brick buildings with a leaf covered lawn in front of them

Healthy Dorm Living

Wait, do those words go together?

As a mom of 3 grown daughters (2 in college and 1 in grad school this year!), keeping them healthy in their dorm living situation is so important to me.  I want them to be physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually healthy so they can pursue their dreams and grow into the person they are meant to be.  But since I can’t put my eyes on them every day, I like to make sure I do all that I can to help them make their living space as healthy and comfortable as possible.  

white dorm room with twin bed and desk with bookshelf
Credit Getty Images/iStockphoto

Earle Chambers, Ph.D., is a professor in the departments of Family & Social Medicine and Epidemiology & Population at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, New York. He studies how the physical environment and social interactions influence health and behavior. “There are many characteristics of housing that can influence mental health,” Chambers says, referencing maintenance, community access, and location. “Those can all lead to issues around stress, mood, and mental-health outcomes.” (from

So, how do you prepare your student so they can achieve and maintain a healthy environment in their dorm?

Start a Conversation

mother hugging college age daughter
Credit iStock photo

First things first – your student is taking a big step towards independence.  Talk with them about how excited you are for them and help them find ways to do things for themselves.  Help them look through the college website and identify email addresses or phone numbers of the offices on campus they could need if a problem arises.  Instruct them to be open and honest with their roommates or residential advisors.  Addressing issues as soon as they arise is so much easier, even if it’s a little uncomfortable, than waiting until the issue turns into a major problem.  Remind them that they should try to handle things on their own but that you are only a phone call away if they want to rehearse what they can say or need help figuring out who they should talk to.  Give them encouragement to know that you are on their side and are cheering them on, but don’t step over their independence.  This is so hard, but so important in the final steps of raising confident, independent adults who know how to interact successfully with peers and supervisors out in the big wide world.

Feather Their Nest

nest with 2 blue eggs in it

Now that we’ve covered the empowerment part, let’s look at some things we can do to help the physical space of the dorm room.  I always want to walk away from that dorm building with a feeling that my daughter is set.  She has a room that is cozy, efficient, and clean – a space she can call her own and relax.  How do we make that possible?  Here are a few ideas!

One sure way to make sure your young adult is well-cared for in his/her dorm room is to focus on the 5 senses.  Include items in their move-in boxes that will take care of each of their senses.  Let’s go through some ideas for each one.

image of head with a symbol of each of the 5 senses inside it
Credit iStockphotos



You know that feeling when you get home from work and you just need to slip into some comfy clothes and curl up under a soft blanket?  Some days are like that, and I want my daughter to have what she needs to be able to feel comforted in her room.  Shop for soft, cozy items that make your student feel like they are wrapped in a big hug.  Throw in their favorite blanket or pillow. Make sure to include an extra blanket so they can snuggle into their bean bag chair to finish up their reading late at night.  Get an extra set of fluffy pillows so they can sit up against the wall on their bed if they don’t have a couch.  The takeaway here is cozy, soft, and comfortable.  woman holding a comforter made with green squaresTry to stay with a color scheme so that the room is visually calm as well.  One great tip is to let them choose a comforter or bed cover first and then pick other items that match it.  Another great way to achieve this is with a fluffy area rug!


This was just mentioned in the last paragraph.  Try to color coordinate items if you can so that the dorm room has a sense of visual balance.  I really like starting with the bed cover and going from there.  Have your student choose a couple of posters, scarves, flags, or tapestries that coordinate as well.  Hang these on the boring block walls and don’t forget the Command hooks!!!  Christmas lights or other forms of accent lighting are always a good option.  Your local thrift store usually has a selection of lamps – just don’t forget to take light bulbs and extension cords with you!  Most dorm rooms house at least 2 people and when one goes to bed early, it’s nice to have a small lamp or other form of lighting in the room for the one who has to stay up late to finish a project or study for an exam.  Another idea to keep the room looking nice is to invest in some baskets or boxes that can house the bowls, cereal, bags of chips, etc.  It will keep the room looking organized and help your student stay focused!


