Dorm rooms: Just focus on the basics

I am sure it's a scene repeated at stores everywhere these days — the annual trip with parents to outfit a dorm room.

The lists from department and specialty stores cover all the basic necessities for dorm life, but here are items that many families forget:

• Multi-plug power strip with surge protector, extension cords

• Small first-aid kit

• Sewing kit

• Flashlight with extra batteries

• Small broom/dustpan

• Air freshener

• Earplugs, stain remover

• Light bulbs

• Sleeping bag

• Folding camp chair

• Vitamins, water bottle

• Tool kit

• Hangers

• Wheeled carrier

• Large garbage bags to cover items in case it rains

• Tension rod and curtain for closets without doors

• Shower tote bucket

• Under-bed storage containers

• Wastebasket

• Hand vacuum

• Batteries

• Step stool

• "Magic Mounts" for hanging posters (so walls aren't damaged)

Here's a glimpse at my dorm-shopping experiences. My son, now a rising college junior, just didn't care. He said "No, I don't need that. No, I don't want that, (repeat) (repeat). Can we go now (repeat)?" I would hardly call my daughter a shopping maven, and she tired long before I did, but she mostly said, "I can just use what I already have. Emma (her roommate) is already bringing that."

I was crushed. I had saved every coupon over the past several months. This was the trip I never had when I went away to college. I thought this could be the dorm room I always dreamed of. Clearly, I was wrong. I had wanted our trip to be a bonding experience where we visualized the room layout together, got some good buys, laughed and treated ourselves to an ice cream cone afterward. Instead, it was but a brief detour on a regular day of errands, and the coupons went back into the drawer.

I think the uninterested attitude each of my kids displayed is one of the ways teenagers communicate with their parents that it's time to start letting go. Now, as we head toward move-in day for my freshman daughter, I am anticipating the big goodbye. It is all about understanding and managing expectations.