about bulletins books Maureen Johnson dot com blog f.a.q. contact community
scarlett fever
suite scarlett
girl at sea
13 little blue envelopes
the bermudez triangle
the key to the golden firebird
vacations from hell
let it snow


Once again, I find it has been a month since I blogged. It is not that I am asleep and simply WAKE UP once a month, wander to the computer, type a blog entry in a fugue state, and then return for 30 more days of slumber. No! It is because I have been WRITING MY LITTLE FINGERS OFF.

Many of you are currently moving into dorms, and understandably, you have questions. Like, about your roommate for instance. When I went to college, I was pretty sure that roommates was selected in one two ways:

1. By some extremely cheap people matching software written by the same people who brought you Microsoft Windows Millennium (otherwise known as Microsoft ME, or Mistake Edition), an operating system famous for finding deleted viruses on your computer and reinstalling them for you and turning your computer into an unstoppable zombie machine by both crashing and then refusing to shut off.

2. By the people in the housing office, who carefully read every single application and profile and then got REALLY DRUNK and had a proper night of trying to make the most hilarious combinations possible. (That’s certainly what I would do in their shoes.)

The housing office staff

If there is any justice in the universe, and I think there is, then things have not changed. Which is why you, clinicalarachnophobe92, are now moving in with the current editor of TarantulaFancierBlog.com!

Plus, you will now be living in a room that, if in an actual human house, would have to legally be deemed a closet. Your furniture has been made by a company called Not Quite Good Enough for IKEA. Your neighbor is an aspiring DJ recently released from the Home for People With No Taste in Music, your Resident Assistant used to work for the North Korean secret police, and there is a dark green cloud hovering five inches off of the hot foods bar in the cafeteria.

Good! Everything is in order, then!

Still, it can sometimes take time to adjust to these new conditions. I am here to help.

@professor_moony How do I prevent overpacking for college?

College is a little bit like jail. You know how in jail, lots of things are used as currency, like cigarettes and food and magazines? College is the same way. You can pay for goods and services using everything from Doritos to hand tools to shoe polish. I used my handheld vacuum cleaner as a way of paying for dozens of trips to Taco Bell. So just bring everything. You will never know what you will have to barter.

@krislintz what if your roommate parties a lot and is super obnoxious?

Ah, the Party Animal. At college, the party animal is as ubiquitous as the common squirrel. You may find yourself living with the PA. Your first hint will be the morning you wake up and find his or her bed empty—and then when you are walking to the cafeteria, find him/her/it stuck in the shrubbery outside, emitting a low noise.

Drunk people are very easily confused, and there are a number of quick tricks you can pull to get some privacy and a good night’s sleep. For example, it’s very easy to make fake door number sign. If you are feeling fancy, get some of those stick-on house numbers from Home Depot or something, but really, you can just scrawl the number on a piece of paper. So when your roommate comes stumbling home, looking for room 216 and finds that Webster Hall, Room 216 has been replaced with 3472 Babcock Lane, he or she is likely to wander on and eventually just sleep in the bathroom or the aforementioned shrubs.

This kind of confusion can also work against you. I once fell asleep in my dorm room and forgot to lock the door, and a drunk guy wandered in, thinking he had found the men’s bathroom. Why he thought this, I genuinely have no idea. All I know is that I woke up to the sound of a fountain, and I remember thinking, “When did we get a fountain?” Except it wasn’t a fountain. It was this guy. And the thing he thought was a urinal was my roommate’s laundry basket. When we switched on the light, he was in the process of taking off his pants, which we confiscated before throwing him bodily out of the room, so what I would say to you is, if you live in a room near the bathroom, LOCK YOUR DOOR AT NIGHT.

@Spixdon How can I keep my roommate from eating my food?

I would take a page from any book on Eastern Philosophy on this one and suggest you eliminate the concept of “you”. There is no such thing as “your food” in a dorm. It’s like birdseed in a feeder. It doesn’t belong to any one bird—it belongs to the bird that is currently eating it. The upshot of this is that all the food also belongs to you.

Unless it is something really good, in which case you should hide it in your underwear drawer under your ugliest underwear. Eat it with the door and windows closed, in the dark, when your roommate is at class. Put the trash in the bathroom trashcan.

Are you going to eat that?

@hopeandcheer how do i deal w/ a roommate that says she’s a “death enthusiast” which i can deal with except she snores like a train.

No part of this sentence is good, but I can help you. First, I think you need to determine whether or not your roommate is in need of serious psychological help—in which case, you should speak to the people who run your building, who should be able to take over and get him/her the help he/she needs.

