If you’re confused about the title of this post, it’s exactly what you shouldn’t pack for college. I learned this one the hard way so here I am, sharing my insight so you don’t end up stressed, hoping your dad can fit every last bin on that truck the night before.
Packing, the one thing that is exciting and annoying at the same time. I vividly remember my summer before my freshman year of college. My roommate and I planned everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, even down to the colors we were going to use in our room. We collaborated together on a Pinterest board, talked about who was bringing what and even printed off packing lists we found on the internet. Packing for college seemed so exciting until it actually came around and I realized how much of a pain it was actually going to be.
You have to think of EVERYTHING you need to live away from home. Like those little things you only need like once a month or once a year but you know they’re there in your house if you ever need them? Or all that stuff that your mom does around the house for you without you even noticing? Well, let me tell you, you’re going to notice when you show up to your dorm and have to basically start a new life for yourself on your own.
I mean, you’re really living on your own people!!! And when I came to this realization, I wanted to bring (you guessed it) everything but the kitchen sink. However, with both my parents and sister coming along and only bringing one vehicle, I was forced to pack my entire life and everything I needed to live on my own into a the size of the space in the back of my dad’s pickup truck.
And let me tell you, as a girl, it was near impossible and once I got to college and started living on my own, I realized many things I probably didn’t need to bring and wished I had brought some other things that I had not. Below I have created a small list of common mistakes people make on what to bring and what not to bring, as well as included a packing list of my own that I made to share with you guys!
WHAT NOT TO BRING:
1. ALL of your clothes and ALL of your shoes
So, this one was definitely a huge problem for me, especially my second year of college at UW Madison as the dorm I was in had a walk-in closet… I tried to tell myself that JUST BECAUSE I had this luxury did NOT mean I needed to fill it to the point where I could barely look through my clothes. Well, guess what I did. And, not only did I bring like 6 garbage bags full of hanging clothes (with the hangers rubber banded for easy moving of course), but I accumulated even more throughout the school year!
My advice to you: if you haven’t worn it in the past year, DON’T BRING IT! Even if you think you might (and even tell yourself that you will), chances are you probably won’t so leave it at home! This allows for yourself to have clothing at home when you come to visit for the weekend so you don’t have to pack a huge bag!
HAH. Okay, listen up people and listen good. When I say don’t bring 15 coffee mugs, I mean don’t. bring. 15. coffee. mugs. Nothing is worse than making food after class or coffee in the morning and having to wash your dishes in a communal bathroom that is shared with many other girls. And I know, it may seem that buying disposable plates and cups is bad for the environment, but make use of the recycling container your dorm provides!
My advice to you: bring one or two of your favorite coffee mugs and a favorite bowl or such, and that’s it!! I will never give up my satisfaction of enjoying my morning coffee in a real mug, but washing plates, cups, forks, and spoons are just a waste of your time.
3. Multiple Lotions/Body Products
Ask Kate, I had a major problem with this one. I had a whole small, three-shelf organizer filled with hair and body products, most of which I didn’t even use!! You know that stage in your life as a middle school teenage girl that thought it was a good idea to buy absolutely every single Bath & Body Works scent in every form possible? Well, two things. First, I would probably have a little bit more money to my name right now, and second, most of them I still have unopened! College is no different people, you probably go through like one or two bottles of lotion, MAX. Don’t bring 10, you have no room and it’s just plain not worth.
My advice to you: start by bringing the body and products you use on a daily or weekly basis and if you run out, THEN bring more!!
4. TIDE PODS
Name an unpopular opinion: Tide Pods are actually worse to do laundry with in college than normal laundry detergent. Hear me out on this one people!! I cannot tell you the amount of times that I have done laundry for hours on end, only to find that a Tide Pod has left a sticky residue on my clothing and has to go RIGHT back in the dirty pile in my laundry hamper. I swear it happened every single time, to the articles of clothing I wanted to wear that next day too.
My advice to you: laundry detergent goes a long way and has no chance of leaving a sticky residue on your clothing. Buy a smaller bottle of laundry detergent, put it inside your bag when you carry it downstairs to do your laundry and you’re all set to go!
5. Many bags/purses
The same applies to bags and purses as it did to clothing!! Bringing too many only takes up room and you probably won’t use most of them that often anyways! I didn’t have as much of a problem with this one as I’m not a huge bag or purse girl but I’ve heard of many others having this problem. Since these items are meant for holding other things, they tend to start to take up a large amount of space quickly the more that you have!
