Disinfectant spray and wipes, headphones, and ear plugs

7 Things You Need to Live in a College Dorm with Arthritis

Last updated: September 2019

The day I got my college acceptance letter in the mail, I started fantasizing what life would be like come September. I couldn't wait to begin studying design fulltime! And I was ecstatic at the idea of living in a dorm in a big city for the first time. It was even more exciting to me because my juvenile-onset arthritis wasn't active at the time. I had so many high hopes and daydreams for college.

Heading off to college

But while moving into a college dorm was exciting, living without my parents and with roommates was a learning curve. The first few weeks taught me more than I imagined it would about being independent and adapting to my new environment. And with all that stress, a flare came on, and my arthritis came back with a vengeance. So not only was it my first taste of living independently, it was my first time experiencing what it would take to be independent with psoriatic arthritis. It wasn't as easy as I thought.

While I had to learn to cope with community living and learn to advocate for myself, I also found that some products can make a big difference. Within a few weeks, I had all these items on hand. And from the second year on, I couldn't imagine living without these seven things:

1. Disinfectant sprays and wipes

If you see a sale on these items, make sure to stock up! Living in close quarters often means colds, and the flu spread like wildfire. Clean communal items (including doorknobs) frequently. You can also use some types of sprays on soft goods such as furniture, and I highly recommend it.

2. Mini fridge

While I was lucky to have a personal kitchen for most of my years at college, my first dorm room didn't offer a kitchen space. While there was a community kitchen, I didn't want to put my biologics in the shared refrigerator. My mini-fridge saved me that year. While a little pricy, there was so much peace of mind knowing my injections were in a clean, private environment. Many college students get rid of their mini-fridge after a year or less of use, so buying second hand is also an affordable option (just make sure to clean it well).

3. A nice backpack

Do yourself a favor and invest in a good quality backpack. Personally, I found my laptop to be quite heavy after some time- nevermind textbooks, folders, and binders.

Don't be afraid to get a roller backpack, if your shoulders or back are terrible. I promise- no one will judge you. Unlike high school, I found people in college aren't quite as judgemental. Or, at least I never heard any comments from students about any of my ergonomic school gear. If anything, people told me I looked comfortable.

4. Eye mask

Did you know the brightest object in the world is your roommate's laptop screen?

You know more than anyone that you need to get restful sleep! However, college roommates can make it harder to rest at night. All-nighters, in particular, can mean the lights stay on or that laptop screens shine in your direction. That's not fun.

I didn't need the eye mask for the first few weeks, but once we got into the thick of classes, it was a lifesaver. Invest in a nice, soft one- especially if you have neck or jaw pain. While helpful, they can irritate you a little. On nights I flared severely, I just dropped a small towel over my head. But I much preferred the mask!

5. Soundproof headphones

On a similar note, did you know your roommate typing at 2 am will sound like a jackhammer?

Soundproof headphones or earplugs are a lifesaver. Whether there is a paper being typed at 3 am or a party in the next room, they can help you get a good night's sleep. They're also accommodating for resting mid-day, and for studying in common areas.

6. Two mattress pads

Do you cringe at the thought of sleeping on a hard mattress? I do! I'd rather sleep curled up on the couch that on overly firm, lump mattress.

My recommendation is to do two mattress pads. Invest in the first one: get memory foam, Tempurpedic, or whatever works for you. The second one can be a cheap, thin little thing. The extra layer, in my experience, really made a difference in my sleep quality.

7. Step stool

I've noticed many dorms have tall beds, so you have extra storage underneath. While very helpful, it can be a pain to get into bed, especially after a long day. A cheap step stool can help give you a little boost!

Bonus tip: have it shipped

My last piece of wisdom is not to buy these things before and bring them with you. Make move-in easier on yourself and buy them online and have them shipped to your dorm. Or, if you're like me and love in-store clearance, make sure you have plenty of helpers for move-in. Usually, two or three people are more than enough, especially if you have a lot of stuff or heavy things (AKA, the mini-fridge).

Living independently for the first time is both exciting and scary! But it's an invaluable learning experience that helps you become more responsible. It was also my first taste of the challenges I'd face becoming an adult with psoriatic arthritis. While my gear didn't necessarily make life easier or less stressful, it did make it a little more comfortable.

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