What I HOPE is the case is that you simply have an enthusiastic goth on your hands—which I know is kind of a contradiction in terms, but then, so is “death enthusiast.” I’m all for people having their phases, but “death enthusiasm” is one I have little patience for. So what I would say to you is TWO CAN PLAY AT THAT GAME. What you need to become is a life enthusiast. Like the Spice Girls taught us, “All you need is postivity.” Make it your goal to be the Happiest Person on Campus. Smile till it hurts, at nothing. Smile at walls and doors. Wave at birds. Have a catchphrase, like, “I Believe in Rainbows!” Which is not only super-positive, but also really annoying because rainbows exist and there is no need to go around saying you believe in them.

This is you.

To aid you, I have created this diabolically cheerful playlist of songs—songs I have used successfully over the years to annoy and confuse my enemies and turn them around to my way of thinking. Put together, they are incredibly potent. This won’t be easy, but you need to play these songs OVER AND OVER as LOUD AS YOU CAN. Your problems should be solved in no time!

For the snoring, I suggest (if you have it) an ice cube to the head. It is very effective and the evidence melts quickly, giving you Plausible Deniability.

@viviannguyen naked bathroom dash, WHAT’S THR BEST STRATEGY?

One thing to remember here, and I cannot emphasize this enough: BRING. YOUR. ROOM. KEY. Put it on a lanyard and wear it around your neck. You are never FULLY naked without it. Also, learn the patterns of your RA and any building security and make sure the hall/path/green/walkway to the English building is WELL CLEAR of them before you make any naked runs. IF AT ALL POSSIBLE, leave clothes in a location on the other end of the run, and by clothes, I mean anything, including other people’s towels and /or trash bags.

Don’t ask me how I know this.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Tumblr
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Slashdot
  • StumbleUpon
  • Print
  • FriendFeed

Posted: Wednesday, August 25th, 2010 @ 3:08 pm
Categories: advice.
Subscribe to the comments feed if you like. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

34 Responses to “HOW TO MOVE INTO A DORM”

  1. Vera Says:

    That playlist, Maureen, was amazing. I’m not going to college for two years, but I think I will blast this playlist to annoy my brother in the next room over. Thank you!

  2. Ashley Says:

    OMG absolutely amazing! I wish I would have thought of the fake door number thing back when I was in college and had a roomie who like to get drunk on the weekends (starting usually wednesday or thursday evenings!). I do however remember one of those night coming back from the bathroom and seeing her walk to the bathroom in a bra and thong…there were other people including a guy out in the hallway at that point. I still wonder if she ever noticed, and if she did, whether she cared or not.

  3. Paige Says:

    Maureen, how to I introduce my roommate to my Nerdfighter lifestyle?

  4. Gaby Says:

    ‘How to move to the UK’ would have helped me out too!
    But always so nice to read your blog, even if you only update once a month :)

  5. Cassie Says:

    I am a senior moving into a dorm with a bunch of freshmen. What should I DO about/with/to them??

  6. Jess Says:

    Maureen….what is the best way to make friends during your Freshman year in college? Also…how do you avoid the “Freshman 15″?

  7. Amber Says:

    Is there any way to have quiet reading time in the dorms?
    What should you do if your roommate is being generally moody and not leaving the room?

  8. Canariesskip Says:

    1. Let’s assume I own only one poster (which is of the periodic table) and am too cheap to buy any more. How, if at all, should I decorate my walls?

    2. Apart from “AHOY ROOMMATEY!”, what is a good way to start a conversation with your roommate?

    3. Everyone says you should get on good terms with your RAs, but HOW? I mean, am I supposed to bake them a cake or something?

  9. Sarah Says:

    Great article Maureen! You’re my favourite female blogger EVER (I read all of your archive in two weeks), and I read around 30 blogs on a weekly basis, so it means something. Anyway… I won’t be moving into a dorm until next year but I second Gaby’s comment, some advice about moving to England for University would be welcome… Although moving from France to the UK is probably different than moving from the US to the UK. But anyway, whether or not it’s relevant to me, your advice is always hilarious and appreciated.

  10. Sarah Says:

    Great article Maureen! You’re my favourite female blogger EVER (I read all of your archive in two weeks), and I read around 30 blogs on a weekly basis, so it means something. Anyway… I won’t be moving into a dorm until next year but I second Gaby’s comment, some advice about moving to England for University would be welcome… Although moving from France to the UK is probably different than moving from the US to the UK. But anyway, whether or not it’s relevant to me, your advice is always hilarious and appreciated.

  11. Alix Says:

    Great blog, as usual.

    I might add, though, that the party animal is not always a bad thing. I myself am an avid reader, a college graduate, I have a job and a home of my own, I am a total nerd, and could probably be categorized as a party animal.

