College Packing 101

Hello, World.

I return to school in a few weeks, and honestly, this fact is a little weird to me. All summer I’ve been looking forward to returning to school and seeing my friends, but now I’m realizing that going back means leaving my friends from home and my family, which I’m not looking forward to, but alas, I’m excited to be back at school. Since Mitchell arrives late Saturday night (3 more days!!), I’m trying to finish packing everything except makeup, hair supplies, and clothing this week. I know that once he gets here I’m going to have zero interest in packing, so I’m organizing everything that needs to be packed and beginning to place it in some stale cardboard, plastic bins, and suitcases. There’s also the fact that all my college stuff is in the guest room, where he’ll be staying for a week. Anyway, as I’ve been packing, I’ve realized that I feel so much less stressed about the whole process than last year. But then again, I had a lot more to pack last year (minfridge, microwave, desk supplies, office supplies, etc). Thank the good Lord for storage units because without the one I currently have in the Bay Area, I think I’d be more stressed about packing. I learned a lot about what you actually need, what you actually use, and how to fit a ton of stuff in half of a room (and a room that is smaller than my bedroom at home, in which I am the only resident).

So what would I tell my freshman self about what and how to pack?


1)   Do NOT follow the “suggested items” list at Bed, Bath, and Beyond item for item. While it is a great skeleton list to build your own list from, I feel it’s more beneficial to look at the list, or the hundreds of “college packing lists” on Pinterest, and circle items you currently have or that you do not have but will need, but make sure you’re only circling things you know you’re going to use. For example, if you are from Colorado, but are going to school in San Diego, maybe you should leave snow boots at home, and instead pack flip-flops. Chances are, those lists contain way too many things, and a lot of the stuff on them you will never use, and it will just sit in a dark corner of your dorm room until move-out day.

2)   Order your books online from your college bookstore, and check the option to pick them up from the campus store. This will reduce the amount of stuff you have to pack at home and travel to school with. I made the mistake of wanting my books early, and had them delivered to my house last year, and then realized I had to pack some 20 books in my luggage. Rookie mistake. Besides, I also learned that professors, unless otherwise indicated, don’t actually utilize your books until the second or third day of class.

3)   Sometimes a lot of little bags are easier to pack (and move-in) than a few giant suitcases. I’m one of those people that has a lot of odds and ends when it comes to things I bring to college, so it’s often hard for me to pack everything in one big suitcase. Also, since I drive a small car it’s easier to pack little bags, and shift things around to make it all fit than trying to jam a gigantic suitcase in my trunk. When moving in, if you have several small boxes, and you pack them according to a part of your room (i.e., bath stuff, bedding, desk items, clothing), then you can unpack box by box and clear out clutter quicker.


4)Be mindful about how many clothes you will actually need. I have a bit of a…clothing issue, and I have way too many clothes, probably because I’m terrible at parting with clothing. I keep everything, even things I haven’t worn in years. So, when I went to school I took almost my entire closet, which was a mistake. Dorm rooms are small, and the storage is limited, so I had random items shoved in the back of drawers that I didn’t see and therefore didn’t wear. One way to combat this issue is by going through your closet a week or two before you leave, and weed out any clothes you don’t like or don’t wear anymore. Once your closet has only the clothes you love, it’s much easier to pack. When packing, limit items to a certain number. For example, only pack 2 sweatshirts for the beginning of fall semester, and if you decide you need more once the weather gets colder, have your parents ship them to you. Also, if you’re close to home leave all winter-only clothes at home. You can easily exchange your summer/early fall clothes for you winter clothes when the time comes. This will allow you to get rid of clothes you won’t wear for a few months, and replace them with cold-weather necessities.

5)   Whoever invented Space Bags was a genius. Space bags make packing bedding, towels, your robe, and clothing SO much easier. Bedding is probably going to be your bulkiest item when packing, but space bags make packing bedding more manageable since they shrink it down. I figured out that it’s even easy to put everything in a space bag, and just carry the space bag into your dorm to unpack, without putting it in a suitcase or anything.

6)   If you’re taking a car to campus, or have a free day to make a trip with the family, try to only pack what you absolutely have to bring from home (clothing, etc.), and buy the rest once you arrive at school. This is beneficial because, going back to that list you’re going to make, some of things on it may depend on room layout and storage. So, if you aren’t sure if an over-the-door shoe storage gadget is going to work, don’t buy it until you move in and can see what kind of closet door you have. This method will save you a lot of money because it ensures that you won’t buy things you don’t need or things that won’t actually work given the setup of your dorm room.

7)   Make sure you have a mug. Now I know I have a serious addiction to mugs, but I really do think having a single mug your freshman year is really important. The way I look at it is, everyone drinks in college, whether it’s water to rehydrate after working out, coffee during those late night study sessions, or wine on the weekends, people drink something. So, having a mug is great! You could also invite people on your floor over for coffee or something, and that is a great way to meet people. In my dorm, we had Tea and Cookies every Wednesday, so everyone would bring their mugs, take a study or lounge break, and hangout together over tea and freshly baked cookies. It was one of my favorite traditions, and also a great way to get to know people my freshman year.

So there you have it, seven packing lessons I learned from my first year of college. I hope you learned something, and I hope you’re excited for you first year (or second, or third, or fourth)! Is there anything you’ve learned about packing for college that really helped you?


Callie Leigh 

2 thoughts on “College Packing 101

  1. Good luck going back to school. I haven’t been at home much this summer, but I remember the summer after sophomore year I just wanted to get back to school and then when I was there, I just wanted to go home. lol. It’s funny how the mind works!

    1. Thank you! It is funny how the mind works. At the end of school year I just wanted to be home, sleeping in my own bed and showering without shoes, but now I’m ready to back at school!

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