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Statewide Homegrown 2

Making Your Dorm Room Feel Like Home


Maybe it’s the smell of a pot roast in the crockpot or freshly baked chocolate chip cookies that bring back the reminiscent thoughts of being home. For others, it could be seeing “the old truck” in the driveway or dad’s muddy shoes by the back doorstep. Home is the place that raised us and where your people are.

The end of summer brings many things, including the potential of packing up kids and sending them off to college. After that first delivery and freshman year, it does seem to get a bit easier. Often, there are fewer tears, less emotion and a sigh of relief knowing your pantry doesn’t have to be quite as full. And the pretty pillows on the couch might stay put for more than 10 seconds.

But there are a few things that you can add to your dorm room packing list to make it feel more like your Arkansas home while you are away.

Snacking is a college pastime – used with permission from J&M Foods


Yes, it has been a long summer, and for the last three months the pantry has been raided daily. Favorite snacks are sitting eye level and usually out of a box with no idea of how many you have consumed. The same can happen at college, so make sure you are careful about the Freshman Fifteen, it’s real!

  • J& M Foods, Janis and Melanie | Little Rock | Cheese straws, cookies, crackers and wafers you can consume one bag at a time!
  • The Crispery Crispycake | Little Rock | A stay-at-home mom took her homemade rice cereal and marshmallow treat and escalated it with new ingredients and a gourmet twist to bring out the kid in all of us.
  • My Brother’s Salsa | Bentonville | This women-owned business took a family recipe with fresh ingredients and changed the world of salsa.
  • Little Debbie’s | Gentry | A perfect treat, easy to grab for individual eats, and still maintain portion control. McKee Food plants make these snacking cakes, rolls and brownies.

A little bit of advice: chocolate chip cookies don’t really survive the mail, no matter what techniques you use. But leftovers always reheat when you’ve been home for the weekend.


Candles can add light and ambiance to your dorm room-pictures used with permission from Candles and Crème Collection and Wax Candle Company

Candles, Candle Melts or Reed Diffusers

There is something about the sense of smell that can take you right back to a situation. Whether it’s the inside of your hometown skating rink, popcorn at the basketball gym, or a bag of summer beach toys. One smell and you are right back in that place, reliving the special moments you made. Scents connect us to memories, and having a smell of something like home will make some of those tough days a little easier.

Arkansas based companies who sell candles and home scents:

  • Candles and Crème Collection | Bryant | Candles built around the themes of soy and wood wicks, this company also has a line of essential oils and room sprays that could be better options for dorm rooms.
  • Wax Candle Company | Helena | Established by a cotton farmer and former big-city bartender who dreamed one night on the banks of a river about candles with scents reminiscent of life experiences. These uniquely scented candles and iconic containers are “so Arkansas.”
  • Park Hill Home | Conway | While these can be found on Amazon or in a local boutique, the packaging/container is always set up as a bonus decoration, and the scents like Tall Cotton and Sweet Tea will take you back to your favorite places of summer vacation and porch swing talks.
  • Hanna’s Candle Company and CandleMart | Fayetteville | This company started when a poor college student started making potpourri in his basement. The company has expanded significantly since the late ’80s, and the CandleMart at their factory greets guests daily. But you can often find their candles on a Walmart shelf.

A little bit of advice: use a Mason jar, cut a set of chopsticks in half and fill the jar with water and essential oils. You’ll have your own room diffuser, avoid the flame, and cover-up whatever that funky smell is in the carpet.

Jelly or Jam

When you hit snooze on the alarm one too many times, you will not make it to breakfast before class. Having a loaf of bread or English Muffins handy makes for an easy breakfast or quick snack on your way out the door. While her homemade biscuits may not be there, having some of grandma’s jelly to slather on top will make you feel like you are sitting on her bar stool.

Arkansas based companies who sell jams and jellies:

  • Your grandma, favorite aunt or “that lady at church.”
  • Stephen’s Olde Tyme Mill | De Queen or Magnolia | This family-owned business started with a special technique for grinding fish frying cornmeal for gifts and turned it into a retail business with jarred goods and special occasion gift baskets.
  • House of Webster | Rogers | Jams, jellies, butters, preserves, and syrups that are shipped all over the world. Their beginning came in 1934 delivering homemade goods on a newspaper route.
  • Bryant Preserving Company | Alma | The Old South line of products brings to life well-known Arkansas garden delicacies like the watermelon rind and specially grown tomato-olives.

