Dorm packing list - minimalist edition?

D20’s college is not allowing parents to help with move-in and is not providing upperclassmen to help with bringing things up to rooms. D is interested in packing light because of needing to bring everything herself and worrying that she may need to pack up and move out in a hurry. She is viewing the fall semester as a 12-week hotel stay and knows she needs bedding, towels, laundry and cleaning supplies, tech items, school supplies, a desk lamp, water bottle, power strip, toiletries and clothes. She isn’t interested in decorative items or extraneous stuff. I know most parents have to restrain their daughters from buying too much but what items do you think are an absolute MUST?

Trash can and liners – neither of my kids’ schools supply them.

When I moved my daughter into her dorm last year, we traveled from one coast to the other, so we had to keep everything relatively light and compact for the plane trip. However, 3 of us went, so we could bring 3 rolling bags.

We wound up shipping extraneous items from Target and Amazon including comforter insert, spare pillow, mattress cover, desk lamp, school supplies, toiletries, toiletry basket, tissues, laundry detergent, laundry bags, surge protector, etc.

My son was a minimalist last year as well. I would toss in a few of those hooks with adhesive backing. He found them handy for things like his towel and jackets that he didn’t want to bother hanging in the closet.

She’s smart to be a minimalist, especially this year. I’d add a shower caddy if she’s dealing with a hall bathroom, maybe a microwaveable mug if she likes hot beverages, and a supply of OTC meds. You’ve covered the essentials, and unless she is going to school in the middle of nowhere, she can supplement with things found locally or ordered online. She’s not likely to need lots of winter clothes if she will be home at Thanksgiving.

foam pad for the (sure to be) hard mattress

Almost everything can be ordered on Amazon and shipped - snacks, shampoo, tooth paste, soaps. Even the foam pad, fan, and pillows.

My daughter is a minimalist and could pack everything, even some clothing, into 3 rubbermade tubs. Other daughter learned the hard way and from the first year 8 duffels (including hockey equipment), she was down to just 1 by her senior year. Didn’t need two sets of sheets, didn’t need 800 dresses, didn’t need 5+ blankets (her room was about 99 degrees most of the time and they’d open the windows to cool it down).

Most colleges have some sort of Target or Wal-Mart nearby that will have anything you/she forgot. The only thing I remember helping D #1 with during her move-in was a hanging full length mirror to put on the back of their door.

And old fashioned camp-style sleeping bag is a nice thing to have. The Coleman kind that can unzip to make a blanket. Nice for when friends visit or to throw in the car for picnics, road trips, crashing with friends. My daughter had one and just kept it in the back of her car.

That said, I think these are super cool and will probably make one or buy one for D #2 when she starts college in 2021.

@Camasite That bunktrunk is AWESOME! I am not sure how far her room might be from the package room or if her building will have an elevator (some of the old buildings from the 1800s on campus don’t, which is part of her concern). If things were “normal”, I would definitely consider that!

  • One of my kids didn't use foam pad after first year. Totally useless expensive purchase and all that wasted foam going into the environment. Also it's bulky to store.
  • One child uses big IKEA bags to pack stuff in -- moving by car. Or the equivalent in giant, strong shopping bags. They pack easier in the dorm room than rubbermaid containers.
  • A fan -- dorms often have no AC and for a few weeks in September it can get hot especially if you grow up with AC at home. A small clip-on fan clipped to the bed, damp t-shirt or wet hair to sleep works wonders. Also sleeping on the floor is relatively cool during that time.
  • This sounds silly but it's small and works well: a string of lights -- like Xmas lights--they provide more subtle lighting rather than ON AND BRIGHT then off and dark. It's a small, cheap decoration
  • Those sticky hooks referred to above are called command hooks.

We flew across country with a few suitcases. There was a Walgreens nearby, so we bought hangers and over the counter medical supplies.

When I returned for parents weekend, I rented a car. Son wanted a nice desk chair, a large monitor, a fan, and ? Amazon was not big then, so your DD can order these items on-line.

