Oberlin Blogs

Haphazard Packing Tips from an Incorrigible Slob

August 5, 2008

Will Mason ’10

Packing for school is a headache. It's not easy, it's not enjoyable, and it's not the sort of thing where you can get exact instructions from anybody. But examples can be instructive, and so I'll enter into evidence my packing list in hopes that it makes transplanting your stuff a little easier. I've packed for school twice already, so I feel like I've got my list pared down to a pretty lean (read: woefully insufficient) collection of clothes and belongings. If nothing else, it might stand, like the twisted detritus of a ship thrown against a craggy coast, as a telling example of what not to do. Also keep in mind that there are stores within walking distance of campus that sell just about everything you need, so if you forget something it's not the end of the world.

The essentials:

Pants. Our society insists. (x6)

T-Shirts. Vintage, or else you won't have friends. Just kidding. But seriously. (x5)

Long-sleeve shirts, sweaters, sweatshirts, etc. Though you can get away with wearing t-shirts year round, you'll probably want a few warmer items to throw on when the weather turns inhospitable. (x5)

Socks and underwear. Think you packed too many socks? You didn't. (x ∞)

Towel. (x2)

Raincoat. One of the first cruel realities of college you're likely to discover is that your 9 am class will not be cancelled on account of pouring rain. Come prepared to walk through bad weather a fair amount. (x1)

Shoes. I'm bringing flip flops, gym shoes, two pairs of everyday sneakers, a pair of black dress loafers, and boots for bad weather. A friend of mine brings an entire suitcase full of shoes. Weird. (x6)

Dress clothes. Not required unless you're going to be performing in a context that calls for something nice. It can't hurt to have one all-black outfit, as well as something that at least approaches a suit. (x1)

Athletic wear. For me, that's a pair of gym shorts. (The gym at Oberlin is pretty good and not intimidating, and you'll likely want to get some exercise once November rolls around and you realize you've been subsisting on a diet of Doritos and Dascomb French Toast sticks for three months.) If you play a legitimate sport, you probably already know what you need. (x1)

Jackets. At a minimum, bring one coat for moderate days, and a parka for when it's really cold out. (x2)

Bedding. Specifically, sheets, pillows, blanket. The mattresses on the beds at Oberlin are extra long, so you need to buy sheets that are specified as "extra long." Dorms are heated, so you don't need to go crazy with winter quilts, but be prepared for cold all the same. Bring spare sheets. (x2)

Laundry Paraphernalia. A hamper, detergent, and something to hold quarters. (x1)

Shower Paraphernalia. Oberlin students do shower from time to time. Also, if you have any desire to keep all ten of your toes, bring a pair of shower shoes (sandals are good).

Alarm Clock. Get one with a really obnoxious alarm sound, so that your roommate--who somehow managed to not have any classes before 1 pm--has to suffer with you. (x1)

Gaudy alarm clock with the face of comedian Carrot Top.
What could be more obnoxious than a Carrot Top alarm clock?

Surge Protectors. Outlets are few but awesome gadgets are many. (x3)

Laptop. Bring every cd that came or has ever been associated with your computer. If anything bad happens, having all of your operating system discs will expedite the repair process considerably.

Musical instrument. If applicable. There are pianos everywhere but all other instruments need to be furnished by students.

Medicine. Obviously bring prescriptions, but also stock up on cold and flu medicine. Multivitamins are good, too, as scurvy becomes an all-too-real concern after the eighth consecutive week of ingesting nothing but raman noodles and cups of black coffee.

Trash can. Not to be confused with your floor.

Coffee Maker. Utterly essential if, like me, you have a crippling caffeine addiction coupled with insufferable snobbery as to the quality of your fix. I use a French press and a hot water heater, both of which are dorm-safe; standard coffee makers are also okay. Don't forget mugs.

The luxury items:

Desk Lamp. Most rooms are lit by harsh fluorescent lighting. A desk lamp and floor lamp are both good ideas.

Mini Fridge. It's for storing food and soda, Mom. (Note: don't split the cost between you and a roommate. It's much easier down the road if someone just buys the fridge outright.)

Printer. There are printers all around the campus but it's convenient having one in the room.

Dry erase board for your door. Without one of these, how will you receive such important messages as "Poop eater inside" and "Will likes to eat poop" and "Poop!!!"?

Desk chair. Oberlin provides desk chairs, but I think they're pretty uncomfortable so I bring my own.

Hangers. Every room has a closet, and some are pretty spacious walk-in closets. None have hangers.

Books for pleasure. You're probably not going to have time to read them, but they can be nice to have around.

Silverware, plates, pots, etc. Don't assume anything about your dorm's kitchen. If you plan on doing any sort of cooking, it's a carry-in, carry-out world.

Toolkit. Hammer, screwdriver, pliers, scissors, and any other tools you might find useful. This is particularly helpful if you have a...

Bike. Bikes aren't essential at Oberlin, but they make life monumentally easier. They have bikes for rent at the Bike Co-op (as well as the means to repair bikes) but you aren't guaranteed to get one. I recommend bringing your own.

Stuff to hang up on your walls. True story: the mother of a friend of mine sent me a care package on Halloween, which included a decoration that consisted of a bunch of skeletons hanging from twine nooses. We put it up on our walls, which were otherwise completely bare, and left it there all year. There's nothing quite like waking up every morning to a macabre Halloween decoration; might I recommend a "Family Guy" poster or a Rothko print.

Sleeping bag. ...Slumber party!

Plants. They can really brighten up a room provided they live past the first week of your negligent ownership. Then again, nothing says to a date "please make out with me" like a room full of withered, lifeless chrysanthemum.

dead plant

The contraband:

Pets. Exceptions are made for fish and tank-dwelling amphibians.

Halogen lamps, microwaves, and just about any appliance that isn't a fridge. If there's a fire hazard associated with an item, don't put it in your dorm room. Also be aware that vigilante justice is alive and well at Oberlin: last year, someone's toaster oven set off the fire alarm in my dorm at 3:30 am on a Wednesday morning in the middle of February. Don't be that guy.

Drugs, alcohol, and related items. Each semester your RA is required to perform one "Life Safety Inspection," which will not be announced ahead of time. They're not invasive inspections (your RA isn't going to rummage through your sock drawer) but if they see a bong lying out on your desk they're going to have to report it. If you do bring anything illegal, be prepared to face the consequences of getting caught with it.

Pack thoughtfully. You need warm weather clothes, winter clothes, clothes for bad weather. My list is somewhat Spartan, both because I didn't want to go into every boring detail (just most of them) and because I don't own that much stuff to begin with.

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