A little bit of advice: If your grandma offers you a treat in a jar, just take it. You can open it later and find out what flavor it is. Oh, and don’t be scared of figs or dates, they always work well on a sandwich.

Favorite Drinks

When you need something to drink, you want your favorite beverage sitting right where you like it. Now, you may have to be the one to restock the dorm room fridge or pour your own cup of joe, unless you work out a deal with your roommate or another pledge.

Arkansas-based companies selling our favorite beverages:

  • Grapette or Organette | Camden | Soda connoisseurs love the “bright purple star of the south” that took off in the 40s and 50s. The special flavor, developed in the late 20s on the soda fountain of a former lumber industry businessman, is now the secret recipe behind Sam’s Choice grape and orange flavors.
  • Mountain Valley Spring Water | Hot Springs | Water bottled straight from the source in the Ouachita Mountains since 1871. Plus, its water served in a glass bottle, and fancy water is “so frat.” That’s a term you will learn in college!
  • Airship Coffee| Bentonville | Coffee is usually the beverage of choice for most college students, and if not, college is where you learn to love coffee. This blend will taste like a vacation every morning and can quite possibly sustain you through any chemistry study session. SHIPPING ONLY $5 ON ALL ORDERS
  • Pink House Alchemy | Fayetteville | Syrups, bitters and shrubs made in a 100-year-old pink house by scientists. What’s there not to love?

Blanket or Pillow from Home

Whether it matches your dorm room décor or not, you will want a decorative pillow or your favorite blanket. You can throw it across the end of your bed or in the trunk of your car for watching intramurals, studying on the lawn or hanging out at a tailgate party.

Arkansas based companies who can help with home décor and fabrics

  • Grace and Glory | Rogers | Best known for their “At Home Collection,” these home décor pieces reflect an Arkansas lifestyle and their organizational bins have a usable vintage feel.
  • Pig Trail Trading Company | Shirley | Mud cloth, canvas and woven blankets for the “pig” fan and Arkansas lover.
  • Marshall Dry Goods |Batesville | The fabric selection at this store will give you plenty of opportunities to find something to make a new quilt, blanket or pull together your favorite t-shirts, thus far. You will have a billion t-shirts after the next 12 months.


Bonus Item

If it’s not already on your list, you’ll need a clear bag for football games. While searching through bags is a common practice at most arenas, it is becoming more common that a clear bag, tote, clutch, or wristlet is necessary to carry anything to the game. Save yourself a return trip to the parking lot and have your clear bag in hand.

If you are looking for a gift for a college student, anything on the list above will work. But, they might appreciate it if you focus more on the snack section. And, if your college student is heading out of state, make you include a little extra Arkansas love!


Cover image was provided by the Communications Department at Ouachita Baptist University.

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Keisha (Pittman) McKinney lives in South Arkansas with her husband and sweet Boxer, Bailey and one-year-old son! Keisha is passionate about connecting people and building community, seeking solutions to the everyday big and small things, and encouraging others through the mundane, hard, and typical that life often brings. She put her communications background to work as a former Non-profit Executive Director, college recruiter and fundraiser, and Digital Media Director at a large church in Northwest Arkansas. Now she is using all of those experiences through McKinney Media Solutions and her blog @bigpittstop which includes daily adventures, cooking escapades, #bigsisterchats, the social justice cases on her heart, and all that she is learning as a #boymom!

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2 responses to “Making Your Dorm Room Feel Like Home”

  1. Helen Lampkin says:

    Great ideas and tips in your article. Thanks for sharing. There’s more here than just for the college dorm! Appreciate the shout out for My Brother’s Salsa!

  2. Keisha Pittman McKinney Keisha@bigpittstop says:

    How fun would it be halfway through the semester to send a little “love” from home. I think we may do this for our babysitter who is going off to college for the first time in a few weeks

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