Time to organize for university

You may be moving out of your home and going to college or university for the first time or you may be a seasoned pro. Dorm rooms and apartment bedrooms are small so pack efficiently by taking the necessities. You can always get more stuff later. Check with your college for any specific guidelines or restrictions on what you can bring to the dorm. Let’s start developing a checklist to make the move easier.

A blue dorm room with a bed on the wall by a window a built in closet and desk at the foot of the bed.


  • Bedding: – Pack sheets, pillowcases, and blankets . 2 sets of sheets are plenty. Check the size of the bed so your bedding will fit properly.
  • Towels and Toiletries: Pack bath towels, hand towels, washcloths / sponge, shampoo, conditioner, soap, toothpaste, toothbrush, and other personal care items. Pack them in a waterproof container that is easy to carry to and from the bathroom. A second option is a container with holes for draining so things can dry out.
  • Clothing: Bring a mix of casual wear, dressy / professional attire, and weather-appropriate clothing. Don’t forget undergarments, socks, and comfortable shoes. Your closet will be small. Some things might go under your bed. Think about packing some of these items in bins that can be stacked and used as a bedside table. Don’t bring any red clothing. If you don’t do your laundry properly you might be wearing pink all year. Whites also get dingy looking if you don’t sort your laundry. Let the whites stay at home too.
  • Electronics: Pack your laptop, charger, phone, headphones, power bar and any other essential electronic devices.
  • School Supplies: Plan on buying your school supplies in the town you move to. Take a backpack / book bag , it can be hard to find one you really like at the right price when you need one quickly. If you already have course specific items remember to pack them.
  • Laundry Supplies: Take something to hold your laundry. There are many over the door bags or easy to carry hampers that can hold stain remover and laundry detergent. Know if you need coins, cash or credit on a card so you can pay for the machines. Don’t get stuck with all your clothes dirty and no payment method.
  • First Aid Kit: Pack some band-aids, pain relievers, thermometer, cold medicine, antibiotic cream and any personal medications. You may be thinking I’ll borrow it from someone. What if everyone thought like that? If you have it, it is a great way to make new friends.
  • Identification and Important Documents: Take your driver’s license, student ID, health insurance card, passport, and any important paperwork needed for college. Have your wallet or any financial information with you. Keep it secure.
  • Recreational Items: Don’t forget your sports equipment, board games, books, or any hobbies you enjoy. There will be lots to do on campus. It is always nice to be able to do something in your room.
  • Miscellaneous: Don’t forget items like a water bottle, reusable coffee mug, earplugs, a small sewing kit, hangers, a small toolkit, and a desk lamp. You may not have worked at a desk in your room at home. At university, your back can get sore sitting in a bed slouched over a laptop. Consider packing a microwave-safe bowl, mug, plate and some utensils.

Coordinate with your roommate to avoid duplicating items like a mini-fridge or microwave. Bring a few storage items for under your bed, on the back of your doors and hanging things up to dry. Lastly, keep in mind that you can always purchase some items after arriving at college / university if you find you’ve forgotten something essential. Family and friends may be coming to visit you and can bring things you want, need or delayed bringing until later in the term, like seasonal clothing.

Read about the big laundry debate next week.

Let me know what you will add to this checklist

Julie Stobbe is a Trained Professional Organizer and Lifestyle Organizing Coach who brings happiness to homes and organization to offices, virtually using Zoom. She has been working with clients since 2006 to provide customized organizing solutions to suit their individual needs and situation. She uses her love of teaching to reduce clutter, in your home, office, mind and time. She guides and supports you to be accountable for your time, to complete projects and reach your goals. If you’re in a difficult transition Julie can coach you to break-free of emotional clutter constraining you from living life on your terms. Online courses are available to help instruct, coach and support your organizing projects. Get started by downloading Tips for Reorganizing 9 Rooms.

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8 thoughts on “Time to organize for university”

  1. Definitely time to get moved in. I have fond memories of these days with both of my girls. They loved having the IKEA rolling cart for a kitchen station. Most times they were able to rent a micro/fridge from the school, which saved us having to buy and bring one.

    I have girls, so they purchased and packed for a long time in advance. I’ve heard the guys are more relaxed about the whole thing. I recall a group of boys next to one of my girls in the freshman dorm. Three guys in a tiny room, and still they had a giant tv. That seemed to have been the most important thing LOL.

    1. Each student is so different and looking at their dorm rooms is fun when you don’t have to live in it. I have never heard of the school renting microwaves and fridges. That is a good idea. You know they are safe. My one of the universities had fridges in the rooms. I think having to rent it would make students take better care.

    1. A toaster is a great idea. I have seen some toaster ovens in student rooms. Most students have a microwave so they don’t use and electric kettle. An electric kettle would take up less space.

  2. Going off to college is such an exciting time! I have fond memories of helping our kids make lists and pack. The goodbyes were tearful. But we knew we had prepared them well for going off into the world. And figuring out what they would need and how to organize things was one a big step in the process of adulting. They had good practice with that growing up, but this marked a new phase in life.

    While it’s great to have most of what you need in advance, it’s good knowing that you can fill in the things you’re missing after you arrive. Checking in the roommates, as you suggested is another great idea to avoid duplication. Most dorm rooms aren’t that big, so storage and space are at a premium.

    1. Students that have families that have prepared them well to live away are fortunate children. Teaching them organizing skills is something they don’t even know they learned until they meet kids that have difficulty. Your children are very lucky to have you as a parent.

  3. Great list, but I had to laugh about not bringing red clothing, as my alma mater (Cornell) had red and white as the school colors. I owned a LOT of red clothing (shirts, sweatshirts, etc.) but I knew how to properly do laundry — not because I ever once did it when I lived at home, but because I remembered everything I heard from my mom. I would not recommend counting on that for most college-bound teens! 😉

    One thing that worked really well for me in the dorms was having nylon, zip-up duffel bags (the kind you could tightly roll up when empty and they’d take up no space). Mine were filled with all of my extra linens in one, and off-season clothes in the other. (In Central New York, you can’t count on the weather staying warm and then suddenly switching when you go home for Fall Break!) Nowadays they have risers for dorm beds, but we didn’t have those; the nylon bags kept everything clean and dust free and when properly squished down, fit neatly under the bed.

    When I was in school, you couldn’t have a microwave, a toaster, an electric kettle, or hot pot. You could use the dorm kitchenettes, but woe onto you if you were caught with even the tiniest cooking appliance. (Also, any of these would likely blow a fuse.)

    1. It is much easier to find places to store things if you pack in “squishable” bags. Plastic bins limit were thing can be placed. Things have changed as to what students take to dorm rooms with them. Thankfully the wiring has been update.

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