The do's & don'ts of dorm room packing

Back to school dorm shopping made easy

The time between receiving your college acceptance letter and move-in day is as terrifying, exhilarating, and most of all exhausting as the move itself. My twin brother and I took over every space in the house with dorm stuff, haphazardly packed into 100 Bed Bath and Beyond and Staples shopping bags and suitcases. After doing this for 4 years plus moving 3 times after, I’m here to drop some sage advice on how to do this simpler and a little less haphazard.

1. Do pack space bags

Space Bags are God’s gift to the frequent mover or small space liver. If you’ve never heard of these ingenious pieces of plastic, you fill them up with as much stuff as they can fill, and then suck the air out using a vacuum, essentially pancaking all your bedding and clothing. Instead of packing in suitcases, pack everything but shoes and accessories (no leather!) in these bags and pack them that way. You’ll save space in the car and have a safe place to store seasonal clothes that sits flat and can sit on your floor without worry.

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2. Do pack important things and essentials separately

First and foremost, if you don’t have some kind of overnight bag, pick one up. I recommend a Bric’s X-Bag from eBags or a Herschel Supply bag from Urban Outfitters. The Bric’s bag folds into a small included pouch, which you can hang from a hanger or a closet door when not in use. The price is a little steep, but I’ve had mine since 2011 and it’s still in perfect shape. Fill the bag up with things you’re worried about losing in the move and things you’re going to need sooner rather than later.

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3. Don’t bring your tsotchkes from home (for now)

Freshman year in college I attempted to move into my dorm with as much stuff as what was in my actual bedroom. Except, instead of a room that could fit a full-size bed and desk and bookshelf, I had a small corner of a room that I shared with 3 other guys. Needless to say, my parents left with half the stuff I brought with me. My biggest recommendation is to live in the space until, let’s say Thanksgiving break, with the essentials and whatever you and your roommate(s) have agreed upon beforehand, and not much else. If you have little things you want to put on your desk, or your walls, extra lamps or a shelf, hold off until you know it works and you know you’ll use it. We all get so excited before moving in that we don’t realize half the stuff you bring you’ll never even touch.

4. Do use slim hangers

To quote a movie that none of you have probably ever seen: NO MORE WIRE HANGERS! Same goes for the colored plastic ones, they take up too much space and look messy, and wooden hangers are for fancy people with huge closets. Slim velvet hangers (like these ones from BB&B) keep your closet space clean and you’ll find your clothes will fit better and you’ll be able to fit more.

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5. Do pack storage bins and shower caddies beforehand

When you pick a shower caddy or dopp kit, fill it with all your shower stuff immediately. Same goes for storage bins where towels, school supplies and other things will be staying. Pack it now and put it into your parent’s car already packed, and if needed tape it down so you don’t have things fall out. This makes these items a bit heavier than they would be, but it ensures that you’re not bringing things you have no space for.

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6. Don’t BYO mini-fridge and microwave...

...without checking your school policy and discussing with your roommate. Your school, if they’re not jerks, will offer to rent you a mini-fridge and microwave that are attached to each other for the year. You’ll most likely have to pick it up from some second location and get it into your room, but that’s why you make friends on the first day. This combo works just fine. It’ll keep beer or water or that strange-shaped bottle of Carlo Rossi cold and it’ll pop (small) bags of popcorn and heat up all manner of inexpensive food and leftovers from your family.

7. Don’t bury your bed linens at the bottom of your stuff

Your bed is the only piece of furniture that will be ready to go the moment you walk into the door and the only think you can start unpacking without it getting heavier. Pack everything into the car and then pack your bed linens last, so you can take them into the space first and get that out of the way. It helps to talk to your roommates about the bed setup and selection before you get there. You may not think you want top bunk, but trust me you really do.

8. Do bring a fan

Does your dorm room have A/C? If so, I bow down to you and am super jealous of your life. My entire time in college, I was never so blessed as to have a dorm with central air. I had to bring fans and A/C’s and just pray it’d get cool enough to sleep. Having one of those clip-on fans for your bed is crucial, but having a stand up one that pivots is even better.

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9. Don’t take on the burden of buying cleaning supplies alone

There’s so many things that you think you’re gonna want for yourself that you can more than easily share with all your roommates. Mirrors, rugs, and cleaning supplies are the big ones. Make a plan beforehand on who’s going to buy what. For Cleaning supplies we each took a turn refreshing over the year, it saved everyone money in the long run.

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10. Don’t overdo it

I can already tell you that you’re complicating this whole situation. Let’s start with shoes. You think that you need a pair of shoes, heels, and flats in every color. Most of those things you’ll never touch. Bring the things you gravitate towards all the time right now. If you miss something, ask mom and dad or whoever to bring it with them Parent’s Weekend. You’re gonna learn how to edit your wardrobe at some point, no better time to begin than the present.