    Let’s try not to think so narrowly and perhaps embrace a little bit of the party animal in each of us…within reason.

  12. Vivian Says:

    I feel like an idiot leaving my “THR” typo in there… That should be a “the” but I don’t care, in I’m MJ’s blog. :D Thanks for answering!

  13. Nushi-ke Says:

    Awesome Maureen.

    I have 2 questions: 1. I want to go to college overseas. How do I get my stuff from point A to point B without spending $3000 on luggage fees?

    2. I want to move out of the dorm during junior of senior year. Feasible or should I scrap it altogether?

  14. EJ Says:

    I have a question:

    I live in a single, so do you have any suggestions on how to make friends? I’m kind of shy but I’m willing to try anything.

    Awesome blog post, as always!

  15. Patrick Says:

    What do you do when other people eat all of your food but don’t buy any themselves? Especially when you have three other roommates and you don’t know which one(s) is doing it.

  16. a person who has been in college Says:

    a couple people asked about making friends and since I, a person who would describe herself as shy and introverted, wound up with a lot of friends/friendly acquaintances by the end of the year (so much so that my closest friends made fun of me for always seeing people I knew when we went anywhere) …. I have a little simple advice

    DO STUFF! join clubs; join the random people in your lounge who are playing cards at 2 am; go to games and plays and food co-ops. you will have a lot of fun trying new things, and without a doubt, you’ll meet friends SOMEWHERE in these groups. you’ll probably also discover you enjoy something more than you thought! (for example, I discovered a new interest in soccer, which before, I did not give a flying rat’s whisker about.)
    BE YOURSELF! this is the cheesiest, most annoying advice ever but it’s true. I spent the first semester of freshman year with people who did not appreciate my actual personality. the more we got to know each other, and the more of myself I revealed, the less they respected me and the worse I felt. so I spent the next half of the year seeking out new people… and I was so much happier. just try to be sincere. don’t fake interest in something or be what you’re not – but also don’t be afraid to do new things

    oh and, if you aren’t friends with your floormates, it’s ok! living on the same floor does not mean you are destined for friendship.

    good luck, college freshmen-and-women! it’s hard but it’s glorious.

  17. Chip Says:

    Oh shit. I generally think of myself as a pessimist, but when I looked at your playlist I found I already had three of the songs and have been planning on downloading two of the others. You may have just destroyed my entire self image with one playlist!

  18. Hayley Says:

    I just transferred to a new college, so this was right on time! Class starts tomorrow.

    I actually do live next to a DJ.

  19. Iris Says:

    I just finished my requisite one year of dorm life in June (woo! hoorah! yay! promoted to the campus apartments!), and I, for one, can attest to the accuracy of this blog post…
    The only thing my roommate and I have in common is genitalia; the DJ-next-door’s music collection ranged from Mexican deranged circus frenetics to Eye of the Tiger to horrible “ass and titties” rap, which frequently attracted strangers asking where the party was; by the end of the year my room numbers laid to rest on the ceiling and my neighbors lived in the “bathroom”; I hid my tub of nutella in a cardboard box formerly inhabited by a new telephone …no one ate it but ME, except I ran out of crackers REAL fast as those were left on the shelf; …(this is already too long).
    As for the last question … I go to the school where this (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Rain) occurs. That is all.

    @Canariesskip’s third Q: it never hurt. Easy route: arrive with 100 cookies, share with RAs/roommates/neighbors. Also a conversation starter.

  20. Val Says:

    Maureen, your playlist is incredible, and I already have several of the songs, but I believe your missing a VERY important one: Mr. Blue Sky by Elo!
    It’s the go-to songs movies use when a character is in a good mood.

    Loved this blog post :D

  21. Ryan Says:

    The playlist works a million times better if you learn all the words. Trust me.

  22. Laura (a.k.a. darcybear) Says:


    1. Rip pages out of magazines, glue bits of trash to the walls, just read about Ginny’s aunt in Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes and use it like instructions.

    2. Make, “Ahoy Roommatey!” your THING. Do it every time you see your roommate. If this does not work, draw her portrait lots of times and glue those to your walls too.

    3. You should bake a cake for your R.A. Do it several times. Unless she is unable to have gluten, then no cake. Something else, though. Oh–Flourless Cake. It exists.

  23. Laura (a.k.a. darcybear) Says:

    @Patrick Buy them food, wrap it like a present as if you plan to give it to them, but eat it yourself. Even if you have to eat until you feel sick, make sure you get it all down in one go. Then leave the opened present and food wreckage on their bed to show them they HAD food, but it is gone. Then pretend you have no idea what they are talking about when they ask you what happened.

