Pack Smarter Not Harder


Remember that post a while back that was a collection of every college related post you could think of? If you don’t know what I’m talking about, check it out here. In that entire collection of pins, you’ll notice there is only one pin about the hardest part of dorm planning (imo) — the actual packing! Once you’ve bought all of Target, you’re going to have to pack it all into your car, boat, plane etc.  So keep reading to find out my tips and tricks to making the most of storage, space, and time. It’s a tough job, but we’re going to get it done!

**Keep in mind that I go to school 4 or so hours away from home and I drive to get to campus! The way you pack might depend more on how far you are away from school. If you’re 12+ hours away, you might have everything shipped (aka you’ll need to pack everything in boxes), versus when you’re 12 minutes away from campus which means you can take multiple trips.**

1. Organize, Categorize, and Conquer

First things first, dump all of your dorm stuff into one area/room. I mean EVERYTHING. Then go through all of your stuff and separate it into categories i.e. Bed/Bath, Cooking/Food, TV/Technology, Desk Supplies, Clothing, and/or Room Decor. This way you can pack everything in related categories into the same boxes and storage so that it’s not jumbled up when you get to your insanely tiny dorm room. For example, I isolated all of my desk supplies and organizers into one pile:

Categorizing also helps you identify areas where you overpacked or overbought. You won’t need 6 sets of twin xl sheets or 16 school-themed Tervises (or is tervi the plural form?). Overpacking is a major no-no, trust me. Don’t do it.

2. Paper or Plastic?

Depending on how you’re moving to college (car, plane, train, or bus), you’ll have to be smart about what type of containers you use to pack everything up. I can only speak to when you move by car, but I find that a mixture of plastic containers (that you can find from Walmart, Target, and a lot of other places) and tote bags (that can fit into the tiny nooks and crannies of your car) work best! I find it most effective to put small items — such as desk supplies or makeup and jewelry — in tote bags that you can fold up and store away when not in use.

3. Lofting opens doors.

I lofted my bed just high enough so that I could fit 3-drawer Sterlite containers underneath for extra storage. I could also fit 2 suitcases and some other plastic bins under the bed too! Take advantage of this for more space to fit more stuff–because you don’t already have to much of that! I use this extra storage for towels, school supplies, and kitchen essentials i.e. pans and baking sheets. This is also where I store my favorite item in my dorm: FOOD. I don’t stock up on that stuff until I get down to Chapel Hill though. It saves space and I’m not tempted to start snacking early. I absolutely love my 3-drawer containers for storage and organizing; each drawer has it’s own “theme” that helps me assign every item a place.

4. Label for later.

Let me tell you about my time on the struggle bus. Okay, picture this: I’m studying for my last final exam, BIOL 101 and it’s 3 a.m. It hits me — all of a sudden — that I was moving out of the dorm in less than 24 hours and it still looked like I had about 3 weeks left in my room. I don’t know if it was denial that caused me to be so far behind or just stress from the craziness of finals, but what I can tell you is that I never want to be in the frazzled and hectic state that followed my BIOL final ever again (at least I got an A).

Imagine trying to shove 9 months of belongings into plastic bins and tote bags when you’re brain is probably so spent, you couldn’t tell your right from your left. The kicker of it all: I couldn’t seem to fit everything I had accumulated into the bins and totes I had available. Luckily, my dad knows how I over pack and had extra bins ready to go. Let me tell ya, it was a tight squeeze. I really needed to come up with a better system for move out this go-round. So, i took out my handy dandy label maker and labeled the heck out of my dorm stuff.

Yes, I know it’s odd that packing for move-in is connected to move-out. Trust me though if you take steps to prepare now, it WILL be much easier when it comes around to that time. Fun fact: I love the label maker and I would use it on everything if that was socially acceptable.

5. Saran wrap isn’t just for cars, Hannah.

Ha-ha-ha. It was a scorching hot August day when Hannah and Katie planned a nice little prank on my car, Ashanti the Acura. They decided to wrap a large amount of saran wrap around my car so that I would be very upset after a 2 hour volleyball practice.

This use of saran wrap is much more useful and a lot less aggravating ;). Pinterest is a legitimate life saver. This time last year, I was struggling to figure out how I could safely transport all of the contents of 3-drawer containers without damage or spills. I came across a pin where the girl used cling wrap to keep the drawers secure and the objects inside from moving.  There is really no good way to give instructions on how to wrap it; but basically you just wrap it around each item until the whole thing is tight and covered. I would recommend starting at the bottom base of each set of drawers and working your way up. It also helps to have someone hold the start of the roll when you first start to wrap the plastic around the bins (or using tape!).

6. Bag ‘EM and tag ‘EM.

It’s a lot easier to move in the clothes that will hang up in your closet if they are already put on hangers and ready to hang up — alphabetized and colorized. So, I DIY-ed hanging bags for my hanging clothes using large black trash bags. First, I put the clothing items in the order I’ll want them in my closet– tank tops and short sleeves, long sleeved tops and sweaters, followed by skirts and dresses organized by length (all of this is in color order, BTW). What can I say? I take my closet organization very seriously.

After all that is completed, I take the items in stacks of 10 and cover them with an upside down trash bag with a hole cut at the top for the hanger to go through. Secure with a rubber band or twist tie. I place them on a Clothing-Rack-To-Go and hang the whole rod in the backseat of our truck. Trust me this makes transferring from the clothing rack to your closet super EASY and QUICK. Here’s a peak at my closet from last year!

7.Shoe Boxes Work Miracles.

Last year, It was easiest for me to pack my shoes using shoe boxes. I have some Container Store shoe boxes, but I didn’t have nearly enough to transport all the shoes i wanted to bring. So, I took a trip to Walmart and found these $2 dollar plastic containers that are just large enough to work as shoes boxes. I can fit a 4 inch pair of wedges easily and up to 3 pairs of flats! I stored them all in a large pink plastic bin that I also got from Walmart!

So, there you go: my tips and tricks for moving in (and I guess moving out too?)! As my friend Brandon says, “Work smarter, not harder.” Get packed and get ready for one of the most exciting times of your life!

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  • torrs13

    Well written post and oh so true! I found that plastic bins and totes were much better as well. I think that boxes can just be too bulky sometimes. Besides, the bins were great for storage when I finally got all moved into my dorm!

    • Yes, I love my plastic bins and the extra storage! I’m so glad you liked the post! ~xo G

  • This is so great!! I especially love the idea of using saran wrap to keep the drawers from opening. I definitely had that problem when I was moving in!! I do the garbage bag thing with my clothes and it’s seriously saved me so much time.

    Kayla |

    • Garbage bags and saran wrap are my dorm-moving must haves (how glamorous lol)! I’m glad you liked the post 🙂 ~ xo G