How to Pack for College After Freshman Year

Consistently sorting, decluttering, and planning is key to maintaining two living spaces at once.

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Most information on packing for and moving to college is focused on the freshman year. But living in two places—at home and at school—presents challenges for all four years of college.

Here are some tips on surviving the process.


At freshman orientation, we heard the story of a girl whose parents turned her room into a greenhouse after she left for school. The story was cute and the girl told it with a smile, but it brings up something that all families have to consider: What will become of the student's room once they leave home?

Some students have siblings that immediately take over. Others see their rooms go the way of the greenhouse. But many students will be maintaining two rooms—one at school and one at home—for a period of time, and possibly even all four years.

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This summer was a moving Olympics for Lindsey. She moved home for a short time, then into an apartment for her summer job, then back home again. Now, we're preparing for her move back to school. Here are some of the things we've learned:

1. Declutter consistently: Each time Lindsey comes home, she lets go of some more of the trappings of her pre-college life. This summer, childhood collectibles, high school dance dresses, and duplicate bedding all got the boot. This kind of continual editing is necessary to make room for the new things that inevitably come home. 

2. Identify core items: Keep things that make the trip back and forth separate from the rest of the stuff that resides in your child's room, so that packing quickly is easy.

3. Evaluate future living arrangements: If your child moves out of the dorm for good—into an apartment, for instance—you may be able to let go of the dorm refrigerator and microwave. However, you may want to hang onto their bedroom furniture when designing your new greenhouse, in case your student's new apartment isn't furnished.


Amidst the constant moving in and out of my house for summer, winter, and spring breaks, I never stopped to evaluate just how much clutter was accumulating in my childhood bedroom. By the end of this summer, my room was unlivable. I could barely walk through it amongst the bookshelves, hampers, and clothes of two bedrooms crammed into one.

Between school, work, vacations, and a social life, there was just never a "good time" to start tackling the mess—and then it got out of control. If you're anticipating a situation like mine, here are a couple of ways to avoid turning your bedroom into a disaster zone.

1. Organize as you go: You may not have time for a complete overhaul every time you're home—by which I mean making trips to Goodwill, filling trash bags, and cleaning rigorously—but try to avoid bringing anything home from school without a place for it.

It's a good rule of thumb that for every new item of clothing you add to your closet, you should get rid of an old item that you haven't worn in ages. This can go for other items, too, such as toiletries, books, or jewelry.

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2. Sort ruthlessly: I am one of those people who have a hard time letting go of an item I once bought, used, and loved. But I also love the feeling of coming home from college to a room free from clutter.

This was especially true with my items from childhood or high school, such as stuffed animals, corsages from formals, and a bulletin board filled with dated photos. It's difficult, but try to keep only the most special items and toss or donate the rest. It will give your room some much needed space, and help you to segue into a new adult life.