Moving To College Is Hard — Here's How To Make It Easy

An editor's take on moving in the right way.

Photographed by Anna Powell Teeter.

It really doesn't seem like it was that long ago. I packed up and transported myself (and all of my *stuff*) to college in August of 2011, and let's just say I didn't make it easy on myself. The thought of residing in a tiny, underground dormitory gave me anxiety, so naturally, in an effort to make things more comfortable, I overcompensated. I convinced my mom that I needed an oversized mirror, a six-drawer dresser, and brand-new (and rather expensive!) new bedding. Like I said, I over did it. 

Here's how the above actually worked out: Massive packages arrived at my dorm and every single item needed to be returned — there was no space for any of the new purchases. Plus, those packages didn't exactly lend themselves to making me seem low-maintenance to my new peers. It was impossible to know what I really needed before I saw my new space in person. Yes, it was tiny. But there were built-in drawers, a vanity area, and after we lofted the beds, tons of room for storage underneath. The bedding worked out great for the first two years of college, but it just so happens that spills are aplenty in dorm life, my twin bed days were over by junior year, and those new sheets were irrelevant to me after that. 

In sum, there are a few takeaways I got from this move-in that I wish I really knew before transitioning into dorm life. With that said, here are the five ways to make moving to college a swift, seamless experience. 

Moving To College Is Hard — Here's How To Make It Easy
Photographed by Jessie Webster.

1. Wait 

The summer months before moving into a dorm have a way of making one feel like they need to prepare. However, unless you've already seen your new living space in person, wait before you buy anything. This includes furniture, storage, a mirror, bedside table, desk chair — everything. The only two things I would say are okay to buy before moving are bed sheets (don't splurge on these, you'll want to start over next year) and maybe a rug. If you're absolutely sure about the square footage of your space, buying a neutral, subtle rug (again, don't splurge) may be worth doing beforehand. Otherwise, be patient. Your best dorm room will come together if you have time to assess your needs properly first. Trust me, you don't want to be the girl with massive boxes showing up, and needed to schlep every single one back to the post office during move in. 

2. Bring Nothing

It may be hard to fathom leaving all of your belongings behind as you relocate to your new home, especially if you've never moved before. But believe me, the last thing you'll want to deal with on move-in day is clutter. That entire week is hectic enough! Bring only the bare necessities clothing-wise (seriously, leave your nicer things at home), and forgo items like coffee table books, candles, and decor accessories. If this means cleaning out your closet and room before moving, do it! Moving is stressful — eliminate unnecessary responsibility of keeping track of endless amounts of things. Plus, it took me several years to realize that if I forgot something I truly couldn't live without, my mom could ship it or I could grab it when I returned for the holidays. The entire experience is better with less. 

Moving To College Is Hard — Here's How To Make It Easy
Photographed by Ana Kamin.

3. Assess

Congrats! You've arrived at your new home. Now it's time to strategize — how can you make the most of the room you've been given? If you lost the dorm lottery (like me) fear not — there is a way to make this space better. For my underground situation, it meant lofting one bed as a top bunk, and turning the other bed (the lower bunk) to be perpendicular to the top. This left space underneath the bed for a desk area, and plenty of room underneath my bed for clothing storage, too. I doubled my desk area as a vanity area, and used part of that desk as a bedside table, too. This took several experiments with arranging and rearranging the beds, but the trial and error is definitely worth the optimized outcome. Oh, and once you figure out what you do need, find it for less. Chances are, you'll want to start all over next fall! 

4. Assign 

Once you've decided which way you're going to configure your room, assign a space for each and every one of your belongings. Seriously, I mean every. single. item. It only takes a few misplaced things to make a mess in a dorm room, and this issue can be avoided with a little organization strategy. Bed Bath & Beyond and The Container Store are great spots to solve each and every storage issue — from figuring out where to keep your underwear to finding hangers that take up the least amount of space (FYI, these are the best ones). You know you've done a good job assigning a spot for all of your items when none of these items are in sight. 

Moving To College Is Hard — Here's How To Make It Easy
Photographed by Genevieve Garruppo.

5. Maintain

Okay, the worst part is over. Fewf! You've moved (physically, emotionally, figuratively, it's a lot), assessed your space, organized the room, and you're ready to get into a new routine. If there's one last thing I can advise, it's that you keep. it. up. Respect your own efforts (and your roommate) and keep your space clean and tidy. This will optimize your productivity, maximize how relaxed you feel in your dorm, and even improve your sleep. 

To read more about the best finds for your dorm, check out 25 Ways To Design A Next-Level Dorm