This one is so important but often gets overlooked.  Dorm rooms usually have a certain odor about them.  You know what I mean!  Why not help with natural room sprays, essential oil diffusers, or wax melt warmers.  Be sure to check with the school guidelines to see what is acceptable.  And let your student choose a scent they like.  Another tip – make sure these are natural scents without phthalates or parabens, like these:

brown and white electric essential oil diffusers with a small bottle of essential oil beside them               bottle of lavender room spray with black nozzlehand holding 3 wooden floral passive essential oil diffusers

Another idea is essential oil jewelry.  These necklaces and bracelets are made to carry essential oils for aromatherapy on the move.  Relax and Chill Out are Plant Therapy essential oil blends that can help with anxiety.  Self Esteem is another one that aids in boosting confidence.  There are many others to fit your student’s specific needs!

green bracelet

When in college, our students are exposed to many chemicals(cleaning supplies, lawn fertilizers, fragrances, etc.) that they may not have been exposed to as much when they lived at home.  They are also dealing with  a lot of outside stressors.  That’s why it’s important to keep their products at college as clean as possible – minimize exposure wherever you can, so their body can focus on what’s important.


Don’t forget hearing!  Your student will be living in an environment that will likely be more noisy than they are used to.  Maybe they will need some headphones to sleep at night.  They will probably not forget their airpods, but make sure they take their cases with them so they don’t get lost in their room or the library!  Also be sure they pack up all of their chargers so they have these items when needed.  Another great idea is a small speaker for their room.  Some quiet music when studying or some dance tunes when hanging out with friends may be just what they need!


This one is easy – pack their favorite foods!  Take their favorite cereal, granola bars, Grandma’s cookies, and bags of chips.  You also might want to include some healthy options such as applesauce, fruit cups, clementines, or dried fruit.  Go Macro bars are a great option, because they are easy to pack away into a book bag, and if your child ends up missing lunch, they are a nice meal replacement.  And they are organic!  Bottled drinks are also a good choice, especially if your student has a favorite.  What did they usually want to eat when they were studying in high school?  It’s a good bet they will want that food in college as well!

tray of chocolate chip cookies

2 Go Macro protein bars on table


Essentials for College Life

Okay, we looked at the attitude and 5 senses.  Now let’s look at the nitty-gritty, the essentials, the stuff that is necessary but not as much fun!

Cleaning supplies:  Be sure your student takes an all-purpose cleaner, some rags, and laundry detergent.  Here are a few really good options:

  • Plant Therapy cleaner concentrates:  2 bottles of essential oil cleaner concentrate beside a red box with a lemon in the backgroundThese smell so nice and are free from harmful chemicals.  Get a glass spray bottle with a silicone sleeve, empty the contents of the concentrate into it, fill with water, and they’ve got a whole bottle of cleaner to make their dorm room sparkle and shine.
  • Swedish dishcloths:  hand holding a cloth with ladybugs and bees on it with spilled juice on the table behind itHave you heard of these?  One Swedish dishcloth can replace up to 17 rolls of paper towels!  Get a few for your student’s room.  They can use one for cleaning, one for washing dishes, and a different one for cleaning up shoes, or other miscellaneous items.
  • Dish Sponges:  These are 100% biodegradable and made from plant loofah.  They dry quickly so they work well for a dorm room.
  • Loads of Love Laundry Detergent:  This detergent is a powder which makes it a really good option.  You can put it in a thick paper bag and then if it gets dropped on the way to the laundry room, it will not spill or break!  And since it is a powder, you won’t be transporting water to the dorm room!
  • Stain Remover:  bar of stain stick leaning up against the boxOh – this one is important!  Include a stain remover and remind them to treat their clothes as soon as they can, even if they are not planning to wash them for a while!
  • Dryer balls: Your student is going to have extra cash to keep buying dryer sheets!  Plus, those dryer sheets are full of chemicals that basket on it's side with dryer balls tumbling outcoat their clothing!  Send about 3 dryer balls with them.  If they want their laundr scented, have them place a few drops of essential oils (Plant Therapy’s sparkling laundry blends are fabulous!) on each ball and dry them for a few minutes before throwing their wet clothes in too.
  • Wrinkle Releaser: bottle of wrinkle releaser on a table Who has time to iron!  This Plant Therapy wrinkle releaser is amazing! They can simply spritz some on their clothes, hang them up, let them dry, and their done!

