Back to Campus decorating and organization

Disclosure: My daughter and I participated in a promotional program with At Home and MomSelect. I have been compensated for this post. Read full Disclosure Policy.


Shopping Challenge

As our daughter counts down the days until she moves into her first apartment at college, she’s been busy thinking about the kinds of things she’d like to bring along to help with organizing her closet and office spaces. Of course, it’s fun to think about decorating your first place too!

At Home stores are celebrating Back To Campus season, and they’ve got lot of items perfect for decorating small spaces, dorm rooms and campus apartments. They invited my daughter to come and explore their Schaumburg, Illinois location (1325 N. Meacham Rd.) with a $50 shopping spree to help furnish her new place.

We knew that At Home was having a sale on campus-themed gear, but it’s always fun to see a sign like this greeting you outside the store too:


Clearance? Let’s go!

We’d never been to At Home prior to this trip, and if I had to compare it to another reailer, it’s kind of a cross between a Bed, Bath and Beyond and Hobby Lobby’s home décor and artwork departments. You’ll find everything from artwork to kitchen gadgets to end tables here, as well as throw pillows, lamps and lighting – even outdoor furniture and gear.

athome lamps

At Home has a free Back to Campus packing list on their site, and armed with that, my daughter began browsing the aisles… 


We had a fun morning shopping together! As I’ve mentioned in the past, our daughter loves to bake and cook, and this “Cupcakes make people happy” sign caught her eye for her new kitchen. Regularly $19.99, it was on sale for 50% off.  I was not surprised that it was the first thing she put in her cart!

Next, we headed to the throw pillow aisles. At Home has an enormous section of throw pillows – multiple aisles’ worth of embroidered pillows, screen printed pillows, large floor pillows, all-weather indoor-outdoor pillows – you name it. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many decorative pillows in one place!

athome mancave

As you can see, my boys were having a lot of fun suggesting items to their sister for her new apartment…

athome women

In turn, she had just as much fun showing them just what kind of space she was creating for herself.


One of the must-haves on our daughter’s shopping list was a full-length door mirror. We’ve seen these at other retailers, though most of the ones we’ve seen must be mounted to the door. On this trip, we found a mirror with included over-the-door brackets which will not damage her apartment’s bedroom door.


Her apartment has a built-in desk space, but it’s a basic countertop with storage cubbies below. She found this $9.99 metal mesh storage caddy for organizing everything from pens to paper clips.


Even though her apartment has a decent amount of space, our daughter’s shopping list includes some bedroom organization items to help keep things neat and maximize her storage. She picked out this underbed storage box with a zippered cover.


We continued shopping, and my sons continued suggesting random items they thought their big sister needed for her place. How about this large statue of a hand? (My youngest thought it might remind her that he’s “Number One!”)


As our daughter neared the end of her budget for this shopping trip, she once again considered going back to the fun throw pillow aisles for more inspiration, and then a display of Edison-style lights caught her eye.  (What’s a college student’s space without a string of lights hanging over the bed or couch?) She snapped up this string of Sylvania vintage-style lightbulbs for $11.99.


We enjoyed this opportunity to check out a store that was new to us and pick up a few things for her soon-to-be new home as well. At Home’s Back to Campus sale continues this summer, and if you’ve got a student headed off to college, you may find their free move-in checklist handy too! You can download and print a copy at this link.


July 2016 UPDATE:

A few weeks after this post, At Home invited me and my daughter to participate in a College Bound Shopping Spree challenge. We returned to At Home and each took our own cart, selecting $100 worth of decor items for her new apartment. At the end of the spree, it was up to my daughter to choose whose items fit her style and needs better — the ones she chose for herself, or the ones Mom chose..! Find out who won:


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Disclosure: My daughter and I participated in a promotional program with At Home and MomSelect. I have been compensated for this post. Read full Disclosure Policy.


  1. J.R. says

    The biggest tip I can offer is to shop at stores that have locations where you will be going.

    We bought stuff at the local IKEA rather than dragging boxes of stuff from Schaumburg.

    We pre-ordered stuff from Bed Bath & Beyond for pickup at the location near campus. THey were incredibly organized, and all her stuff was in one big box ready for payment and pickup.

    Even Target we browsed here, then purchased there.

    It already took 2 trips with the mini-van to move her in. It would have taken at least one more if we had bought all the stuff here instead of picking it up there.

    Plus the sales tax was MUCH lower there than it is here, especially for IKEA!

    The only thing we couldn’t do that with was her bed, since we didn’t know what was there, and didn’t want to have to buy from stock when everything would be sold out on move in week.

  2. J.R. says

    BTW, is there some way with the new site that I can only be asked ONCE to confirm notification on follow-up, instead of being asked on every thread I respond to?

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