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College: What You Actually Need

A friend of mine is starting college in the fall and asked me for some packing advice. Packing for college may sound simple, but it can be extremely overwhelming. After a full year of living in the dorms, I have realized what is actually important to bring and what is completely unnecessary.

There are two main packing categories: what you bring and what you buy. We’ll start off with what you bring. My biggest suggestion is that you start early. I separated my room into four regions towards the beginning of the summer and worked on each part for a week or two. I went through every drawer and shelf and de-cluttered. I threw things out and donated multiple bags of clothing. What this process will help you realize is what is actually important to you. You will be leaving your home and you can’t bring everything, so ask yourself: what can’t I live without for a year? What I soon realized is that the things I could live without, were items I really didn’t need. I mean if you aren’t going to use it for a whole year, when will you ever? By the end of the summer the things left in my room were items I truly valued and used. By tackling one section of my room at a time I didn’t become overwhelmed (well… not that overwhelmed).

Now, what do you need to buy? My school sent out a packing list with suggested items to bring to college. While I found some suggestions helpful, others were ridiculous. First of all, you don’t need an iron/ironing board. You hear me? Almost every friend of mine bought those adorable mini chevron ironing boards and never used them. No one (except maybe those pledging boys) irons in college. And I promise you, if you do find yourself in need of some wrinkle relief, there will be a naive freshman with an adorable mini chevron ironing board right down the hall who will happily let you borrow it.

Any college packing list will suggest the obvious: bedding, towels, shower caddy, hangers… But there are a few items I would like to heavily emphasize. Bring a printer. Even if your school provides free printing (which very few do), I recommend a personal printer. When you’re up writing an essay until 4am, the last thing  you’ll want to worry about is getting up early to print at the library. Having a printer will also help you make friends. I think my friends used my printer more than me and repaid me with paper (well worth it!). Another important item? A robe. Walking to a communal bathroom in a towel is just not for me. Plus, hanging out in your room with your stranger of a roommate can be kind of uncomfortable in a towel. Robes rule! I also recommend bringing stamps for letters to friends, a drying rack for all those items that really shouldn’t go in the dryer (you can’t hang your wet clothes all over your room like you did back home), and a plastic bin for your wet shower caddy fresh from the shower.

Now for a few of my packing quick tips…

-Keep your boots and coats at home: If you plan on returning home before the winter months, keep your warmer clothes at home and get them when you’re ready for them. I swapped out my crop tops and denim shorts for riding boots and vests in November, which allowed for extra room in my dorm closet (if you could even call it that).

-Invest in a Target card: See next bullet point for further explanation.

-Make a list of toiletries: I’m warning you now. If you’re anything like me, you’re going to need a lot of products. My suggestion is to make a list of the products you use while you’re still home, so when you get to college you know exactly what you will be needing. There won’t be enough room in your car (or in those boxes you have to ship across the country) for your shampoo and leave-in conditioner, and sunscreen, and laundry detergent, and dish soap (you forgot about that one, huh?).

-Get crafty: I had so much fun with my friends making DIY wall art for my dorm over the summer. Dorm rooms can be dark and depressing, so definitely bring some colorful items to brighten the space up. Check out these chevron canvases I made a few years ago here!!!

-Command Hooks are your best friend: Enough said.

-Dorm stuff might not be your style: Don’t limit yourself to the “dorm” section of a store. Personally, I think generic dorm bedding is awful. I searched far and wide for the perfect bedding  that fit my taste and I don’t regret it. I also got sucked into buying an acrylic desk lamp from the dorm section of Bed Bath and Beyond and literally turned it on once. It was so ugly! Your dorm room is your home so make it your own.

-Expect a mess: BRING CLEANING SUPPLIES! Clorex wipes saved my life the day of move in. I was not prepared for the amount of dirt and dust I’d find in my room upon move in. I heavily suggest wiping down every surface before you move in.

-Follow the rules: Before shopping, make sure to review your college’s dorm rules. For example, my school didn’t allow wall decals, extension cords, or toasters.

Packing is a unique experience and you will quickly figure out what works for you. No matter what, even if you forget a laundry basket or some washcloths, you will survive.

Good luck packing!


If you are curious about where I’ve been for the last year, catch up with me here!