What an interesting thing, how one day stands out from the others.
My oldest just graduated from high school, and in less than a month I will take him across the country and leave him at college. No longer will I know where he is at any given moment, give or take a mile. This is a good thing. It’s something he’s aimed at and fought for, and I’ve hoped for and cheered for. But still.
For 13 years, we have been a household of two adults and three kids. That’s been the norm since my youngest was born. In just a few short weeks, one kid will only visit home. We will put his visits on the calendar and plan what we will do when he’s here. His being home will be a novelty.
I spend a lot of time writing about the home and the lives we live in it. Though I don’t write about my kids a whole lot, I am always thinking about them as I write. When I write about cleaning laundry, I’m thinking about their laundry. When I write about cleaning floors, I am thinking about their footprints. When I write about washing skin, I am thinking about their skin. They underly all my words, hovering in the background, or sometimes right at my elbow.
So, let’s get down to the practical. He’ll be living in a dorm, and I’ve been brainstorming what he’ll need for personal care and stuff care. I’m trying to be realistic about not only what he needs, but what he’ll actually use. When I went off to college, I was not versed in the whole Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap thing. Surprised? The soap company was my grandfather’s “thing,” and it was a little out there for my suburban, Guess jeans-clad, KROQ-alternative rock-listening self.
My dad shipped me a case of 8 oz. Peppermint Castile, and it sat in the hallway outside my door for the year. I didn’t know what to do with it. A guy in my dorm commented that it was what his family used when camping. I was astounded he’d heard of it.
Now I know better, and I’ve made sure my son does, too, and if he has any questions, he can always access my blog. (Yes, he subscribes.) This list is what he’ll use from the Dr. Bronner’s arsenal. I haven’t included personal care products like deodorant or sunscreen, which we don’t make, but rest assured, my son does use both.
What I’ve listed below is personalized for him and his dorm-living situation. He won’t have much space or need to care for rooms like a kitchen. He’ll also have to carry everything back and forth to the bathroom and the laundry room down the hall. So, use this list as a starting point. If you’re helping someone launch—or are launching yourself—into an apartment or house or some other larger first-time independent situation, check out my addendum at the end of what to add.
As I look over this list, what strikes me is that it’s pretty short. That’s the beauty of multitasking tools and products: you don’t need a lot. This keeps it simple, less expensive, and less cluttered.
For personal care
Personal care is… well, personal. So customize this, but I’ll give you what choices are going in the box I’m sending.
- Castile Liquid Soap, Bar Soap, or Organic Sugar Soap—In their favorite scent(s) for hands, face, body, and in my son’s case, shaving. Peppermint is the classic and great for waking up! My guy will take the Almond and Tea Tree.
- Organic Hand Sanitizer—Not just for clean hands, but there’s the aromatherapy benefits: Lavender to calm frayed nerves, and Peppermint for pre-exam energy boost. I’m sending both.
- All-One Toothpaste—Peppermint, Spearmint, Cinnamon, Anise? What’s your fav? It’s Peppermint for this kid.
- Bamboo toothbrush—Made of sustainable materials and compostable.
- Organic Lip Balm—Peppermint, Orange Ginger, or Lemon Lime, and always the unscented Naked which doubles as a moisturizer for cracked cuticles. I’m sending the set.
- Organic Magic Balms—Unscented Magic Balm soothes rough and chapped hands/elbows/heels or any irritated skin. (Beard or brow balm, makeup remover, carrier for essential oil applications.) Arnica-Menthol Magic Balm cools and soothes and loosens sore muscles & achy joints. Rubbed on the chest at bedtime clears congestion. Again, both are going in to my box.
- Magic All-One Chocolate—Food for the body and the soul! And an awesome icebreaker for meeting new friends. Doesn’t hurt to be known as the chocolate source on campus! He needs a full set for sure.
- Reusable bamboo eating utensils, water bottle & mug—Curtail single-use, disposable consumption, and since they are rather trendy these days, there are many options to fit one’s style.
For laundry & dorm room care
I’m under no illusions that my son will be doing a deep clean of his dorm room regularly. (Every parent can dream, though, can’t they?) But he will be doing laundry (I hope) and an occasional wipe down of his desk and other surfaces (maybe?).
For laundry newbies, write the amount per load directly on the bottles and boxes with a permanent marker. Too much Sal Suds would cause an impromptu bubble party in the laundry room! On second thought…
- Sal Suds & 1 Tbsp. measuring spoon—Use 2-3 Tbsp (30-45 mL)* per load of laundry. Apply a few drops directly onto spots on fabric as stain treatment.