Personal Care Supplies:  This is a good place to eliminate harmful chemicals.  Here are some really nice products for dorm life.

  • Naked Bee shower gel:  brown pump bottle of Naked Bee shower gel with yellow labelA gel is so much easier than bar soap since you don’t have to deal with a soap dish.
  • Deodorant:  Buy 2!  It’s really nice to keep one in the dorm room and one in the bookbag.  Then, if they are away from their room and walking all over campus on hot days, they can freshen up as needed! Smart!
  • Facial Cleansers/Moisturizers:  Again, the stresses of college life, the late hours, and unhealthy eating can lead to breakouts.  Ward them off with good, clean cleansers and moisturizers.  Here are a few:

bar of tea tree soap in green box with a bee on ityellow squeeze bottle of Naked Bee facial moisturizerglass bottle of facial cleanser with white label and silver screw on cap laying in a plant

  • Lotion:  Dorms can be really dry in the winter – be sure to pack a nice lotion to keep their skin from drying out and becoming itchy!
  • Lip balm – don’t forget this!!!  It’s not usually lip balm season when you take them to college, but it will be soon!row of 5 wooden lip balm tubes on table in front and beside yellow and white flowers

A few other things:  Here are a couple of things that would be really helpful in the dorm room but don’t fit especially well in any other category:

  • Re-Lyte: white tub of Re-Lyte immunity powder This is an organic electrolyte immunity drink.  It comes in powder form.  Your student can just add it to a glass of water and give their immune system a boost!
  • Essential Oil Roll-ons:  These essential oils from Plant Therapy come in ready-to-use form to aid your student with coughs and colds.  Quiet Cough, Defender, Respir brown bottle of essential oil roll-on with red and white labelSupport, and Germ Fighter are easy to use – just roll it on wrists, neck, or chest when symptoms arise or to keep symptoms at bay!
  • Lunchskins:  These reusable bags are good for makeup, essential oils, or snacks!
  • Ziparoos:  These are so nice – your student can use these for everything from makeup, to extra clean socks in the gym bag, to leftover food.  silicone bag with words and bees and heartMaybe don’t put food in it after it’s been in the gym bag, though?  Just a thought!  But the reason I love these so much is that they eliminate the need for single-use resealable plastic bags!  Who doesn’t love that!
  • Sunscreen:  This one is so easy to forget.  We have a bottle of sunscreen that the whole family uses, so it’s easy to forget to include one when they head to college, but depending on where they are going, they may still need sunscreen for a couple of months!
  •  Collapsible cutlery:foldable metal spoon and knife with a small drawstring bag on a cutting board  these spoons and forks fold up into a little bag – perfect for the bookbag or lunch box!
  • Bookbag essentials:  Sometimes, students leave their rooms in the morning and don’t get back until late in the afternoon.  Why not put together a little bag of essentials for their bookbags?  Lotion, lip balm, essential oil, body spray, deodorant, travel brush, hair ties, dental floss, dry shampoo, tea drops…a black zipper bag on a wood table with personal care products spilling out of it
  • And one more fun one – why not send along a DIY kit that your student can share with friends?  These kits are for lip balms and glycerin soaps.  Each box makes several each, so when your young adult needs something fun to do, they can pull this off the shelf, grab a bag of chips, turn on the music and have an instant party!lip balm making kit supplies spread on a table

Whew!  Have we covered everything?  Probably not, but this is a really good list.  I hope it helps you think through with your student what they might need or want as you help them pack up for their next, new, exciting adventure!  Remember to let them fly!  You have raised them for independence and now is their time!!!

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