Moving has always been a challenge for me— partly because packing is not my strong suit. I tend to forget items: nail files, laundry detergent, windshield scrapers (an essential for any car owner facing Oberlin winter). To make matters worse, I know I am leaving my family again, even if it’s only temporary. My family and I are a tight-knit bunch, and while move-ins have gotten easier for all of us, we still miss being together. We all tried to prepare for my first move-in by reading copious amounts of blog posts. However, after reading all the blog posts about what I’d need, we still had many questions about how the move would work logistically. How would we fit everything? What should we carry up first? Should we loft the bed? How long does packing actually take? In some ways, the answers come from experience: figuring out a style that works for you. Despite this, there are some helpful tips and tricks I’ve learned over the past three years.
My first move-in day was by far the hardest. The sun was melting the pavement, and I was melting along with it. Carrying heavy boxes to leave my family was the very last thing I wanted to do, especially since I had packed many of the boxes that very same morning. I was moving into a dorm that I’d never seen with a roommate I'd never met. All in all, it was pretty overwhelming. When I walked into the dorm room, I only felt worse. The furniture’s layout made the room feel smaller than it was. We were all crammed inside next to mountains of boxes.
As we unpacked, it became clear that most of this stuff would never get used, even though I thought each item was essential. I bought supplies for my dorm all summer long, hoping that my room would be as I envisioned. I wasn’t sure how all the pieces would fit together, but I took every recommendation. After all, better safe than sorry, right? In my case, not exactly. As I unpacked, I quickly realized that there was no way I could fit all of my storage organizers, art, books, and clothes into the room. I learned that the first trick to packing for college is accurately assessing what you will need for your lifestyle, even if they’re not on the traditional packing list.
For me, this generally includes all the books that inspire me or might serve as research for one of my assignments. Textbooks for previous politics and poetry classes frequently make the trip from Reynoldsburg to Oberlin. I also make sure to bring my art supplies. Notebooks, stationery, yarn, fabric, and embroidery supplies fill up a cloth box to the brim. The hobbies give me something to do when stressed that makes a tangible result. I crafted many gifts during the stress of midterms and finals. If you have many pictures of friends and family or other sentimental items, it can be a good choice to bring them— so long as you don’t mind the risk of losing them. The endless shuffle of move-ins and move-outs can lead to small things, like jewelry or photos, getting lost in the process. By prioritizing what will make you feel most comfortable, you ensure you have everything you need to settle into your new home.
In my second year, I took that lesson in stride. My artwork went up; my clothes were all stored neatly away. However, I went from living in a super single (after my roommate moved out) to a regular single. The decrease in space felt disorienting. However, a lot of this is due to the underutilization of space-enhancing strategies. Although all of my belongings fit comfortably, I didn’t lay out the room in a way that made me feel like there was a lot of available space. I placed my furniture nicely, but not optimally. Large dorm furniture can easily make a room feel small, even when it is a decent size. Setting up your room with a good layout that works for both you and the space is vital. However, a dorm room’s design isn’t the sole determiner of how spacious it seems. When I combined an excellent layout with the inevitable clutter of a college student rushing to classes, it was almost unrecognizable. I noticed as the mess built up, so too did my stress. They were the chicken and the egg, an endless life cycle.
Halfway through the year, I decided that I wanted to tidy up without a room check to motivate me. I evaluated my belongings and pruned them. Many of the items that I kept from my first year no longer resonated with the person I was or were for a different season. I set up cleaning habits to ensure that easily fixed messes weren’t disrupting the flow of my space. Finally, I created routines to help me keep my newfound tidiness. These adjustments were beneficial when it came time to pack in the middle of the academic year. Since I knew where everything was, I could fit almost every item into my small car without losing or damaging anything. By the time my parents arrived to pick me up, only the largest things like my mattress topper had remained. Each box was easy to store, and when it came time to pack for this year, I knew where everything was.
This year, I didn’t wait to pack up until the last second. Taking a whole week or more to pack did not fit into my lifestyle, but neither did the stress of packing all in one day. As soon as I found out the adjusted move-in dates, I began creating my list of what I would need or wouldn’t need. When I received my dorm placement, I made sure to look at the floor plan to see what kind of space I would receive. To my surprise, I was placed in a divided double! A divided double is a double split into two attached singles. If you live in a divided double, you usually have a roommate. I currently live alone because of Oberlin’s coronavirus policies, which allows me to dedicate the two halves for separate functions. I separated my room into two sides. One side is dedicated to my leisure time with a designated space to take Zoom calls, while the other side contains my bedroom, clothes, and desk. I find that it’s easier to avoid different kinds of distractions on either side. My needs and space are aligned to help me be productive and stay connected in a time of social distancing. Now, after my third back-to-college move-in, I can say with confidence that the third time’s the charm. I am proud of how my dorm room turned out and look forward to the first day of classes.
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