- Vinegar—As fabric softener and deodorizer. Add 1 cup (240 mL)* vinegar to the rinse cycle (via fabric softener compartment).
- Baking soda—For extra whitening, brightening & deodorizing. Add ½ cup (240 mL)* baking soda to wash cycle.
- Wool dryer balls—For softening and speeding dry time. 2-4 balls for small to regular loads. The reusable fabric bag they come in is handy for keeping track of them in between uses. Look for those sourced from humanely treated sheep.
- Caddy or bag for laundry supplies—Something packable and easy-to-carry like a basket, tote, or reusable bag for carrying the above down to the laundry room.
- Laundry bag or basket—My parameters are A) sturdy and B) luggable. I went with the solid hamper with the removable bag liner.
- Small spray bottle—For an All-Purpose Cleaning Spray. Add 1/2 Tbsp. (7.5 mL) Sal Suds or 2 Tbsp. (30 mL) Castile Soap in 16 oz. (500 mL) water for cleaning desks, dressers, and such. Label with dilution for future refills.
- Cleaning cloths—Microfiber cloths or clean but worn t-shirts cut into 8”x8” squares. (Outgrown t-shirts with logos of past vacation destinations or favorite hobbies or brands may lessen the pain of cleaning chores!)
*Laundry measurements listed for standard washing machines. For HE machines, cut measurements in half for Sal Suds, Castile Soap, vinegar, and baking soda.
Additions for first apartment or home
For a first living space that is larger than a dorm room, consider adding the following:
- Printed Usage & Dilutions Cheat Sheets—These instruction sheets are quick reference for how to use Dr. Bronner’s products to clean everything in a house. Laminate or slip into a sleeve protector and hang with cleaning supplies.
- Baking soda—In bulk for laundry, plus filled in a shaker jar for scouring sinks, bathtubs, showers.
- Measuring tools & funnel—Any cook or baker will have the basics, but it’s helpful to have a separate Tbsp. measuring spoon to keep with cleaning supplies. A funnel is handy for making the All-Purpose Spray and refilling smaller bottles.
- Glass cleaner solution & squeegee—Premix half vinegar and half water in a spray bottle. Write dilution on the bottle for future refills.
- Foaming pump dispenser—Fill with a 1:3 ratio of Castile Soap to water and keep sink-side for hands or face, or even produce or a quick single dish wash.
- Quart-sized squirt bottle for mopping small space—My first apartment had only two rooms requiring mopping—a small kitchen and smaller bathroom. Where there’s little flooring to clean, use a dilution of 1/8 tsp. (.5 mL) Sal Suds in 1 quart (1 L) of water. A sports bottle works great for this.
- Microfiber mop—Preferably a flathead mop with swivel handle to get into small spaces.
- Toilet bowl brush—Look for one made from sustainably harvested wood or recycled materials for toilet cleaning.
- Dishcloth—Whether used with Sal Suds, Castile Liquid Soap, or Castile Bar Soap, there are a variety of sustainable and long-lasting options available. Look for dishcloths and brushes made of coconut fiber, recycled plastic, or with wood handles; colorful Swedish dishcloths; or a crocheted cotton cloth.
- Storage caddy—A bucket or other container for storing cleaning supplies and carrying them from room to room.
- Cloth napkins—Not only to reduce waste, but also an easy way to make each meal special, be it one dinner or several. In our house each family member has a different napkin pattern for repeat use, and guests are given one during their stay, too.
And something just for fun
Include a smile in the mix too! Check out these ideas.
- Sweet note to honor the occasion, such as housewarming, congratulations, encouragement, or a shared memory.
- Photos of family, friends, pets, or special places. Framed, in a small photo album, or with a hand-picked magnet for the fridge.
- A compilation of favorite recipes.
- Laundry sachets for scenting laundry or tucking into lingerie drawers.
- Deck of cards and board games.
- Favorite snack, drinks, a bottle of wine or champagne (age dependent, of course!).
- Small first aid kit.
- Power strip, charging station, cord organizers, batteries, and basic toolkit.
- Gift cards to local shops, restaurants, and museums.
They say that motherhood is the experience of having your heart walking around outside your body. My heart is about to take up residence in another state. If you have any words of wisdom (for either of us), I’m listening.
And feel free to share in the comments other additions you have for this list!