Dorm Life/Bachelor Pad 101 (Fall Shopping Guide)

Going out on your own is never easy, whether it be as a freshman in your first dorm, or leaving your folks’ home for your first apartment. There are a number of consumer goods out there to make your life a bit easier.

We are supposed to spend eight hours a day getting sleep in order to be at our healthiest. IKEA and Crate & Barrel specialize in beds that are designed for close quarters. Some of their models have drawers under the mattress so that you can store clothing and other items. Castro Convertibles, a store name familiar to nearly every baby boomer, has relaunched with new ownership and is once again making couches that open up at night into beds.

Vera Bradley, the Indiana company best known for its handbags has quietly been increasing its product line over the past few years. The company has just started manufacturing comforter sets. Lands End also makes high quality and reasonably priced bedding.

It is hard to be at your best if you continually toss and turn. Pillo1 makes high-end foam pillows that relax your head, neck and shoulder muscles while helping you maintain your posture as you catch forty winks.

The hardest adjustment for a lot of us is finding ways of keeping your habitat clean. Bissell makes inexpensive durable vacuum cleaner that don’t require you to be an MIT grad in order to be able to remove debris. Bissell’s Spotbot gets out the toughest carpet stains while its Lift Off Floors is a lightweight upright that effortlessly picks up dust. Unger’s neatHOME line of dusters, scrubbers, and yes, squeegees are good for the cleaning jobs where you don’t have to plug in an appliance.

Both Ecos and Ecover make chemical-free cleaners for the kitchen and bathroom as well as “green” laundry detergents. Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Surface Wipes will also help keep your abode germ-free.

Keeping the air in your apartment clean is just as important as cleaning the surfaces of it. The Venta Airwasher is a compact humidifier that keeps the air in your room from getting dry and stale thus making it easier to breathe, particularly in the winter when many apartments get too hot from radiator steam. Air fresheners such as the ones made by Yankee Candle and Little Trees are a good idea for your closets and obviously your bathroom.

Even the least handy of us has to occasionally drive a nail into the wall. Black & Decker’s well-named “Fat Max” oversized hammer makes it easier to hang a picture on a dense wall. Stanley also makes a full line of hammers, plyers, screwdrivers, and of course power tools.

Black & Decker also manufactures the George Foreman Indoor Grill that claims to eliminate at least forty per cent of the fat in hamburgers. Hamilton Beach, a company best known for its blenders and popcorn makers, also makes a low price point indoor grill as well.

Opening cardboard boxes can be time-consuming and risky. Irwin Tools’ Folding Utility Knives are as safe a blade as you will find.

It is getting harder to find banks to offer safe deposit boxes to store one’s valuables. Sentry makes small safes that you can put in any closet.

With identity theft being rampant it is crucial not just to half-heartedly tear up documents that have account numbers, or even more problematic, your social security number on them. It’s imperative to have a durable shredder such as the ones manufactured by Fellowes which you can find at Staples or ones made by Royal that are sold at Radio Shack.

Just as Kleenex is synonymous with tissues themselves, and Jell-o is used my most people when they want gelatin, so is Thermos identified with any beverage bottle that can keep hot beverages hot and cold beverages cold for long periods of time. The company is expanding from liquids into solid foods as it’s now offering food jars that will keep lunch items at their desired temperatures even if you are away from an oven or refrigerator for a number of hours. The same can be said for Thermos’ longtime rival, Aladdin, which seems to match them product for product.

Microwave ovens are certainly great for frozen dinners and reheating pizza but if you enjoy cooking your own food then you should consider the Philips Airfryer, which was featured recently on Fox’s “Master Chef” program that stars Gordon Ramsay, is around the same size of most microwaves but allows you to grill, bake, or fry foods from scratch in far less time than a conventional oven.

Tableware and utensils are easy to overlook until you want to have guests over. Stonewall Kitchen out of Maine ( is a terrific one-stop shop for plates, bowls, and glasses as well as for soaps and gift baskets.

Vitamins are important at any age and you can’t always get the ones you need from your daily diet. Quality of Life (QOL), Nature’s Bounty, New Chapter, Herbtheory, and Nature Made all produce a wide array of vitamins from a daily multi to Vitamin C to CoQ10.

The cost of laptop computers has dropped dramatically over the last couple of years. Sony, Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Toshiba, Lenovo and Acer all make durable computers that come loaded with popular software for under $600. H-P also makes several lines of ergonomically correct keyboards for under $50. Apple’s iPad has quickly become the biggest-selling device in portable computing but both Samsung and Motorola have launched their own tablet devices which are less expensive than the Apple version. The Acer Aspire is a laptop that detaches so that it can be used as a tablet.

