Living By Yourself: Cooking and Laundry

Discover the underestimated importance of basic life skills like cooking and laundry as you prepare for college. Mastering these tasks beforehand ensures a seamless transition to campus life, especially if you're new to doing them independently. Don't underestimate their significance in shaping your college experience!

Cherilynn Tan
February 10, 2024
4 min
Living By Yourself: Cooking and Laundry
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Living By Yourself: Cooking and Laundry

While things like cooking and laundry sound boring and insignificant, you will be doing many things for the first time when you get to college. Mastering these basic skills ahead of time will help you smoothly transition to your new life at college. This is especially true if you currently rarely do your own laundry or cook your own meals.

Let’s start with laundry

Don’t assume that your college will have a laundry service. Any services they do provide might be expensive and inconvenient. Consider the following questions:

  • If there is a service, how will you sign up for the service? What does it include? Is it worth your time and money? Is it pick-up or drop-off? Does it include bedding, dry cleaning, and delicates? Will it provide bedding?
  • Where is the nearest laundromat on campus if you don’t use the service? Or off campus? Where is the nearest dry cleaner?
  • If you are using a laundromat or machines in your dormitory, are they free? When are the busiest or least-busy times to use them?

Check the following skill and knowledge list to ensure you can do your own laundry when you get to school. Do you know:

  • How to operate a washing machine?
  • How to operate a drying machine? Do you know where a lint trap is and how to clean it? (failing to clean the lint trap is a common cause of fires!)
  • What is the difference between detergent, bleach, fabric softener, and other laundry products?
  • Do you prefer softener sheets or liquid?
  • How to shop for these products?
  • How to sort your laundry?
  • How to read a clothing label?
  • Which of your clothes requires special handling? For example, which should be washed in cold, warm, or hot water? Or be dry cleaned?
  • How to hand-wash delicate clothes? Or how to wash your bed sheets, blankets, towels, or other large items? Or how to hang dry clothing?
  • Why some of your clothes might shrink?
  • How to get a stain out of your clothes?

Now onto cooking and food! My favorite!

Moving to a new place, even if you are staying in the same country, can still feel uncomfortable and alienating, especially if the food is very different. Many life skills revolve around fending for yourself, but consider this important question: What are your college plans for preparing food and eating by yourself? Consider the following knowledge and skills. Do you know:

  • What are the options for your campus meal plan? If there are different plans, do you understand the differences? Which one is right for you?
  • Can you use your meal plan at local restaurants or eateries off-campus?
  • You will likely get tired of the campus options, so do you have a way to pay for groceries or other food? Do you know how to cook some familiar / comfort food?
  • Have you explored ways to buy groceries and food on campus? Do you know how to get food delivered?
  • Do you know the difference between induction, resistance, and gas ovens and stovetops/ranges?
  • Do you know how to prepare simple meals or snacks? For example, do you know your way around a kitchen, like how to boil water for pasta, fry eggs, toast bread, defrost something frozen, or bake or heat something in the microwave or oven?
  • Will your dorm or apartment have a communal kitchen?
  • Can you have a rice cooker, steamer, microwave, or kettle in your dorm room? Refrigerator? Is any or all of this provided?
  • Do you know how to use a water filter?
  • Do you understand the basics of healthy eating? Or a well-balanced diet?

Finally, the “freshmen 15” is a common phenomenon. This refers to students who gain 15 pounds (or about 6 kilos!) in their first year of college because they fail to exercise and/or maintain a balanced diet. Remember, if this is the first time you are fully responsible for choosing your meals, eat something other than burgers and pizza!

Edited by Francis Miller, based on a series of articles by Jeff Neill

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