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Queens Chronicle

Dorm life/bachelor pad 101 — Fall shopping guide

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Posted: Thursday, August 23, 2012 10:30 am | Updated: 12:39 pm, Thu Aug 23, 2012.

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.

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 young (and not so young!) folks is finding ways of keeping your habitat clean. Bissell makes inexpensive durable vacuum cleaners 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. 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.

Space is always an issue and even if you are not a “pack rat” or hoarder it is easy for clutter to occur. WOW Jewelry hangers permit you to organize your jewelry while keeping them out of sight in your closet instead of just tossing them willy-nilly into a drawer, or worse, left on your dresser.

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.

Black & Decker also manufactures the George Foreman Indoor Grill that claims to eliminate at least 40 percent of the fat in hamburgers. Hamilton Beach, a company best known for its blenders and popcorn makers, also makes a low-price indoor grill as well.

If you are tight on time and still want to eat healthy, Kettle Cuisine’s Three Bean Chili and Roasted Vegetable Soup are quite satisfying. If you want to try a lighter, more esoteric soup, Pacific Natural Foods makes pho, a Vietnamese broth, that comes in vegetarian, beef and chicken stock. Queens-based Garden Lites makes microwavable vegetable souffles.

These days everyone is on a tight budget so going out to eat anywhere has become a luxury, particularly for college students. McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Burger King, to their immense credit, have satisfying salads on their menus. Starbucks has fresh sandwiches and very healthy hot oatmeal. Even Dunkin’ Donuts offers tuna salad or chicken salad on a bagel for less than three bucks.

Coffee drinkers can rejoice as Starbucks has created its own single cup brewing machine to compete with industry leader Keurig.

Getting around campus, or off of it, is not easy without a car but having a Schwinn or Cannondale bicycle generally gets the job done as long as the weather is not too wet or cold and you get some exercise in the process.

The cost of laptop computers has dropped dramatically over the last couple of years. Sony, Hewlett-Packard, Dell, 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.

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 11 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. Backjoy is a fairly new company that makes a hard plastic cushion resembling a jai-alai cesta that you slide under your derriere which prevents improper spinal pressure when you are sitting for long periods.   

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 offers snug rubber cases that should protect most devices. Lifeproof may do Ribbz one better by guaranteeing that its case will protect your smartphone 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 has just hit the market and it has a list price of under $200. It allows you to easily surf the web and check your e-mail. It does offer fewer 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. Amazon’s chief competitor on the book front, Barnes & Noble, this month launched its own Nook tablet.

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.

Guys, listen up. It’s easy to get into a jeans and T-shirt rut. Armani Exchange, Eddie Bauer, American Eagle Outfitters, Stetson and Lands End all make great looking shirts, pants and jackets that are ideal for socializing, business meetings and job interviews. Auri Footwear makes fashionable soft-leather shoes that feel like sneakers. Crocs, the Colorado company that is celebrating its tenth year in business, has long been renown for its beach and pool footwear. The company has just introduced a line of loafers and boat shoes that are perfect for casual occasions.

Yes, study and work are important to success, but so is exercise. Spira’s Stinger 2 and Brooks’ Ghost 5 are incredibly light running shoes that make it easier to go long distances. K-Swiss’s Court LE Comfort and ST 329 are fine for pickup basketball games.

Moving away from where you’ve grown up for the first time is often the first time that you need to buy luggage. Transpack’s Butterfly Cargo and Ful 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.

It’s no secret that many consumers do all of their purchasing at one-stop online shopping websites as Amazon, QVC and HSN. Shopping center developers such as Westfield are starting to fight back by launching apps for smartphones and tablets.

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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