Now more than ever, it is crucial to protect your computer from viruses and spyware. Norton and Kaspersky both make premium software to stop even the most sophisticated of viruses, while Malware Malbytes prevents malicious tracking “cookies” from slowing your computer down. Even if no one was trying to harm your computer, just visiting the Internet and downloading programs and documents, can reduce the efficiency of your PC. System Mechanic 12 will keep your machine running quickly by reducing the needless clutter that accumulates in all computers.

Sitting by your desktop, and particularly your laptop, can cause back strain. Staples has many comfortable and ergonomically designed desk chairs.

Not having proper lighting will often lead to headaches and possible vision problems. Reliable’s Uberlight 9000 C Task Light, does not take a lot of space on the desk, throws off a lot of light, and rarely requires a bulb change. Philips also manufactures a wide array of desk lamps.

The iPad’s smaller sibling, the iPhone, has become one of the most popular cellular devices. The problem is that it is easy to drop and very costly to replace. Ribbz, Trident, and Otter Box both make snug rubber cases that should protect most devices. Lifeproof may do them one better by guaranteeing that its case will protect your smart phone even if you toss it in the water.

Tablets have become quite popular because of their portability as well as being far less cumbersome than laptops. Amazon’s Kindle Fire is a small tablet that came out a couple of years ago and it has a list price of under $200 and its latest version has a high definition screen. The Kindle allows you to easily surf the web and check your e-mail. It does offer less apps than Apple’s iPad but that should change with time. If you are a bit of technophobe, the Kindle Fire is a great way to get you into the 21st century.

Samsung’s Galaxy Note 4 and S5 Android smartphones are quickly rivaling Apple’s iPhone in terms of market share and are preferred my many who use PCs instead of Macs.

Taking your devices outside of your home or office means that you are frequently away from   electric outlets. Battery packs from MyCharge significantly extend the time you can use your iPad, iPod, iPhone, tablet, and Android a lot longer without having to worry about plugging them into a socket. When you are in your abode iHome has a number docking station devices that will charge your devices and some of them have alarm clocks and radios to boot. Duracell’s Powermat lets you charge a number of devices with one plug.

As much we take it for granted that we are living in a high tech world, Hurricane Sandy reminded us that there is very much a place for old school products such as Radio Shack pocket radios, VTech corded landline telephones, and of course, Eveready flashlights and lanterns.

The fall is traditionally the most popular time of the year for guys to spruce up their wardrobes.

Schuyler 4, American Eagle, Armani Exchange, and Lands End all make great looking shirts, pants and jackets that are ideal for both socializing, business meetings and job interviews.

Levi’s have always been considered the Rolls-Royce of jeans. Like a Rolls however they have been far more expensive than their competitors. In response to the tough economy Levi Strauss has recently created a pair of budget lines called Denizen and Signature which provide quality at affordable prices. The company has introduced a new line of denim trucker and commuter jackets.

Sears’ various private label lines of Carhatt, Outdoor Life, and Structure make a wide array of quality and stylish coats, jackets, shirts, and pants at prices that fit into practically every budget.

Ties have made a comeback in recent years but styles have changed from the neckwear that our dads wore to work. is a clearinghouse for neckwear in all colors, designs, and widths.

Crocs is the Colorado-based shoe company that is best known for its ubiquitous beach clogs. Entering its second decade Crocs is expanding into everyday footwear and its suede moccasin is a comfortable and stylish shoe. Steve Madden, who has a factory/showroom in Long Island City, has been synonymous with women’s shoes but in the last few years he has expanded into men’s dress shoes as well as messenger tote bags for guys. Potenza is a new shoe company whose footwear reminds you of Allen Edmonds but it’s sold at a third of the price because of low overhead and the fact that its leather comes from Poland instead of more expensive places as Italy.

You can’t think about shoes without thinking of socks. PACT socks have lively styles and are made from organic cotton.

Being well-groomed is important for both career and social purposes. Panasonic’s Arc 5 is an electric razor with five motorized cutters that will give you a comfortable barber-close shave. Norelco, which invented the Tripleheader, which quickly became the most popular electric razor on the market nearly 40 years ago, continues to refine it with the Series 9000. My only complaint is that Norelco is that the company should start making corded razors again instead of making one charge it ahead of time. With cellphones and tablets, we have enough devices that we have to charge and limited space and electric outlets to do it.

Moving away from where you’ve grown up is the first time is often the first time that you need to buy luggage. Transpack’s Butterfly Cargo and Ful’s Double Time are lightweight compact rolling suitcases. Both companies also have backpacks for toting books and laptops. If you need heavy duty luggage, Briggs & Riley makes suitcases that will last several lifetimes. For weekend getaways, the Helly Hansen 50L Duffel Bag is highly recommended.

Go out and get “A’s” if you are a student or land that job or promotion if you are now in the “real world.”

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