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Packing college-dorm essentials

By on September 7, 2009

photo by phoosh

DEAR SARA: My baby is off to college soon. She will be living in the dorm about 75 miles away from home. We need to start getting together all the little essentials she will need. It has been a while (quite a while, actually) since I lived in a dorm. Can you help me come up with some items we might have missed? We know she needs long sheets, towels and laundry stuff. What else? — C.G., California

DEAR C.G.: It depends on the dorm and student, but here are some items that can be helpful.
Food-related: plastic bowl, cup, mug, utensils and can opener, snacks, storage bags or containers.
Housewares: lamp, alarm clock, trash can, storage bin such as a plastic milk crate or tote, fan, clothesline or drying rack, mini tool kit, bedding, computer, surge protector, mini fridge, hot pot, microwave, toaster oven.
Cleaning and organizing: laundry basket and soap, hangers, stain remover, quarters, all-purpose cleaner, foot locker with lock, microfiber cloth, wrinkle release and air freshener. You can get her a gift card for a local discount department store, too.
Personal care: over-the-counter medicine, toiletries, brush, clippers, school supplies, wipes, hand sanitizer, facial and toilet tissue, first-aid kit.
Additional clothing: plenty of underwear and socks, flip-flops, robe, umbrella or raincoat and boots.

DEAR SARA: What’s nonperishable and goes with Ramen noodles? I feel there should be a punch line, but there isn’t. My friend in Afghanistan is begging for Ramen noodles, and I’ll be sending him a care package. I’d like to include some things to flesh out his Ramen meals a little bit. He could pour these on top. Can you think of anything I could buy, canned or dry, that could turn Ramen noodles into a real meal and travel well? He’s stationary on base and not traveling, but storage is limited. — Margaret L., New England

DEAR MARGARET: You can send food such as hot or soy sauce or canned (pop-top) chili, chicken or tuna pouches, mushrooms, tomatoes and various other canned vegetables. Don’t send prohibited items such as pork products or foods or drinks that contain alcohol.

DEAR SARA: Over an extended period of time, I have accumulated a significant number of small soap chips. Are there any suggestions or recipes to combine these chips into a bigger piece of soap? Thanks for any help. — Bill H., e-mail

DEAR BILL: Grate the soap as much as possible. Weigh the grated soap. Use 12 ounces of water for every pound of soap. Place the grated soap and three-quarters of the water in a double boiler (or a bowl placed in a saucepan half full of water) over medium heat, and stir until all the soap is wet. Add the remaining water, and stir again. Cover the pot, and leave it to simmer. The melting process can take up to one hour, and the soap should be stirred or whisked intermittently until all lumps have dissolved. When the soap has reached a smooth, creamy consistency, remove it from the heat. Continue to stir until it begins to cool, and then pour it into a greased (PAM is fine) mold made of plastic, glass or stainless steel. Leave to set.

What dorm essentials would you give to a college student?

What do you do with soap slivers?


  1. Jess

    9/7/2009 at 11:03 am

    I use soap slivers to make laundry detergent. Once I have enough to equal a full bar of soap (I eye it), I grate it and dissolve it in warm water. Add a c. of borax and a c. of washing soda, and then 3 gallons of water total to make liquid soap. To make powdered soap, just use the grated soap and a C. each of borax & washing soda. Mix it all together and use 2 TB. per load.

    I also use soap slivers to mark fabric when sewing. A white bar works on any colored fabric, and a blue or green bar works on white fabrics. It’s great you don’t have to worry about permanent marks or fading marks, and once you are finished with your project, just throw it in the wash and the marks are gone!

  2. Sara Noel

    9/7/2009 at 2:08 pm

    Thanks for sharing. I like the tip for fabric marking. I don’t sew, so that tip is new to me. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Charles C

    9/14/2009 at 7:01 pm

    Which is the most frugal, to mold it back into soap bars, or to mix with borax and soda, to make washing detergent?

  4. Sara Noel

    9/14/2009 at 7:18 pm

    Stacking the slivers to adhere them or putting slivers into a soap pump with water will be cheapest. And mixing with borax will be cheaper than rebatching soap to put them to ue. But since she asked for a recipe, I provided one rebatching it into a “new” bar. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Charles C

    9/14/2009 at 8:31 pm

    I heard about this homemade detergent, back in the forum. I’ve been wanting to make some, but I’d like to be sure, that it’s a quality product, since the wife is always leary of my bright ideas.

    I use the cheaper product at Aldi’s, it’s called Atra 2x. Really think this use of soap slivers would be great, don’t know where they go around here, but would venture a guess, the trash? Would your educated guess be that I would end up with an equivalent product?

    Want to be kind of positive in my sale of the idea to the wife, Thanks in advance if you go out on a limb:)

  6. Sara Noel

    9/14/2009 at 8:45 pm

    I wouldn’t say it’s an equivalent product. I’d say homemade soap is an acceptable option. I’ve never made homemade laundry soap with just any type of soap. Just zote or fels naptha, so I can’t even comment on how it would be with a different grated soap. I have heard ivory works fine though. Recently on the forums, a member commented that she felt her clothes were wearing faster with homemade laundry soap.
    I haven’t had any negative results, but I don’t use it exclusively either.

  7. Charles C

    9/14/2009 at 8:49 pm

    Amazing I just switched over there and read the same thing. Thanks.

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