My advice to you: bring a max of 2 or 3 of your favorite bags that are also VERSATILE!! Make sure that they can be functional for many different things and go with many different outfits so you aren’t constantly switching bags and aren’t wishing you had that one bag that you only use once a year anyways.
6. Too many jackets
You would think that it would be common sense not to bring every jacket you own, right?… HAH well not me apparently because I had two winter jackets, three light jackets, three jean jackets and five vests in my closet at all times and I still cannot tell you to this day what for. This one ties in slightly to the next one but I feel as it should be it’s own point considering it’s extremely unnecessary to have every jacket you might ever need in your closet at all times as it just takes up space that you could use for something else!
My advice to you: bring your fall jackets with you immediately to school and as the year progresses, switch them out for the ones you need next!
7. Out of season clothing
Now I know that this one is a little hard to follow if you are traveling to a different state for your schooling, but nonetheless, if this applies to you, listen up fellas. You. Do. Not. Need. To. Bring. Clothes. To. School. That. You. Won’t. Even. Wear. For. Three. More. Months. Yet. If. You. Don’t. Have. To. Save the space in your closet for storage for other things and only bring what you will wear! Not only will this look less cluttered and make it look cleaner, but you have less laundry to do so who’s the real winner here?
My advice to you: find one or two times throughout the school year that are the most convenient for switching out your wardrobe! I found Thanksgiving break to be the best for my transition from fall to winter and then spring break to be the best for winter to spring (even though Wisconsin weather kept my parka hostage in my college closet due to the unexpected bursts of snow storms).
8. Leisure Books
Okay so I know you THINK you are going to have a ton of time outside of your schoolwork to read books you actually enjoy but there are two things that tell you otherwise. One, you have so much reading for your classes that you might be all “readed-out” (that’s not a thing or a word but you know what I mean) and two, your time will be spent studying and hanging out with friends that you may not have a ton of time to read, even if you want to!
My advice to you: If you absolutely insist on finding time to read books you enjoy (I know I wish I had more time to do this), designate 15-20 minutes before bed for reading strictly what you enjoy! I hope to do this more in the next year as it naturally will tire out your eyes, make you more tired in general and will give a better night’s sleep!
9. Binders/Excessive School Supplies
Hunny, let me just tell you this is not middle school where you go to the nearest Walmart, search for your school supply list and then buy absolutely everything under the sun. Chances are, you probably won’t use most of it and will end up finding it all in the back of your desk drawer at the end of the year. Even though I am old school and like to take notes by hand (as I have found I remember them better this way), I have found that the only school supplies I really use are notebooks, my favorite pens and the occasional highlighter.
My advice to you: don’t spend your time shopping for supplies until you get the feel for what will make you the most successful in each class. I found that taking notes on my laptop were beneficial for some whereas a notebook prevailed in others. Buy only the things you know that you will use on the daily, for me it was my favorite pen that I have linked below!
10. A Million Tiny Decorations
Yeah Pinterest will kinda get you all wrapped up in this one and will make you want to go to Target and T.J.Maxx an endless amount of times until you fill every single wall space and desk/counter space possible but I am here to tell you that this is probably the worst thing you can do. Not only does it make your room look absolutely cluttered, but think of all the room these items will take up when moving in and out of school! Yes, a couple of desk accessories and fake plants to make it seem a little more homey are completely fine but don’t go overboard!
My advice to you: bring a few to personalize your space and make it feel like home but don’t bring too much to the point where you can barely find places to put them all! Less is more people, trust me!!
WHAT TO BRING:
1. Actual Laundry Detergent
Even though this was mentioned slightly before, I feel as if it should be reiterated as it’s super important!! College dorm washing machines aren’t the greatest already so it doesn’t help if you add things that make your washing worse! Even though college life is all about convenience and making your life easier, using laundry detergent over tide pods is something that is worth it, trust me (please)!!
2. Extension Cords/Power Strips
I feel like this one is a tad bit common sense but it may easily slip your mind when packing as there are so many things to remember! Don’t forget power strips and extension cords as they are a life saver! Every college dorm is set up a tad differently but it seems that wherever you need there to be an outlet, there isn’t one and vice versa. These are perfect to keep near your desk for plugging in your phone, lamp, etc. and perfect to reach your TV to it’s nearest outlet without moving it from that perfect spot you found for it!
