Tips for Successful College Packing - Pack with Purpose, Unpack with Proficiency

Reference & EducationCollege & University

  • Author Mary Roberts
  • Published October 20, 2011
  • Word count 1,052

As the last summer of your life before college comes to a close and with move-in day just around the corner, you may be wondering how you will pack your worldly possessions and move them from home to campus.

Bring Only What You Need, Use, Love, and Will Fit

Determine Your Storage Space

When you’re ready to start packing, keep one very important factor in mind: you’re working with a very small space at college. Plan on having a small bureau, a narrow closet, and some desk drawers to use. This means you’ll need to be selective and pack strategically.

Determine What to Bring

As you start your packing process, use The F.U.N.E.L. System to determine what you really need to bring with you.

The F.U.N.E.L. System

Ask yourself these five questions about each item.

  1. Will it Fit?

  2. Will I Use it?

  3. Will I Need it?

  4. Does it Express who I am now or who I want to become?

  5. Do I Love it?

If you can’t answer "yes" to the first question and to at least one of the other questions, leave the item at home.

Then, separate what you know you will need from what you think you might need. Place the items you’re unsure of in a box in your home bedroom and ask your parents to send them along if you find that you need them later.

Observe the 100% Clothing Rule: only bring the clothing you’re 100% sure you’ll wear. Make sure your clothing is appropriate for the climate you’re living in, your planned activities, and your college’s vibe. If you’re not sure about an item, leave it in a convenient place at home, and ask your parents to ship it if you need it.

Another reason to bring a small wardrobe to college is that once you get there, meet new people and have new experiences, you and your clothing style could change: "In high school I wore preppy clothes," said a Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences freshman. "Now I have a Bohemian style."

Pack the Important Stuff!

A transition or security object

When you’re packing for school, don’t be afraid to bring one or two transition objects that connect you to home, family, and childhood. Your treasures from home will accept, comfort, and love you when you feel uncertain or homesick. This favorite object will be waiting for you when you return to your room after a hard day, and will make you feel safe as you make this enormous transition. So should you bring your blankie or worn-out teddy with you to college? Absolutely!

If you worry your roommates and friends will make fun of you for bringing such an item to school, remember that they’re all making the same adjustment, too. Even if you think you’ll adjust easily to being at college, bring one object to comfort you. If not a soft object to take to bed, then a poster or object to hang on a wall.

Supplies for a Healthy Lifestyle

Purchasing and packing items for school gives you a chance to create a better environment. By choosing health-conscious items (think healthy cleaners, school supplies, and bedding), you’re more likely to live a healthy lifestyle at school.

Also, because you’ll probably be living in a smaller space, you’re going to be more affected by the items you bring because they will be closer to you. The following six categories focus on items you can bring to support your well-being.

Healthy Household Cleaners

Instead of using chemical disinfectants and artificial air fresheners, clean and freshen your room with plant-based household cleaners, which can be found in many retail stores, or with homemade cleaners.

Safe Laundry Products

Plant-based non-toxic laundry detergents are gentler on your skin than commercial detergents and fabric softeners, because they leave no harmful chemical residues on your clothing. Unlike commercial detergents, biodegradable laundry products won’t pollute water systems or end up in the food you eat! For consumer information on safe household cleaning products, visit

Safe Personal Care Products

Personal care items are some of the most important items you will bring to school, so select them carefully. Makeup and skin care products aren’t subject to safety regulations, which means they can contain potentially dangerous ingredients. Read your labels and choose only products that will help you maintain your healthy lifestyle.

Non-toxic School Supplies

Many office and school supplies contain solvents or poisonous vapors that, when inhaled, can cause headaches, dizziness and lack of focus. Choose water-based, non-scented markers, and water-based glues (such as white glues and glue sticks). When possible, buy paper, notebooks and binders made from recycled materials.

A Shoe Rack

When you wear shoes in your room, dirt, dust, and grime fall off the soles and get tracked around. As you move about the room, these gritty particulates bounce into the air, and you inhale them! When you enter your room, remove your shoes and place them on a shoe rack at the door. Wear slippers or socks, or simply go barefoot in your room—and ask your friends to do the same.

Healthy Furnishings and Storage

Choosing the right soft furnishings can enhance the atmosphere and feel of your room. Sheets, blankets, comforters and duvet covers made from natural fibers like 100% organic cotton or bamboo will feel gentle on your skin. Natural fibers also let your skin breathe better, no matter the season. 100% wool blankets help you stay warm without overheating and are an effective flame retardant.

For the cleanest air possible, don’t get a carpet. However, if you do decided to put a carpet in your room, choose one made with natural fibers such as 100% wool, bamboo or jute. Chose a low pile rug, since plush and shag rugs hold more dust and contaminants, and when you walk on it these particulates are released into the air.

Choose containers made of fabric, cardboard, or other natural materials to store excess clothing and belongings. Plastic containers release toxins that affect respiration.

Pack with Proficiency

The things you take to school influence your life. Now that you have some packing know-how, it’s time to get started.

After eight years of helping hundreds of college students maximize their small, shared living spaces on campuses around our country, dorm sleuth and Successful Spaces owner, Mary Roberts and Brandeis graduate, Chrissy Callahan, have written a 10 chapter e-book, "Create Your Space, Create Your Life: Set Yourself Up for Success at College" downloadable at Download our free packing list under Products. Come and join us on Facebook

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