It’s A Dorm Room Dummy

* This blog post is inspired by the Dear Snarky letter I received about moms spending thousands of dollars on dorm room decorations.

There’s nothing I like more than dispensing unsolicited parenting advice and making fun of a current societal trend. Now, if I can combine both of those into a delicious two-fer I’m in my happy place. This means right now I’m smiling ear-to-ear because I’m about to share parenting wisdom while mocking the latest in collegiate stupidity – designer decor for your child’s dorm room. 

Perhaps you’ve seen the video that is being shared on-line via Southern Living (click here for video) about co-eds who go all out to make sure their dorm rooms are exquisite. I’m talking monogrammed linens, pricey area rugs, custom-built furniture to make the most out of the floor space, black out draperies and upholstered headboards that are, you guessed it, monogrammed. It’s like Pinterest swiped right and had a Tinder date with the Pottery Barn Teen catalog. 

I’m all for trying to disguise the yuck factor of living in a dorm, but I’m still slack-jawed from hearing that parents are paying thousands of dollars for linens and mattress upgrades and that there are dorm interior design businesses. Yes, for a boatload of cash you can pay a firm to not only design your child’s dorm room, but show up on move in day and do the “install.”

While I was pondering what’s motivating this trend – helicopter mamas who want to recreate the opulence of their child’s upbringing, social media (because long time readers know that is my “go to blame” for almost everything), or some sort of territorial one-upmanship I discover that in 2017 there are actual collegiate competitions for “best dorm room.” 

This means that the answer to “Why is this now a thing?” is all of the above.

On some level I get it. Dropping your kid off for their freshman year of college is tough and I’m not talking about the separation anxiety you’re having as a parent. I’m talking about the money you’re shelling out for your child to live in a room with smaller dimensions than a Kansas Department of Corrections prison cell. 

It profoundly affects you especially when you do the math about what you’re paying per square foot. But even if you take that bubbling rage and redirect it into making the tiny space feel like home I still don’t get the urge to spend even more money for the ultimate in dorm camouflage.

Here’s the hard truth from a parent who has gone through this journey. No matter how much money you spend nothing is going to eradicate the fact that your kid is a dorm. You could monogram every square inch and they’re still going to be laying in bed looking at walls that have been painted institutional beige since before the Eisenhower administration and iffy ceiling tiles while they inhale the ever-present odor of feet that not even a nuclear powered Febreze plug could eradicate.

Also, as the mother of a teenage girl let me share that if you do engage in a designer dorm room experience take a lot of pictures of that perfect room because chances are 24 hours after your depart it will be unrecognizable. All the pricey Egyptian cotton monogrammed linens, the plush upholstered headboard with tufted buttons, the imported wool area rug will be smothered by a volcanic-esque explosion of clothes and (my personal nemesis) wet towels. 

I strongly believe you don’t want to make the dorm room too nice. Your kid needs to do without the comforts of home so they appreciate what they have at home. There’s a level of character building to living in a dorm and sharing bathroom space and everything else with a multitude of humans. It’s called getting life experience and isn’t that one of the reasons we send them off to college?

11 thoughts on “It’s A Dorm Room Dummy

  1. Mrs. Sullivan says:

    I currently have 2 girls in college and you’re right Snarky. Go ahead and spend a fortune on your kid’s dorm room and then come back in a day and it’s as if their entire room barfed up clothes. I would file any hard core dorm decorating under “not worth it.”

  2. Nancy Theken says:

    It’s not that the dorm room will be trashed in a short amount of time it’s that these mothers are now setting their girls up to be instantly disliked. I’m sure at Ole Miss there are other girls who understand this particularly Southern language of interior design one upmanship but I believe the majority of students in that dorm will be irritated enough to avoid these two.

    This is a great example of parents checking out on what is best for their children so that they can feel better themselves. Face it, the mothers of these girls are competing against other mothers. And these two have hit the grand slam with that Southern Living video spot!

  3. irreverendt says:

    Question, is this a girls only phenomenon? Having sent a boy to school I can only recall his experience which included choosing the “cleanest’ wardrobe from the floor.

  4. Mrs. C says:

    I completely agree that kids need the humbling experience of dorm living. I was even a tad disappointed when my daughter went off to college a couple of years ago, and she didn’t have the whole “shared bathroom at the end of the hall” thing. She and her roommate shared a bathroom with the room next door…none of that hauling your shampoo and soap down the hall to shower in the communal showers where you are standing in everyone’s water and so you wear flip flops in the shower. Now THAT’S humbling and a sure bet to make them appreciate what they have at home!

  5. Kat says:

    I just viewed the glam makeover for the dorm room you had a link for. Wow! Talk about a pair of pampered poodles. OMG! You are correct about the odd smells in the dorm rooms. I can’t imagine having such a fancy get up in a dorm room. When our son went to college we scrounged around the house for extra items we had for him to take. We bought extension cords and some smaller items like a laundry hamper etc. Accidents and damage happens in college. We weren’t out much when the 4 years were over. I vote thumbs down on the fancy dorm makeovers for the kids that believe they are entitled to it. What a waste, College is about education and not making an impression.

  6. Linda says:

    As long as there’s nothing growing anywhere in my grandson’s dorm room his parents are happy! They all have to go through that stage.

  7. juls says:

    You are oh, so right, Sherry! After moving one kid to KU and the other to K-State with our own “designer” furniture and decor from those high-end stores, Walmart and Target, (in addition to garage sales and our basement) and being exhausted from lugging it all up to their 1940’s and 1960’s dorms and setting it all up just so perfectly, we were smugly pleased with the overall feng shui appearance, and we headed home teary-eyed and emotional.

    That nostalgia was erased rather dramatically on the first visit just two weeks later, when the reality set in of “‘slob by room at home, doubles lobby dorm room”. Apparently whatever you bring to the room also becomes fair game for anyone living in the dorm, and certainly no one cares to clean up spills or worry about food remnants and wrappers anywhere. In May, when we arrived to help move them an apartment our son’s roommate, who is now an attorney, expressed his pride at never having washed his sheets over the entire 9 months. Phew! The area rug we’d bought was unrecognizable, and the rotting food in the small fridge had nearly destroyed that little gem.

    The most important thing I learned about all of this was that huge, industrial-sized dumpsters are brought into “Dorm-land” at the end of the year to hold all that still-perfectly usable furniture, appliances, and other decor headed to the dump that the kids simply toss out, rather than take any effort to move. There were majestic mountains of couches that rivaled Mt. Everest in height, an Appalachian forest of colorful, rolled up area rugs, and islands (likely not Virgin) of lounge and computer chairs as well as custom-constructed bunk beds, microwaves, coffee makers, and more. Startling revelation! How naive were we? Who knew that we could have saved so much money and effort if we’d just shopped “Dorm-land” the previous May, for all the kids’ “designer” decor? I’m still dreaming about hiring enough semi-trucks to pick it all up so I could launch my new “Dorm-land Decor and Design Boutique”!

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