Leader of the pack

When I was packing for university, it was more like I was packing for The Island than Canada’s capitalist capital. I would stress out that I had to buy, like, a stapler before I left, and my mother would tease me mercilessly: “You do realize there may be a few stores in Toronto, Lizzie?” or “Yes, if need be we can ship you deodorant, but I think you’ll be OK just buying 17 sticks for now.” As a jaded fourth-year, I can happily say that I was both right and wrong in my packing technique. Here’s my philosophy: you can buy anything you need in Toronto. Or, at least, if you can buy it elsewhere in Canada, you can probably get it here. That said, when you’re new to a city with so much to adjust to, it’s comforting to already have everything you really need. If you don't take it from me, take it from her. (I was going to embed the link, but the words "storage," "spruce" and "dorm room" lost their meaning.) Of U of T’s seven colleges, four have comprehensive lists of what to bring and what not to bring available on their websites here, here, here and here. As you probably already know, U of T res is either suite-style or dormitory, depending on what college you’re in and what building you’re in within that college. I’ve amalgamated the info from the different colleges, along with helpful hints from past lifeatuofters and friends from res, and given it a distinctly personal spin. Call it What to Bring to Res: Lizzie’s (by no means exhaustive) Personal Picks.
  • Towels Lots!
  • Flip-flops Absolutely crucial. This came up on everyone’s list, including mine, because homey as residence can be, shower floors are not the same.
  • Laundry bag, basket and detergent Trust me, if you’re adjusting to doing your own laundry in a coin machine on a different floor, make it as easy for yourself as possible. Often, laundry bags will be given in frosh kits so hold off on buying one until your first week (or until you run out of clothes… like me)
  • Loads of hangers and smart-storage closet things, because across the board, storage space is tight.
  • Anti-bacterial wipes I found my res room would get so dusty and dirty—these let you keep things clean and don’t take up as much space as more classic cleaning supplies.
  • Tide-to-go, because it saves you doing laundry… apparently, I really do not like doing laundry.
  • Bedding for a twin! Though a lot of sites warn about dorm room twins being "extra-long,” I found regular twin sheets worked perfectly. Should you be nervous, call your college.
  • Note: if you do want to bring a fridge, make sure it’s okay with your college in terms of size and age. Some residences say that certain fridges use too much power, so as always, don’t be afraid to call and ask.
  • Sound-canceling headphones and a sleepy-time playlist, so you can follow quiet hours even when those around you aren’t. My playlist consists of a lot of Iron & Wine.
  • A kettle and yummy teas Not only is this cozy and cost-saving for you, it’s also nice when you have friends over to be able to offer them tea. Mmm, tea. Just make sure your kettle shuts off automatically. Ick, fire.
  • Brita water filter So key! Especially if you like fresh water, but especially if you don’t like getting up every time you want a glass.
  • An Ethernet cable or *whatever your college says you need to access the internet* - usually, an Ethernet cable.
  • A can opener I went through phases where I would eat chickpea salad and soup almost exclusively. Happily for my digestive system, this was just a phase.
  • A shower carrier (mine is wire, and hangs from the wall) to lug all your shower stuff.
  • A dryer rack OK, re-reading this, an inordinate number of my picks are laundry related, but the dryer rack is seriously a great call. It saves energy, money, time and your clothes from shrinkage.
  • A calendar / white board, for organizing your soon-to-be very busy schedule.
  • An alarm clock 9:30am classes. Enough said.
  • Some kind of activity for new friends to do in your room. It can be as simple as a ball you toss around, or a basketball net at the back of your door, or whatever. A friend suggested this, and thinking back to first year those kinds of things were great for breaking ice.
  • Cozy touches that will make your room feel like home. Res rooms are minimalist to put it nicely, and more Spartan than chic. If you spend a bit of time at the beginning of the year to decorate with some colour and coziness it will pay off in droves if you’re feeling lonely, or get your first bad mark. I brought my stuffed animal Lamby (I was creative as a child) who became a favourite amongst friends, a quilt, some colourful throw pillows, posters (hung using res-approved tack!), a reading lamp, hanging picture frames, etc.
Finally, I’d love to hear your suggestions and answer any questions. If there’s one thing I love doing, it’s online shopping. Mmm, internet. The final bit of advice I have is that besides the necessities/things listed above, try to hold off on buying stuff until you've settled into your life here. I've changed incredibly in my time here, and my buying priorities have changed too. If anything, my mother would argue I'm a little too comfortable shopping here now, and too aware of all the products available and how easy they are to get.

4 comments on “Leader of the pack

  1. Hello Derek! Yes, my mistake, U of T’s Vic U does not seem to have a list of what to bring. Issue has been corrected, and Derek is not crazy future visitors (scary internet re-writing history..)

  2. Hey Liz,

    Great post as usual! The towels, flip-flops, laundry stuff, hangers, kettle, alarm clock, bedding, and calendar are all things I considered *musts* during my year on Residence. Especially flip-flops!

    I survived without the filter, tide-to-go, shower carrier (well, I used a plastic bag but the carrier is a much smarter idea), dryer rack (I just used a lot of hangers), can-opener, fridge (though I would have loved one!) and wipes.

    Some other things I recommend to students living on res:

    – A Portable Fan/Heater:

    Because you are not the landlord, you will be unable to adjust the temperature whenever you feel like it. While my room at Knox came with an amazing heater, the lack of air conditioning meant I was melting my first two weeks as a resident, until I got my fan. Check with where you are staying, and think of the varying scorching hot/freezing cold weather you may endure during the year when planning your temperature control.

    – Window Screen to protect against bugs

    Sounds like an odd suggestion, huh? If your residence room has windows but no bug screen, I strongly urge you to consider getting simple, easy-on, easy-off, velcro-bug screen to protect your room from uninvited guests.

    – Ear Plugs

    An alternate idea from the noise-cancelling headphone + music playlist is ear plugs, especially if music doesn’t help you sleep. As Liz mentioned, accessories in/on your ears can help you enjoy quiet hours even if others aren’t enforcing it.

    – A Bathrobe

    This was an unexpected addition to my list. If you will be living in a dorm-style residence, where the floor shares two or three bathrooms, you may want to bring a bathrobe. I quickly discovered that stand-up showers that already wet from previous use made it impossible to change in the bathroom. Bring a robe, so you may travel comfortably to your room to change.

    – (Minimal) Utensils

    I brought the kettle, and the tea, and didn’t bring a cup. You’d be surprised when a few plates and utensils come in handy, even if you have a meal-plan. When it was too cold or dark to walk to the dining hall, I used to camp out in my room and eat a homemade meal. A plate would have helped 🙂

    – Microwave

    If you plan to get a fridge, consider a microwave: the ones in common areas tend to have so many food pieces left over, critters and bugs get a feast too (see my post about critters in res http://blogs.studentlife.utoronto.ca/UpbeaT/2009/04/02/a-kaleidoscope-of-student-experience-in-3-days/)
    A microwave/fridge is not a necessity – but, if you have the luxury, consider the investment in a cheap microwave.

    Sigh…just thinking about it makes me miss Residence!

    Great post Liz!

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