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Senior Year Retail Therapy

Senior Year Retail Therapy

By Mir Kamin

Every time I tell anyone about this, I get A Look. You know the look. It’s the, “Mir, are you serious? Are you okay in there?” look. I’m perfectly fine and I have my reasons, so hear me out:

It’s September. High School graduation is next May. And I have already assembled most of what my daughter is going to need for the college dorm room she won’t be moving into for almost an entire year.

There. See? I practically saw the look, right through the screen. You think I’m nuts. I get it.

On the one hand, we have Bargain Shopper me at work; now that school has begun, there are plenty of sales on dorm-type necessities as all of the current college students have already outfitted their spaces. As someone who’s been starting Christmas shopping every January for most of my life, it makes perfect sense that I’d jump on these sales rather than waiting to shop with the rest of the world next summer. Saving money via early bargain-hunting is my thing. The “sales” stores will be advertising next July can’t come close to the markdowns I’m ferreting out right now. So part of it is a money issue.

Several of my friends have kids who headed off to college last month, and more than one of them availed themselves of the now-trendy option of using an online “bundle” service. (This is not an endorsement of any kind, just my quick Googling: check out’s bundles if you’re not sure what I mean.) It’s a significant savings over buying the pieces individually, one of my friends assured me, so why wouldn’t I just do that? I checked it out; although there are some choices you can make within their framework, overall I found their product offerings kind of limited. Is it a great idea if you just want to buy it all and be done, and the eventual owner isn’t all that picky? Sure. If you have a kid who has definite likes and dislikes and various tactile sensitivities and you join me in wondering when, exactly, “easy care microfiber” became the standard for cheap bedding (easy care = slide ride off the slick surface onto the floor), you might find that this isn’t the route for you. And it wasn’t going to be the right route for us.

And on the other hand, this is about a lot more than bargains, or pickiness. This is about change. This is about meeting my child where she is in the best way I know how, and if that looks silly from the outside world, so be it. My high school senior has had a bumpy road to this point. She’s one of the strongest and bravest people I know, and she has fought tooth and nail to be where she is right now: healthy, happy, successful, and thinking about her future. Given all that came in the years leading up to now, I quite literally could not have asked for more. She’s exactly where she needs to be to launch into adulthood when the time comes, and I know she has an amazing life ahead and (finally) in reach.

I also know that change is terrifying—for everyone, to some extent, but especially for her. I know that if I wait and we start shopping next June that anxiety will be our constant companion. I know she’ll overthink every choice, become mired in indecision, and what should be a joyful time of anticipation could become something else entirely. I know that when I left home at her age I couldn’t wait to leave, but she’ll have a very different experience, excitement tempered because she’ll be leaving her safe haven. I know that if she isn’t surrounded by the colors she loves, the sheets that feel “right,” everything just so, it will be that much harder for her to see college as the next big adventure. I know that if we spend this whole year preparing, it will soften the blow when the time comes to say goodbye.

There’s so much change coming, for her. So many things I can’t control or even help her with or slow down to make it easier. She’ll handle it—she’s ready—but in the meantime, I can spend this year sending her unspoken messages of unwavering support the best way I know how.

I bought a mattress topper. You are going away to college next year. No maybes. You’re ready. I found some nice, fluffy pillows. You’ll find a way to make yourself comfy and cozy without us, I promise. Mattress and pillow protectors; check. I’ll always be here for backup, even when I’m not with you. We sat down and looked at towels together, discussing the pros and cons of standard towel sets vs. what she’ll actually use, and then we ordered exactly what she wanted. Look at you, making choices, looking ahead, getting ready to fly. After a lot of searching and working my coupon mojo, I was able to snag a couple of really nice cotton sheet sets in her favorite colors. Will you miss your bed here? Probably. But your one there will be pretty rad. She spent some time looking for the “perfect” duvet cover, and when she couldn’t find it, we picked out fabric to make one, instead. Your space will be completely your own and unique, because you’re one of a kind. Some of the purchases we’ve decided together; some I’ve gone ahead with and showed her when they arrived; others are hidden, surprises yet to be revealed.

Every single acquisition is a silent love letter. By the time we step into her dorm, next summer, letting go is still going to be hard. I know that. But if it’s even a tiny bit easier thanks to a whole year of slow and matter-of-fact preparation? That’s a win. Bonus: her room is going to look amazing.

About the Author

Mir Kamin

Mir Kamin began writing about her life online over a decade ago, back when she was a divorced mom trying to raise two regular little kids and figure out what she wanted to be when she grew up. Now ...

Mir Kamin began writing about her life online over a decade ago, back when she was a divorced mom trying to raise two regular little kids and figure out what she wanted to be when she grew up. Now her life looks very different than it did back then: Those little kids turned into anything-but-regular teenagers, she is remarried, and somehow she’s become one of those people who talks to her dogs in a high-pitched baby voice. Along the way she’s continued chronicling the everyday at Woulda Coulda Shoulda, plus she’s bringing you daily bargain therapy at Want Not. The good news is that Mir grew up and became a writer and she still really likes hanging out with her kids; the bad news is that her hair is a lot grayer than it used to be.

