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Dorm Room Tips for an Easy Move-Out Experience

Ianni Le


I remember how exhausting it was moving out of my residence hall at the end of freshman year. I did it all myself, though I was lucky to have help from friends when it came to lifting the really big boxes. And it was still so stressful even though I knew exactly when I was expected to vacate my room!

I can only imagine how students — especially first years — felt this past semester when they were told they had a couple of days to pack up everything they brought to college and get themselves home. I’m sure many of this year's incoming freshmen are apprehensive about the possibility that they may receive the same abrupt and unwelcome news at some point during the 2020-2021 school year.

Incorporating some multi-functional items into their dorm room will help your student pack up quickly (just in case) AND feel good in their space. Packing aside, anything that is multipurpose is automatically the best option for a small space. An item that has two functions rather than one eliminates the need for more things, leaving more space to work with (and less things to pack)! If they need an ottoman, get one that doubles as storage. If they have space under their bed, make sure they put it to use. Make their space work for them!

Here are some of my favorite hacks for a multi-functional space.

Reconsider Sentimental Items

Encourage your student to take the time to reconsider the items they've started to put in the "take to college" pile. While sentimental or decorative items are important to help their space feel like home, it's unlikely they'll need everything they want to bring.

This year of all years, it's a good idea to stick to the essentials. Have them consider how easy the items will be to pack and how much use they'll get out of them day to day.

When I packed for my move to college, I brought every letter or postcard my friends from high school had given me over the years thinking they would be nice decorative items. When I got to my dorm, I ended up only hanging a few on my bulletin board while the others sat in a box in the closet. I ended up losing a few important photos while moving over the years — I wish I'd kept them safe at home instead of bringing them along everywhere I went.

It's also possible your student will need to put certain items into storage when they leave their dorm, and they should keep this in mind when they're packing up this summer. Remind them that you'll have everything waiting for them at home and if they decide they really need something they left behind, you can always ship it them or they can pick it up on their next trip home!

Switch Out the TV for a Projector

It might be time to make some hard decisions about that desktop computer or flat screen TV. These huge electronics are the hardest to move and take up the most space in the dorm so, for the time being, it might be best to leave them at home.

Why not take this opportunity to try out a projector instead? Your student can use them the same way they would a TV, and it will connect to everything from gaming consoles to phones! You can find ones that fit into the palm of your hand, but we recommend something a little sturdier. Though a bit bulkier, these tend to be more reliable and will give your student more flexibility over projection quality and how big they want their viewing size to be.

Keep These in the Room for Packing in a Pinch

Over the years, I’ve used pretty much everything to pack. I’ve tied sheets together for makeshift bags, thrown clothes into trash bags, and shoved a questionable array of knick knacks into laundry hampers. The creativity really comes out when you're desperate!

Here are some easy items (both the obvious and the strange) your student can keep in their dorm room that will really help in the event they need to do some quick last-minute packing:

Trash bags: Sometimes you just really need to get your things into something you can carry. Though I wouldn’t put too much faith in the structural integrity of trash bags, they're perfect for packing lightweight items like clothes, sheets and towels. Obviously this only works if your student will be traveling by car!

Duffel bags/suitcases: These are an obvious choice, but having one or two extra can be a good idea. Outdoor clothing and gear companies like Eddie Bauer and REI sell inexpensive yet rugged nylon packable duffels. There’s a lot to be said about having something with wheels and a sturdy handle for moving!

Reusable grocery bags: Get your student an IKEA bag or anything similar in size. While definitely bulky when full, they’re easily the biggest grocery bags you’ll find making them perfect for last-minute packing. That said, reusable grocery bags of all sizes tend to be durable, surprisingly roomy and easy to store away until they're needed.

Vacuum storage bags: These are the best for those puffy winter coats that take up an unnecessary amount of space. I also recommend them for duvets or really any clothing as they compress down to a quarter of the size so you can fit everything (and then some).

Everyday Essentials (that Double as Packing Essentials)

Laundry hampers: If you can, it's worth investing in a heavier duty laundry basket with sturdy handles to use as an extra box or bag for things when packing. Make sure you get one that can handle some extra weight, but will also work well for your student's day-to-day laundry trips.

Storage boxes: Reusable storage bins are obviously great for storage, but they’re also ideal for moving. And, should your student already have their storage boxes filled to the brim with winter clothes or anything else they don’t use every day when they need to leave, well, then they're basically ready to go!

Collapsible closet organizers: Here’s one you might not have seen before. People usually use these for traveling, but they make perfect sense in a dorm room too! Use this water resistant organizer in a closet or to carry toiletries. Either way, all your student will need to do is zip it up and stash it in a suitcase if they need to hurry home. The organizers fit perfectly in a carry-on size suitcase, or in a larger suitcase with some room to spare. They also keep everything organized, so unpacking is a breeze!

At the end of the day, the most important thing is that your student really enjoys their space. A cozy, comfortable dorm room that feels like home will be invaluable to their mental health and happiness. You can check CollegiateParent MarketPlace to find our favorite dorm essentials to help them plan out their space!

Though there are plenty of ways to prepare them for last-minute packing, there’s no need to stress out prematurely. If they incorporate just a few of these tips to make their move-out day easier, it will still make a big difference when the time comes.

And, if luck (and social distancing) prevails, they'll spend their whole first year of college in their freshman residence hall and won't need to use these packing tips until next May.

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Ianni Le is a writer and content creator for CollegiateParent. She attended the University of Colorado at Boulder, graduating with a degree in Media Design and English Literature. She grew up in Shanghai, China and enjoys her dogs, books and food equally.
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