Thursday, August 13, 2009

Preparing for moving to college

Though I haven’t had to get ready for back school season in a while, the memories of packing and moving to college are much fresher in my mind. Going away to school for the first time is thrilling, and if you don’t have older siblings or friends to guide you, it can be a bit disorienting to find yourself in a new place, having to bring all the possessions you think you’ll need and want with you. Here are some tips to make that initial transition easier, and more organized:

What to bring:

  • Flip flops, shower caddy
  • Laundry bag. Baskets are nicer, but they take up too much room.
  • Healthy snacks. Skip the candy, ramen and chips and go for dried fruit, nuts and low-fat microwave popcorn (The popcorn smell will be sure to attract some of your hall mates and is a great ice breaker-provided you share).
  • Climate-appropriate clothing. Whether you are moving from southern California to northern, or all the way from Florida to Maine or New York to Hawaii, you’re definitely going to need different outerwear. Don’t be caught sweltering or freezing, research the climate and order clothes online if you can’t get appropriate clothes near you.
  • Fan or white noise machine. A fan will give you an alternative to the background noise of your neighbor's GTA4 marathon and also get some air circulation into your room, avoiding stale smells.
  • Checking account. Well before you leave, set up a checking account at a bank that has branches near your school, if you don’t already have one.
  • Walking shoes. College life invariably involves a lot of walking, especially when you don’t have a car. Be nice to your feet and don’t wear flip flops everywhere.

What to leave:

  • Flats of bottled water, food. You’ll be able to get those things on campus or nearby. You’re going to college, not to a bomb shelter.
  • Expensive electronic equipment. It invites thieves and is usually unnecessary.
  • Formal clothes and shoes. Maybe bring one nice dress or blazer. Otherwise, college tends to be pretty casual. You might want to invest in pajamas that could double as streetwear, though.
  • Any heavy, bulky items or pieces of furniture. Your dorm room will come furnished with the basics, and you probably won’t have room for anything else. Plus, you’ll be moving again, either back home or to a transitional space or new room in four to nine months, and you won’t want to haul or store anything major.
Not a breakfast of champions

These tips will help, but remember, there’s no way to fully prepare for college life before you experience it for yourself, and you're going to make lots of mistakes as well as have the time of your life. So good luck and be safe!

Livable Solutions has more great tips, as does Unclutterer's college life tag.

Creative Commons shower caddy photo posted to Flickr by Noricum

Creative Commons Easy Mac photo posted to Flickr by bucklava

Lelah Baker-Rabe is a Los Angeles-based professional organizer. To discuss your organizing needs, call her at 818.269.6671 or email

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