  24. Laura (a.k.a. darcybear) Says:

    @Jess You can make friends by giving out cake. Also by being nice and smiling, helping people move large things down the hallway, and carrying around a book you love for a while and waiting for someone to comment. My Star Trek t-shirt did wonders. So did my knitting.

    There is no avoiding the Freshman 15. Just make sure you take others with you.*

    *See cake, above.

  25. Laura (a.k.a. darcybear) Says:

    And lastly, for M.J.

    Why no Abba?

  26. Cait Says:

    1.) My vacuum was totally a whore my freshman year of college. Everyone, including my best friend, my BERM’s best friend, and my RA, all used that vacuum.
    2.) It is entirely possible to be super-loud and obnoxious while entirely sober, as 2 of my BERM’s have proven. They just sat in their bed 24/7 talking to their High School friends on their phones REALLY loudly, while simultaneously watching ridiculously trashy reality TV. One of them also had a boyfriend who basically lived in our room.
    3.) I once had a BERM steal an entire box of gushers and a tide pen from me while I was gone for the weekend, so when she was gone foe the weekend I ate all of her Swedish Fish and Sour Patch Kids and left all the empty wrappers in the box where she kept them. That was a very passive-aggressive semester for the two of us.
    4.) I’ve actually done this in reverse, the party girls across the hall would blast Miley Cyrus and HSM and Britney Spears while getting ready to go out (Which was about the time I was going to bed) so the next morning while they were hung over and sleeping in, we blasted Grunge and Indie and Nerd music and all that crap. It was wonderful.
    5.) I don’t have much experience in this area, but the room-key advice is also very good advice for taking a shower, particularly if you’re not getting alone well with your roommate. Getting locked out in only a towel is not a good thing.

    (I just realized BERM probably isn’t a commonly used term. Its short for “Bitchy Ex-Roommate”)

  27. Genevieve Says:

    SO, I was told to ask your opinion of part of the syllabus from one of my classes. Here is a direct quote of some of the interesting parts of the Dos and Don’ts.

    “On the days you will come to class or go to the computer laboratories, DO USE soap, deodorants, and toothpaste. Please keep in mind that physical proximity is almost unavoidable in educational settings and bad odors disturb other students and professors disrupting the learning/teaching process.

    Do NOT take your shoes off and rub between your toes with your fingers.

    Cover your cough or sneeze with a handkerchief or your sleeve(s). Do not pick your nose in class. LACK OF HYGIENE IS UNACCEPTABLE BEHAVIOR AT *insert school here*.”

    It also goes to say to not sharpen your pencil(s) or use the stapler while in class. And by sharpen, he doesn’t mean using the one connected to the wall. He means not even a little hand one over the trash.

    And no food, and/or drinks, and/or “chewables”. And it included water and gum. No spitting.


    And if you break any of the rules, you’re asked to leave that day and you get an absent (and a zero on the HW). School rules are 3 absents = a drop in the class.

    What do I do MJ? The list goes on forever? If you need photocopy evidence of these rules, I can provide it.

  28. Rachel Says:

    This could not have come at a BETTER time as I have literally just today moved into a dorm type situation. I don’t have a rommate who is a “death enthusiast” otherwise I would totally take your advice.

  29. pete275 Says:

    I believe in rainbows. Also I believe they had computers and software back in the 90s. I do, seriously.

  30. Dr. Sallie N. Cheinsteen Says:

    I’m going to college now. And I don’t want to. I want to be a bum who does nothing all day. Actually, no. I just want to read books. But excellent choice in movies. It Happened One Night and is the other one Charade? I don’t know about the third. So, since I don’t want to go to college I guess I will just smile. Smile till it hurts. Like Cary Grant. And then maybe one day I’ll be as attractive as him, except the girl version.

  31. Laura Hanson Says:

    I heart that Ren and Stimpy is on your playlist. It has inspired me to buy all the seasons. Thank you and thank you for being awesome. Also, thank you for reminding me of when I was in college and watched many a drunk football player peeing in random and not bathroom related places.

  32. oana Says:

    I almost wish I could do the college thing all over again after reading this blog :-)

    if you haven’t already, read this article:

  33. 10 things, college edition « my mumblings Says:

    [...] grads, teachers and professors return to school and so it’s fitting that i came across this post by maureen johnson. i forwarded it to sister E because, you see folks, the youngest mumford (E) has [...]

  34. gary crespo Says:

    Dear Maureen,
    With regard to you diabolically cheerful playlist: Walking on Sunshine by Katrina and the Waves. Even the name makes my fillings hurt.

Leave a Reply