The first thing I did when I found out I got into my dream school? Devised my packing list. Caught up in pre-college bliss, I spent the summer before my freshman year completely consumed by thoughts of twin XL bedding, colorful shower caddies, and decked-out agendas. After spending countless hours scouring the internet for the approved “must-haves” and “nice-to-haves,” I felt confident that I had compiled the perfect packing list.
Fast forward four years later, and I can’t help but mull over all the things I wish I’d never packed. Everyone will tell you about where to buy chic storage or what adhesive hooks you should use, but no one ever talks about the “don’t-needs”—the knick knacks that will gather dust, the unnecessary accessories that take up too much space. We’re here to set the packing record straight.
Disclaimer: Everyone’s packing list will always look a little different, as it’s largely dependant on your living situation (What essentials will your school already provide? Will you and your roommate be divvying up items? Are you living in a dorm room or an apartment?). Consider this a basic guide to the types of things you might want to think twice about before tossing them in your bag.
1. Every item of clothing you own
Not to be the bearer of bad news, but your dorm room closet will likely be exponentially smaller than the one to which you were privy at home. The key to making your tiny wardrobe work? Pack seasonally. Assuming that you’re heading off somewhere that experiences each of the four seasons, you won’t want your heavy winter coat and rain gear soaking up precious space when it’s 80 degrees outside. Swap out your swimsuits for your parka when you venture back home for the holidays.
Pro tip: Edit your wardrobe! If you know you haven’t worn something in the past year, you’re definitely not going to wear it in college. The same goes for costumes. Come Halloween, you’ll probably feel like buying (or crafting) something new.
2. Bulky appliances
Leave the Keurig at home. Considering universities are hotbeds for caffeine, you’ll never struggle to find a coffee or matcha latte around campus. While you’re at it, leave other kitchen appliances (like the toaster and mini-fridge) behind, as your dorm probably already supplies them. Warning: This doesn’t ring true if you’re expected to stock your own personal kitchen.
Unless you know that you’ll be in a single with enough square footage for a futon, you’re better off not buying larger pieces for your space, as your room will likely come with all the essential furniture you need (including a desk and chair). While we’re not promising they’ll be up to your style standards, they’ll get the job done.
4. Your favorite books
As dedicated bibliophiles ourselves, we get that moving somewhere new without your favorite reads just feels wrong. But when it comes to the next four years, you’re better off leaving your collection at home. Between extracurriculars and classes, you’ll barely have any time to read for fun. Plus, you’ll need all the shelf space you can save for textbooks.
5. Stationary and crafts
Aside from a laptop, notebook, and other crucial items you’ll take with you to every class, you can get by without most common desk necessities. I can count on one hand the amount of times I needed a three-hole punch, white-out, or staple remover during my four years at college—and when I did, I was able to borrow said tool from a friend or quickly find it in an office on campus. Likewise, it can feel tempting to invest in cute stationary for your work space, but believe me, colorful notes—along with envelopes and postage stamps—will gather dust at your desk.
Just don’t do it. Yes, printing will be a part of your everyday routine, but I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that the library has a much nicer (and more reliable) printer than the one you’ll end up purchasing at Best Buy. Bonus: You’ll never have to worry about stocking up on paper and ink.
7. Full-size suitcase
There will only be two times a year when you’ve packed enough stuff to justify a full-sized suitcase, and that’s when you’re moving in and moving out. Instead of cramming a bulky bag underneath your bed and hoping for the best, keep a smaller carry-on around for shorter trips, and pack the rest of your stuff in boxes when it’s time to clear out.
8. Too many throw pillows
For all the dedicated decorators out there, if there’s one thing to remember, it’s this. Yes, you want your bed to look perfect, but it’s already small enough. A pile of pillows will only crowd what little sleeping room you have left. Also, try your best to avoid husband pillows, which take up too much room and are quite frankly just ugly.
9. Any items your school prohibits
Most schools don’t allow hazardous items like space heaters, candles, halogen lamps, and incense. Before you begin packing, be sure to check in with your school about its unique rules and safety regulations.
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