Ninety percent of colleges are already in session, or are going to be in session in the next week. My university happens to be one of the last to ditch summer so this advice is surely going to be useful to at least one student. Likely someone from James Madison, probably someone I know. But still, someone.
So whether you’re new to hauling all of your belongings from Point A to Point B, or you have no clue what you’re about to get yourself into, I have the stuff for you. Last year I moved into my dorm which happened to be one of the most spacious, room- wise. Somehow, though, I still didn’t have room for all of my precious belongings.
Step 1: Ask yourself in the third person, “Do you even use it?”
Ah, the dreaded question that your mom has/will ask(ed). Yes, mother. I absolutely do need this size XXS T-shirt from the third grade. What if it gets too hot in my building? Or hello, ever heard of a party? They’re hot and crop tops are cute so lay off.
Hi, hello. Yeah I’m here to tell you that you don’t need that T-shirt. This is a friend talking to a friend. I promise, if you didn’t touch it at home you totally won’t use it at school. The space is already limited and why waste it with that XXS Mudd Girl T-shirt when you could use that space for a pre-ripped $65 T-shirt from XYZ store that’ll actually fit you?
This leads to my next step:
Step 2: Don’t let nostalgia drown you.
My room at home is my sanctuary. It is a shrine to all of the greatness that I am. I have pictures from father/daughter dances and from concerts and family functions. I have medals of participation from sports that I truly was inept at. I’ve got stuffed animals that are named after their species and or defining characteristics: Puppy, Snow (for a white harp seal), Fluffy. I’ve got notes written when I was in tenth grade and pieces of paper with strange lists:
I’ve got stuff. I don’t need to bring that stuff to college.
And I will admit, I have a problem when it comes to clothes. Meaning I have a lot. I’ll never say too much clothes because, well, no. But, when I was packing for school last August I had a difficult time letting go of all my knick-knacks. I wanted to take everything that made my room so lovely and welcoming. Bedrooms are more than just the bed. So absolutely take that photo of you and your mom from your first grade Field Day. By all means snag a couple ratty pairs of sweatpants that you made a million memories in. Just don’t confuse your love for an item with it’s necessity in your everyday. My participation medal for ice skating has no place amongst my face wash and favorite concert poster.
Step 3: May the best pair of pants win.
Clothes. This is the kicker. Vacations are a bear because I pack my entire closet. Will it be cold for the 2.5 minutes after we walk out of the hotel to get to the car? Could I quite possibly be caught in a rogue monsoon storm that’s out of season and need goulashes and a floor length rain coat? A turtleneck for the beach? Yes. Need. Now.
This problem is even more prevalent when college is involved because this isn’t for a day or a week (hopefully). This is for months. Sure, you can go home (that is, if you don’t live too far away) and exchange clothes. Yeah, mom and dad can send you a package with your winter coat but we like things to be at the touch of our fingers. This is how you can prepare for any situation.
Shorts are good until October. Believe me, there will be a strange day in October that begs for your bare legs. Pants are good from September until the end of time because winter seemingly never ends. My advice is to bring three or four sturdy pairs of shorts i.e. denim, khaki. Then bring along as many flowy, cloth shorts as you want because they can be for class, parties, sleeping and gyming if you’re really feeling it. Floral on the treadmill. Groundbreaking. And this is tentative. Some campuses’ are year round warm. Some are year round cold. Some people hate shorts. Some people hate pants. Really, just bring the amount you know you will use. Don’t bring that pair that is four years old and still has the tags. You will not wear them. College doesn’t change you that much.
Pants are love. Pants are life. Pants protect you from mountain winds that make you feel like your skin will get ripped off. Bring as many as you can so long as they stay quarantined to a drawer. Or two.
Don’t even think about it. Put down that shirt that you wore once last year and have been saying “I’m waiting for the right time to re-wear it.” Don’t do this to yourself. Your mom was right. You should’ve returned it. It’s cute. But is it that cute?
Bring shirts that are versatile and then bring a few sassy numbers that you can pull out when you’re feeling yourself. We all have those shirts and I totally condone cramming them into the closet. In regards to cardigans and jumpers. Bring them all. All of them. Right now. Pack them up and sit them in your trunk and don’t even bat an eyelash when someone judges you for three tubs of sweaters. Live your life.
A Serial Layer-er.
Step 4: Usually, your parents are right.
J and D, my parents, chastised me for bringing all that I did last year. I brought way more than my brother when he lived in a dorm and when we rolled up to move-in, I had more stuff than all the other kids did. I
am was a pack rat. I love my things. My mother also loves my things, just not when she has to carry them up seven flights of steps. So when you’re packing and getting emotional and your parent or friend or sibling mentions that you may not need an item. Listen to them. Let go of your need to pack up your whole life. It’ll all be waiting for you when you come back home.
Extra deodorant? Don’t laugh in their face. You’ll need it. A first aid kit complete with a suture kit and burn cream? Possibly overdoing it, but it’s important to be prepared. Command strips? Extra socks? But mom, I already have twenty pairs. No, my friend, you need more. They will disappear and you will be left wondering why you didn’t take her up on her offer of ten new pair.
Step 5: Don’t get overwhelmed!
This is exciting. If it’s your first year then congrats! If it’s not your first time ’round then still, awesome. This is also a lot of work and it’s kind of super annoying and perhaps you’re just done with the whole novelty of college move-in and want to get this all over with. But don’t get overwhelmed! That prison cell looking room will soon be flourished and full of life and all of your creativity! Make it seem more home like by tacking up photos, posters and colors that bring you comfort. For freshman, your first few nights will seem like an odd dream but they’re real and okay. For everyone else, #routine.
Step 6: You will forget…
…Half of the stuff you need. You’ll have made a list. Checked it twice. Had your best friend check it, had your dog check it. You will still forget something you need. Totally cool. Once you figure out what you need, write it down. You won’t remember so don’t even try to pretend that you will. Call up your crew at home and ask if they can send it. If they can’t, and its in a store close by, just go buy it.
I haven’t even moved in and I know I’ve forgotten a good third of my mental list. I should write it down like I told you to. But I won’t. I also will likely overpack. But hey, it’s the thought that counts. Just don’t look at your overflowing dresser and closet. Pretend it’s not there. You’ll be fine.