If your kids are headed off to school for the first time or returning it can help to take a quick look through these Off to College Essential Organizing Tips. Some of you may have eagerly planned, shopped and packed early in the summer, yet there are still lots of folks getting their dorms set up and moved into. These Essential Organizing tips will help you get a handle on planning for this life-changing event! This milestone is really two big events in one, a move and back to school. If you’re feeling overwhelmed already, break it down into smaller manageable tasks and be mindful of your emotions! It’s a big change (for your whole family) so don’t dismiss how you feel!
Productivity, Routines and Schedules
By now you should probably have the school year calendar and have a target date for college move in all squared away but if not there’s still time to get a handle on it. Here are some of the categories related to routines and schedules that may help make this a more mindful transition to managing college/life schedules and productivity.
- Transportation-Will a car be available or will is it going to be transportation by bus or college shuttle? Is there a metro or other public transportation in their new city? Be sure to understand the best method of transportation and if cars are allowed on campus (not the case for many freshmen). Work out travel transportation arrangements ahead of time for upcoming school drop off, pick up and holidays (through the end of the year). This might include airfare so book ahead and know the rules and download any useful local aps for mass transit.
- Planner or Calendar-Decide how to keep track of calendars so that everything needed is in one place, based on what works. Use either a digital or paper planner (there is a big trend to return to paper!) to keep track of important dates, orientation, move in, class schedule (and locations on campus), appointments, projects, finals and holidays. Consider something like a whiteboard (in the dorm/room) to track schedules while adjusting to this new way of life. If possible, do this ahead of time before heading off to school where the tendency will be to get caught up in the excitement of new campus life! Planners are only helpful if they are with you so keep it where it’s needed (in a backpack or purse etc).
- Activities, sports and clubs-If your college students are planning to get involved in sports, clubs etc…get these activities booked on your master calendar along with the school schedule and decide on any necessary transportation. Cross reference these activities (especially intense sport/practice/games) with school schedule and keep it all in one place. It’s great to get involved, but be sure there’s a sense of balance between school work, activities and “play” or free time to be with friends, socialize, relax etc.
- Productivity, routines and study time–Talk with them about to do lists and schedule planning (daily, weekly or monthly) so they will stay on top of important tasks, projects, classes and dates. Remind them of what routines and systems have worked for them so far and help them set up systems for successful focus on study while they are away. This will be different from situation to situation but consistency is key, especially simple things like waking up at the same time daily, making your bed, weekly shopping & laundry etc. When it comes to studying, if your kid is extra distracted by other people being around, help they seek out a quiet place on campus or in their dorm that they will be able to focus. Help them create their own rules, like pick up daily (5 min’s/day), keep your desk clean, empty/repack your backpack daily so you have what you need ready the next day. Have a plan for note taking, setting up binders and folders by class (color code etc) or other systems that have been successful for them so far. Find a routine for self discipline, this means getting 6-8hrs of sleep a night, eating regularly, taking necessary medications, self regulating screen time (games, apps etc) and generally acting like an adult! All the freedom is fun but when things spiral out of control have a plan to get back on track. Most of us thrive with routines and it’s even more important in transitions to implement them for our own success:)
Supplies and Shopping
This is always a big part of school preparation. If you need to order equipment, uniforms, supplies, books etc you may already been in the process of doing so. If your state (or the one the college is in) has a Tax Free Weekend (usually in August), plan accordingly so you can make major purchases over that weekend.
- Supplies-Create a master list based upon all the supplies needed. “Shop” your house first, gathering anything on the list into one container (box or bag).
- Budget-set a limit (realistic) on what you can and will spend so you don’t get sucked into extras.
- Categorize-Break the shopping items into categories (see below). E.X. categories might include books, school/desk supplies, clothing, dorm room, meals, electronic’s etc.
- Shopping-Do a little preliminary research online and either make the purchases online or decide where you will go for what.
A-Z Dorm Essentials for Cleaning and Organizing
These are great resources to have on hand and will be helpful for a variety of uses in the dorm. I’ve created an Amazon Shopping list with suggested items here.
- Backpack or bag
- Bedside Caddy
- Bed Risers (optional)
- Hooks (a variety of sizes & types including command & over the door)
- Hangers (check to see if you need to bring them but probably!)
- Labels (a label maker or write on labels)
- Laundry supplies (basket/bag, detergent)
- Over the door or under bed shoe organizer
- Overnight bag
- Permanent markers
- Poster Putty for hanging decorative things on the walls
- Power Strip-surge protector
- Small rolling Cart (with shelves or drawers)
- Shelf &/or drawer dividers/organizers (assorted sizes)
- Toiletry or shower caddy
- Trash & recycling bins/bags (so many people don’t have them!)
- Under bed storage bins (will fit with bed risers-wait if you don’t know)
- Zip bags in assorted sizes
- Zip ties (assorted sizes for cables, hanging items etc)
ABC’s of Dorm Packing Essentials
There are a ton of great resources and lists over on Pinterest, so I won’t recreate them but here are general packing categories. It’s best to wait on things like a mini-fridge, microwave, dishes (other than a cup/mug, plate and one set of silverware), Iron/Board (unless fashion is your thing!), vaccum (maybe a dustbuster and mini broom), TV and Printer. These are all things that others or the school will have. Besides, you might not need at all or you can get them later.
- Cleaning Supplies
- Cooking & Dining Supplies
- Desk Supplies
- Dorm Room
- First Aid Kit
- Furniture & Decorations
- Medications (Supplements, cold & Rx)
- Personal Items
- School Supplies
- Sports Equipment
This is a lot of info in one place! I hope these Off to College Essential Organizing Tips will help prepare for schedule and lifestyle changes, supplies and shopping and finally packing before this next grand adventure begins!