Oberlin Blogs

Minimalist Packing

September 18, 2023

Ariel Roberts ’25

Now that I’ve survived my third move-in, I can’t say that I’m an expert, but I can say that I have learned a lot. When preparing for my very first move-in, I was desperate for advice, and so this led me to first become acquainted with Oberlin’s blogs as I looked through posts detailing student’s packing lists. Now I thought I could write my own, as I’ve specifically tried to have a minimalist mindset when packing. Considering you’re probably beginning your senior year of high school at the moment and don’t need this immediately, just keep this post in mind when it does come time for your grand college move-in.


  • XL twin sheets
  • Pillows
  • Clothes & shoes for 7-14 days*
  • Medicine
  • Important documents (Vacc card, ID, etc)
  • Towels (1-2)
  • Fan*
  • Phone & laptop chargers
  • Umbrella
  • Suitcase/travel bag
  • Organizing baskets/containers
  • Scissors*

*One thing that can take up a lot of space quickly is your clothes. If you're somewhat of a fashionista there might be a lot of different pieces you want to take. Moreover, with Ohio experiencing all 4 seasons, you need many different clothes for different weather, not to mention for varying occasions: dances, job interviews, concerts, working out, etc. My advice is to make something of a capsule wardrobe: only bring clothes for 1 to 2 weeks, and bring pieces that can be mixed and matched to create multiple different outfits. In terms of outfits for different weather, switch these out at breaks if you can. I live fairly close to home, so at move-in I bring my summer/fall clothes and around Thanksgiving break switch those out for my winter ones. Of course, make sure you have the essentials for particular occasions. Are you an athlete and will need some good workout clothes? Are you a musician like me and will need some concert black? Keep this in mind and don’t forget those pieces!

*Unfortunately many dorms at Oberlin don’t have air conditioning, so especially at the beginning of the fall semester you’re gonna want a good fan to keep you cool! This is why I consider it a necessity!

*I cannot explain to you how many times you will be in desperate need of scissors and breathe a sigh of relief seeing them sitting on your desk.


  • Command strips
  • Mirror
  • Desk organizer
  • Pictures/posters

*I’ve made a blog post before on how I usually skimp on decor. Even if you don’t bring a lot of decorations, there are so many artsy stores around downtown Oberlin where you can acquire unique decorations, plus the annual poster sale and bi-annual Art Rental and Makers Market. Trust me, at Oberlin you’ll accumulate the most unique decor around.

Utility Items

  • Shower shoes
  • Shower caddy
  • Soap
  • Shampoo & conditioner
  • Deodorant
  • Razor
  • Facial care items
  • Period products
  • Shower cap
  • Toothbrush, toothpaste, & floss
  • Hairbrush
  • Detergent/pods*
  • Dryer sheets
  • Laundry bag
  • Hangers
  • Trashcan
  • Small dustbin or vacuum
  • Tissues
  • Glasses/contacts
  • Cleaning supplies (wipes)
  • Bandaids
  • Masks*

*A lot of the washers in the dorms actually recommend using detergent pods over liquid detergent. I've used both, and either works fine. Also, none of the washers and dryers need quarters, so don't make the same mistake I did my freshmen year of going to the bank to get a bunch of quarters just to find out you don't need them.

*These aren’t required at Oberlin anymore, but they’re good to have just in case.

School Supplies

  • Backpack/tote bag*
  • Laptop/tablet
  • Pencils/pens
  • Notebook*
  • Folder
  • Calculator
  • Planner

*Oberlin is known for its campus having tote bags galore. I mean, who needs a clunky backpack when you have this cute little bag you got from an independent bookstore in New York last summer?

*Notebook, singular. Yes, you heard me. Of course, this is based on personal preference and note-taking style, but you really won’t need more than one notebook. I’m in my junior year and am still using the same notebook that I got on my first day at campus, albeit it being almost full now. I just put all my notes for a new class right next to the notes for my old class; I like physically writing, but don’t like wasting paper, or having a heavy backpack. Also, most homework is carried out online, so if you like taking notes on your computer better, you really won’t need a notebook at all.


  • Tupperware
  • Plates, bowls, silverware*
  • Cooking supplies
  • Water filter*
  • Melt cup*

*If you’re on the campus dining plan, you really won’t need any tupperware or your own plates and silverware. If you do want to eat in your dorm, you can get a reusable to-go box from Stevenson at the beginning of the year and put your meals in that. The dining halls will also give you disposable silverware, but I do recommend getting a small container of reusable silverware that you can carry in your backpack so you can opt out of the plastic. A good pair of portable chopsticks are also perfect since they work for pretty much any meal! 

If you’re in the Oberlin Student Cooperative Association (OSCA), then you might want your own plates, bowls, tupperware, silverware, and cooking supplies, especially if you’re in the Brown Bag Co-op. You don’t really need to buy/bring any, though, because you can easily get these things from the Resource Conservation Team’s Free Store. When I quickly changed to BBC this semester and realized I had a severe lack of cooking supplies, I simply went to the Free Store and got everything I needed, saving the excess plastic and myself a good 40 bucks!

*Most dorms have water fountains with filtered water in every hall, so this is just up to personal preference.

*If you want a nice smelling room, it can be difficult to know what to pick since candles with wicks are not allowed in the dorms. Reed diffusers are a great option, but if you’re worried about knocking them over, I highly recommend melt cups. They’re basically a wax candle without the wicks, so you don’t have to go through the trouble of trying to tug the wick out of your favorite candle. They’re meant to be melted in a heating device, but they work perfectly well if you just pop the lid off and let the scent permeate through your room. Now you have a nice aromatic atmosphere without the fear of setting anything on fire!

This is just an idea of what to pack for your move-in, especially if you want to keep it minimal. There are other past blog posts with packing lists that you can refer to as well. Hope this helps, and can’t wait to see you on campus!

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