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  • Love in a time of stuff | Woulda Coulda Shoulda

    September 8, 2015 at 11:01 am

    […] Also, if you think I’m crazy, that’s okay, but over at Alpha Mom, I’m revealing how retail therapy is about more than shopping right now. I hope it […]

  • Lisa

    September 8, 2015 at 11:36 am

    It’s so different being my older son’s mom. He didn’t really care how his room was “decorated.” but I did have a quilt made from his old t-shirts (some of bands like the Beatles, some drama productions, some place souvenirs). It was a great conversation starter with his dorm-mates, reminded him of home and, more importantly, helped me to give some kind of closure to his childhood. I think it’s GREAT to start buying and planning early. As he’s about to leave for sophomore year, I keep asking if he needs anything and am almost sad that the answer is no. Maybe I’ll sneak some family photos into his bag 🙂

  • HG

    September 8, 2015 at 12:02 pm

    damn onion ninjas

  • Navhelowife

    September 8, 2015 at 12:37 pm

    I remember when I would anxiously read to make sure your daughter was still keeping body and soul together, and now I rejoice with you that she is looking ahead. I remember the joy of picking everything out for my dorm room a gazillion years ago. 
    My oldest son is in his 3rd year of college. We did the bundle package because a) he was as unpicky as you get (I don’t care what color it is mom!) and b) they guaranteed the sheets would last for 4 years. We got two good years out of them, and they are still totally fine, only he moved out of the dorm and no longer needs the XL dorm sheets. The sheets were better quality than I expected, and held up in college laundry systems fairly well. But I did miss the fun of picking it all out piece by piece. 
    Next son is a senior too – and has had his share of issues – and I’m loving seeing him look ahead as well. 
    And my advice for senior years…just take the checkbook and leave it on the table….it’s expensive! 

  • RuthWells

    September 8, 2015 at 2:18 pm

    Awww. Sniff. My college kid could give a flying damn about anything in his room besides his laptop (boys!) so I missed out on this. It sounds lovely. xo

  • Genevieve

    September 8, 2015 at 4:08 pm

    This is all such a lovely way to prepare for Chickie’s heading to college!  The gradual prep sounds perfect for her and for you.

    And now I’m thinking that my unsentimental son who won’t care much about his dorm room might want to take a blanket that reminds him of home, and maybe I’ll get him a nice new fleecy one for the holidays this year, and it will be a good keepsake for him to take with him (there’s one I see him reaching for when he’s on the couch first and gets first choice of the ones in the room, but my husband picked that one out b/c it goes so well in the family room – but we could get a similar one this winter just for him).

  • Lynda M O

    September 9, 2015 at 4:17 am

    Mir, so many years since I began reading your WCS blog; Monkey was a youngster and Chickadee in middle school. The growth and love and nurturing that you have shepherded, freely given and surrounded them with will follow Chickadee into her future and she’ll remember it always, as she’s successful, with deep affection, I think. Such glorious gifts you have bestowed on both your kids…

    Thank you for sharing the paths.

  • Meh

    September 9, 2015 at 4:51 pm

    Heh. My mother sent me off with some old extra stuff she had lying around. Some of it was broken or shoddy. She implored on me to reconsider leaving for college because she was afraid for me. A couple years of frugal living later, some friends saw how bad my things were and took me shopping, because they were appalled.Yeah, I think you’re doing fine.

    • Mir Kamin

      September 10, 2015 at 2:37 pm

      This comment makes me want to take you shopping. I’m glad you had friends to do it, at least.

  • Mkw

    September 10, 2015 at 9:10 pm

    Suggestion from a mom who just sent a daughter to college… One also overcoming similar hurdles. I would recommend having her enjoy a pillow or comforter or something now. That way it won’t all feel unfamiliar those first weeks in a new room/dorm. We gave our big girl a new comforter set for senior year Christmas. That was the familiar item that went to college this fall. Towels, sheets, etc were all purchased on sales throughout the year to coordinate with the comforter…. 

    • Mir Kamin

      September 11, 2015 at 10:08 am

      Ooooooh good idea. Of course currently she is in a queen bed and will be headed to a twinXL (makes doing the bedding now hard…), but I’ll see if she wants to break in the pillows. Thank you!!

  • Andrea

    September 14, 2015 at 6:21 am

    ” A silent love letter”–


  • Jean

    September 16, 2015 at 4:49 pm

    This made me cry. My son is just starting middle school and is far away from this (we are working on “you need to be organized and this is your responsibility) kind of thing. But this is beautiful. Thank you for sharing her growth and struggles with us. Have been reading for a long time and it is lovely to see your baby bird taking the first leap from her nest 🙂