@Dustyfeathers, I totally agree about those IKEA duffel bags! They are so versatile and pack small. And definitely a fan.

@Camasite, I am really liking that BunkTrunk!

My thoughts on this semester would be:

How much I can throw into a couple of suitcases in case I have to go home in a hurry.

I would say No on the pad (unless she really needs it) as that is bulky to transport.
Same with the sleeping bag.
Xmas Lights are unnecessary. Use your phone flashlight.

Thermometer, over-the-counter medicines, daily vitamins and Airborne. Those over-the-counter medicines, daily vitamins and Airborne were all gone by before end of first semester. I packed a very thin, cheap canvas sleeve / bedside caddy ($6 / Amazon) for my son to store his cell phone while sleeping so he could reach from his bed. No need to worry dropping an iPhone on the floor (hard surface floor) while sleeping.

A mattress topper made a dorm bed super comfy though. I even bought a same topper for our bed at home after feeling my son’s comfy topper. It was the biggest expense and is very bulky after setting up. It worked out because he was allowed to leave some of his stuffs in his dorm room when his campus was closed in March. So, no storage fees during this summer. My son is moving out from his dorm and having a bigger bed in his apartment this coming year. So, he plans to keep it for a guest to sleep on the floor.

@Camasite from what I’m hearing, no guests will be allowed in dorms this year around here anyway.

If your daughter has a car on campus, I would pack even more lightly and make sure everything can fit in her car in one trip.

The bunk thing sounds interesting but it’s an extra something I wouldn’t bother with this year. I wouldn’t get anything extra.

My son’s advice…put everything you think you need in one room on your house, then take half if it. You still won’t use most of what you take.

We finally donated the shower caddy we bought for kid one…he never used it. We gave it to kid 2. She never used it. Her college had a big tag sale and donated to charity. That’s where it went. Both said…it wasn’t hard to carry a towel, shampoo and soap to the bathroom for a shower. Then head back later with their toothbrush to brush teeth. YMMV depending on your kid.

Her list is fine. Truly.

Anything else that she finds that she needs, that she can’t borrow from someone else in her dorm, she can get at the campus store or order online.

Last week, after room selection, we also made minimalist packing plans. Less than a week later D’s college changed course and will be remote only. Folks, the situation can indeed turn on a dime so pack light!

D nixed all decorations for starters. She had received a good, newish dorm mattress each year thus far, so the foam pad was staying home for sure. The pads are bulky and hard to minimize. Since she drew a single and no dorm visitors were going to be allowed anyway, she opted to go with a pretty blanket instead of her puffy comforter. The comforter takes up a lot of packing space. Her dorm rooms were always super hot anyway. Extra reference books were nixed. Other years she took along extra toiletries to save time and money, but this year she would have just taken what she needed to start the year. While she did use the extra sheets and towels, they are not essential if your student is organized and does laundry well before bedtime. It seemed that there would not be much in the way of social events like semi formals, so only one nice dress. In-person interviews are unlikely, so pack jjust one interview outfit for Zoom etc.

My oldest son got on the plane (alone) with his laptop, camera, and one carryon! School in rural area. No nearby shopping.
(We did ship his bedding/towels and winter clothes.) He told me that when friends came in his dorm room they always said something like, “Dude–where’s your stuff?!?”
My 6th kid/3rd daughter is leaving next week. The older two girls tended to overdo it with too many clothes and decorative items, but they were driving to school. I told D that she’s not moving out, she’s just going on a trip for 4 months. She is flying alone with one large suitcase, one carryon and her violin. Again, we shipped bedding/towels.

Dorms usually aren’t very big and there is little storage…so you really don’t want to bring too much stuff. We ended up taking some of D’s stuff back with us because there was no room for it.

My H had a coworker whose kid brought 3 car loads worth of stuff. Now, they don’t have an SUV, but still…

Limiting clothing, shoes, and decorations should really help. Plus, not having a mini fridge or microwave really lightens the load.