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Home away from home: What college-bound students need to create cozy, comfortable digs on- or off-campus

Rylee Skyberg's accumulation of items for college sits in their basement, ready to be moved in to her dorm at NDSU on August 20th. (Meg Oliphant/Grand Forks Herald)1 / 5
A towel embroidered with 'Rylee' is displayed at their home in East Grand Forks, Minn. on August 7, 2016. A classmate's mother gave out embroidered towels to high school graduates as a gift. (Meg Oliphant/Grand Forks Herald)2 / 5
Kristi Skyberg and her daughter, Rylee, pose for a portrait outside of their home in East Grand Forks, Minn. on August 8, 2016. (Meg Oliphant/Grand Forks Herald)3 / 5
Rylee Skyberg stands for a photo next to the items she has prepared for college, in her home in East Grand Forks, Minn, on August 8, 2016. (Meg Oliphant/Grand Forks Herald)4 / 5
Rylee Skyberg's items for college sit in their basement, ready to be moved in to North Dakota State University on August 20th. (Meg Oliphant/Grand Forks Herald)5 / 5

For the past few weeks Rylee Skyberg, 18, has been gathering items she'll need to create a "home away from home" when she starts college in Fargo later this month.

For the first time, she's leaving her family in East Grand Forks: mom and dad, Kristi and Jeff Skyberg, and younger sister, Macy.

"I'm nervous, but way more excited," she said. "I'm more sad than anything, being away from my family."

She wants to surround herself with soothingly familiar things in her dorm room.

"I'm taking pictures of friends and family, so it still feels like home, and pictures from high school memories I've made."

Sending her oldest child off to college is "fun, scary, nerve-wracking," Kristi said. "You're excited for them, nervous for them."

She and Rylee have been buying things in categories—and in stages.

"It's expensive if you do it all in one shot," Kristi said. "The credit card's smoking."

In the basement of the Skyberg home, a comforter, bedding, pillows, towels and a rug are corralled with other items into a pile. Toiletries and more storage items are on the need-to-buy list.

"My husband says, 'Do you need that much stuff?' " Kristi said. "He doesn't understand; it's a girl thing."

"I literally don't know how I'm going to fit everything I need into a 'shoebox,' that little room," said Rylee who's planning to major in exercise science at NDSU.

For a high school graduation gift, a friend's mother gave Rylee a laundry basket full of items to make dorm life more pleasant, including a small fan, a container to make oatmeal in a microwave, and a fluffy white bath towel with "Rylee" monogrammed on it.

A large metal "R," with tiny lights inside, will mark the room as Rylee's.

Items to maximize clothes-hanging space also await move-in day, Aug. 20, at NDSU.

"We've bought things to store clothing because those dorm rooms are pretty small," Kristi said.

Not knowing the exact measurements of parts of the room makes it difficult to know what type of storage items would make the most efficient use of available space.

Deciding what to bring for storage "is the hardest part," she said. "It's hard to figure out what you're going to do when you haven't been in there yet."

Kristi is holding onto receipts in case she needs to return anything.

"I've got a feeling we'll have too much of one thing and not enough of another," she said.

Because Kristi enjoys decorating, Kristie is excited to create a comfortable atmosphere for her daughter.

"It doesn't have to be 'matchy, matchy' but you want things to be coordinated," she said. "I want to try and make it as homey as possible, so we'll see how it goes."

Rylee and her soon-to-be roommate have not met in person yet, but have been in touch via text messages, sharing details about what each is bringing to the room in order to avoid duplication.

Among other things, Rylee plans to bring a blender and microwave; her roommate has a Keurig coffeemaker, a dorm-size refrigerator and an extra chair.

"I told Rylee, you can't take everything. I want you to come back for winter clothes," Kristi said with a laugh. "She needs a reason to come home—besides money."

Here are a few ideas to make your dorm room or apartment comfortable and organized, while showing off your own unique, personal style:

Cozy and comfortable

Add an area rug to warm up the space and soften bland flooring with color and texture. Decorative pillows and a throw blanket increase the warmth factor. Build a better bed with layers of comfort and support with a mattress pad and memory foam topper. Protect the mattress against allergens and spills with a mattress protector.

Lighting to rely on

The glow of well-chosen lamps can change the look of a room, and set the stage for serious studying or just relaxing. Consider adding string lights to enhance atmosphere. A floor lamp will free up valuable space on desks or side tables.

Well-organized and functional

College dorm rooms are notoriously small so students need to get creative when it comes to organization. Because closet or wardrobe space can get tight, maximize vertical space with double-hang closet rods and slim-grip hangers.

Power up

Use multi-functional bed-risers that have an AC outlet and USB charger to maximize the under-bed space while also providing a grounded charging station. Charge and protect electrical devices from voltage spikes by using a surge protector.

Make it personal

Accessorize your space with items that reflect you and your personality. For example, decorate the walls with inspirational artwork, decor, mirrors or pictures.