Not everything is an essential. Here's what you actually need to pack.
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If you are going to college in the fall, there are a lot of things you need to pack up, such as twin extra-long sheets, under-bed storage containers, and an easy-to-carry laundry hamper (and maybe a bulleted list on how to do laundry without ruining your clothes).
But when shopping for those true college essentials you’ll load into your cart—in-store and online—you’re bound to be tempted by some non-essentials masquerading as necessities. Here are the things you should leave behind when packing up for college this year—and what to bring instead.
It’s best to leave the hammer, nails, and drill behind—chances are good your dorm specifically prohibits putting holes in the walls or making significant alterations to the room. Besides, you’re only going to be there for about nine months, so there’s no sense going all-out and installing framed photos or shelving. Instead, bring along some double-sided tape, mounting putty, and Command Hooks—if your school allows them, some don’t—to hang up your decor.
Sure, it’s nice to have a way to print out a term paper right when you finish it. But—and this is based on personal experience—printers seem to jam, run out of ink, or lose the wi-fi connection right when you need them most. Plus, many professors prefer to accept papers electronically anyway. When the assignment calls for a hard copy, just head over to any number of buildings on campus—like the library or student center—that have printers available for student use for free or a small fee, like 10 cents a page.
Many dorms have communal kitchens. But you’ll also (probably) have a meal plan and (almost certainly) not a ton of time to devote to domestic activities such as cooking for yourself, whether it’s due to schoolwork, socializing, or a mix of the two.
It can’t hurt to bring a few things—like an insulated mug, a few bowls for cereal, popcorn, or instant soup, and personal set of silverware—but there’s no need to bring a ton of kitchenware. If you find you miss cooking—or, say, baking cookies—in your first semester, you can always add some cooking items to your repertoire in the second.
Some small dorm appliances can make dorm life way easier—or end up cluttering your closet. You may need a single-serve coffee maker, a clothes steamer, a white noise machine, or an air purifier, but you probably don’t need all of those things. (Or, say, a grilled cheese maker.)
Keep your dorm appliance collection as simple as possible and bring one or two you’re sure you’ll use every day. Otherwise, you’ll start feeling overwhelmed by the items that were supposed to make your life easier.
We get it: a trip to the Container Store is enough to make you think that all you need to turn your life around is an underwear drawer organizer. And a seven-drawer acrylic makeup case. And an under-the-fridge cart. And a letter tray storage kit. And a lap desk that lets you work on assignments in bed.
Starting to see the problem here? Buy too many things to organize your room, and you’ll end up losing time every day to organizing your organizers. Think carefully about your dorm’s dimensions and what you actually need to make it functional. You should be all set with a shoe rack, a shower caddy, and some under-bed storage containers.
You probably aren’t allowed to have candles—or anything that you light on fire—in your room in the first place. And, even if you are (or manage to sneak them past your RA), even the most delicate, lightly-scented candles will permeate every corner of a teensy-tiny dorm room, potentially causing headaches and allergic flare-ups to anyone sensitive to fragrance.
A much friendlier means of odor management in your room, laundry hamper, closet, or drawers: Use sachets filled with activated charcoal, which neutralize odors rather than masking them. A scent-sensitive roommate will thank you—for more reasons than one.
Sentimentally, your stuffed animals from various stages of life have a lot of value. But, in a dorm room, they don’t have the same cachet as they do in your childhood bedroom.
Bring one you have the strongest connection to and leave the rest behind. Don’t worry—they’ll be waiting for you when you come home for fall break.
Prices are accurate at the time this article was published, but may change over time.