Tips to Simplify Your College Packing Experience

Tips to Simplify Your College Packing Experience

Monkey Business Images /

With the new school year coming up soon, it’s time to start packing and getting ready to move in! It’s one thing to throw some clothes into an overnight bag, but it’s another beast entirely to move your whole bedroom (minus the furniture) to a new location. If you haven’t planned a move on your own before, it can be overwhelming to figure out how to organize, pack, and fit everything you need. Are you going to drive all your belongings to campus? Will you have a sedan or an SUV? Is it going to be easier to ship boxes to campus and pick up any other items you need at a nearby Target? We’ve got some tips that will help!

Prioritize. Focus on the most important items first. Your bedding, towels, clothing, and toiletries are non-negotiable. If you run out of room, the less important things, like throw pillows, desk lamps, and wall hangings, can wait!

Plan ahead. This involves four things:

  1. Think about what you’ll be able to buy at a shop near campus and don’t waste room on those things. For example, you don’t need to bring snacks when you can just pick them up at the local grocery store once you arrive and get settled in.
  2. Think about what you can have delivered. If you don’t need it on your first night, you can probably get away with buying it later and having it shipped to you at school. Think: textbooks, extra pillows, mini-fridges, etc.
  3. Think about how much of each item you’ll need. Consider leaving duplicates at home (you don’t need four bottles of shampoo), especially if you can easily buy more where you’re going. Or, bring enough of an item to get you through the first semester, and restock over winter break.
  4. Think about when you’ll need each item. You probably won’t need your heaviest winter coat during the fall semester, so plan to pick it up and bring it back to school when you go home over winter break.

Make your packing containers pull double-duty. Although cardboard boxes work, if you pack your things in storage bins, you have the added benefit of having sturdy storage for your room! You’ll want to have a way to organize shoes, bags, and extra school supplies, so why not get one item to serve both purposes?

Have a system. Plan how you are going to organize your things as you pack; it may be helpful to keep similar things together. Put all of your kitchen items in a box, all of your toiletries in the same case, and all of your bedding in one bag. By keeping things organized as you pack, you’ll have an easier time unpacking!

Place the heaviest things at the bottom. Things like TVs, mini-fridges, and lamps should go in first. This prevents your lighter, fragile items (like dishes, toiletries, and food) from being crushed. After the boxes and hard-sided items are in place, fill in the gaps with fabrics and other items that can be folded without being damaged.

Use vacuum-sealed bags. If you’re really struggling for space, vacuum-sealed bags can shrink bulky fabric items (like comforters) down to a fraction of their usual size. Most of these are made to be used with a vacuum to pull the excess air out, but if you aren’t bringing a vacuum with you then you may be able to find a version where you can roll the air out instead.

Choose clothing wisely. You probably don’t need that sweater you haven’t worn in a year, or that dress you bought for one event and never wore again. Remember that the closets in most dorm rooms are small, so bring what you’ll wear the most. Also, you’ll (probably) be going home for Thanksgiving or winter break, so you can trade out clothes then. Do pack one dressy outfit for professional events.

Coordinate for large items. If you’re in a shared room, check with your roommate(s) about items like mini-fridges, microwaves, and TVs. Instead of each bringing your own (which you might not even have space for), you could easily share those items. Can one of you bring the TV and the other bring a mini-fridge? Alternatively, can you split the cost of both?

Check what NOT to bring. Dorms prohibit certain items for safety reasons. Obvious banned items include guns, drugs, and alcohol. Sometimes items like hot plates, toaster ovens, candles, and coffee pots are prohibited as well due to fire risk. Check with your school to be certain of what items are not allowed and then don’t pack them.

The idea of packing up everything that you need can be overwhelming, but following these tips will help it go smoothly. Our Ultimate College Dorm Packing List can help if you’re completely stumped about what to bring and don’t know where to start.

What are your best packing tips?

About Hannah Holley

Hannah earned a BS in Psychology from the College of Charleston, and an MA in applied behavior analysis from Ball State University. She is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and worked as a therapist for children with special needs for more than five years, but now spends most of her time keeping up with her own toddler. In between playing cars and picking up after her tiny human tornado, she loves to try new recipes, take photographs, and re-watch episodes of "Parks and Recreation" for the 10th time. Hannah lives in Charleston, SC.

Leave a comment