3. Long Phone Charger
I brought one of these with me to school my freshman year of college and I can honestly say it was one of the most life changing things I ever owned. My phone could reach anywhere in the room and still be plugged in! However, make sure if you are going to buy one that you invest in a nice one because after just 3 weeks, the wires in mine frayed and it no longer worked. It was nice to have my phone reach both my bed and desk without having to unplug it but after it stopped working, my broke college self didn’t see herself buying a new one
Nothing like getting caught in the rain, am i right people?!!?!?? This is one thing that I know that I never left without if there was even the slightest chance it would rain that day. Whether it be a rain jacket or umbrella, always make sure you are prepared for the weather that day considering you will be walking to and from your classes! Make sure to always check the weather before you start your day, just because it isn’t raining in the morning doesn’t mean that it won’t later that day!!
5. Portable Speaker
I can honestly say that bringing a portable speaker to college was one of the best things I could have done! It was used almost every day in our room as we were constantly listening to music when studying or getting ready to go hangout with friends! Although they may be a tad on the pricey side, it is totally worth it. The one I currently own that I bought last summer for the start of my sophomore year is the Bose Color Soundlink II that I have linked below! (In white of course).
6. Makeup Mirror
I think I speak for everyone when I say that no girl wants to be doing her makeup in a communal bathroom or on the floor in front of a full-length mirror. My light up makeup mirror that I purchased a couple years ago has been my best friend, and although it shows all my flaws up close and personal, it is the perfect tool to help me get ready in the morning. Even though most days I woke up 5 minutes before I had to leave for class and didn’t have time to put on any makeup, when I did have time or needed to get ready to go out, it was so easy and convenient! The best part about having one is they don’t take up much space but are easy to pull out once you need them! The one I purchased from Bed Bath & Beyond is linked below!
7. Storage Containers
When moving all of my items to school this year, I invested in a couple large plastic totes to make packing everything easier! When I got to my room, I realized that rather than sending these home with my parents, they made perfect storage containers to put underneath our beds! Trust me, any extra storage in college is a game changer. We used out containers for items that we wouldn’t need everyday such as our hammock, feminine products, umbrellas, heels, rain boots, etc.! Try packing your items into a few totes so you can make use of them once you get to your room!
8. Mattress Topper
I’m not kidding you when I say that college mattresses are probably one of the most uncomfortable things I have ever slept on. To all of my hometown homies out there reading this, remember the school forest beds? Yeah, it’s not different. It feels like you are sleeping on a summer camp bed if you don’t bring a gel memory foam mattress topper. Luckily, I never had to endure the pain of NOT having one because I did my research before going off to school so hopefully I’ll help others out in letting you know that if you need one thing, it’s this. Nothing is more important than getting a good night’s sleep in college as you are constantly tired so make your bed enjoyable and comfortable to sleep in! I have linked the one I currently have that I bought from Amazon!
9. Disposable Plates/Utensils
Like I said before, make sure you bring disposable items for your food in your dorm! There are plenty of recycling bins and ways to get rid of them in an eco-friendly way but trust me when I say that you aren’t going to be wanting to spend your time washing all of your dishes! That, or their just going to build up and you’re going to have to spend a half hour on a Sunday washing them with your roommate, not like I would know or anything…
10. 3 Drawer Organizers
I had two different sizes of these 3-drawer organizers at school and let me tell you, they made life so much easier! The first was a smaller one that sat on my desk and held all my makeup. Using this for my makeup was so convenient as I could move it out of my way if I needed to and was super easy to organize! I put all of my face makeup in the top drawer, eyes in the middle and then lips, contour and highlight on the bottom! This made it extremely easy to go through my makeup routine as the drawers were organized to fit my specific needs. The second 3-drawer organizer I used was a larger standing one that I kept in my closet. I used this to hold all of my socks, bras and underwear so that I could use my shelf space for other things! It was super convenient and made it extremely easy to get ready in the morning when I was running late for class!
I have found that these items have found themselves at the top of my “What To Bring” and “What Not To Bring” to college lists so I hope that those heading off to school this year find some benefit! I would love to hear how your college packing is going and if you have questions as to if you should bring something or not, reach out as I would be happy to help!