perfectly good keyboard. This is true. But given the affordances of a laptop (usually lies flat on a surface), it is not the most ergonomic setup. Get an external keyboard that has a good spring, is tilted toward you and that you can move into the most comfortable position.I am a sworn fan of the Apple aluminum keyboard and the Mighty Mouse, even if the Mighty Mouse roller-ball tends to get gunked up every now and again.

I would be a hypocrite if I didn’t practice what I preach, which is why I’m attempting to get rid of everything I own. It’s a little side project I’m starting called Cult of Less. Check it out and keep yourself updated.

What else do you think is superfluous to a good dorm room? Let us know in some comments!