How to Pack the Car For College

Packing the car for college doesn’t need to be one long, drawn-out, impossible game of Tetris. Load up your student’s belongings like a master organizer with these expert tips

pack car for college

Packing up your college student for the big move to school is daunting enough, even before you consider how to consolidate your 18-year-old’s life into the back of a hatchback. Here, Andrew Mellen, a professional organizer in New York City, shares some guidance for packing the car for college.

Schedule a purge day. Before you and your student even start packing, take an inventory, determine which items you want to pack along (including only the clothes your teenager actually wears), then donate the rest. Mellen’s words of wisdom for your teen (and feel free to tell him to listen well, since this one comes straight from the expert): “It would be a good thing to do for yourself and a kind thing to do for your parents, otherwise you’re holding that room hostage in their house.”

Pack light. What does your student absolutely have to have at school? That’s the first question to ask before starting to pack the car. While it’s perfectly fine to pack some of the comforts of home, Mellen advises mindful, responsible packing—which is another way of saying that leaving childhood relics behind (in the form of all of her high school yearbooks, say) is one way for your student to make herself ready for this big change. “Be available for the adventure of college,” he suggests, “rather than try to recreate [a] childhood bedroom experience in your new life.”

Choose the right containers. Clear plastic bins are handy, yes, but your student is obviously going to unpack when she arrives, so only pack items in these types of containers that will stay in them. Books are going to live on bookshelves, shoes are going to live on the floor of your closet, and so on. For containers simply intended for transporting stuff from your home to your dorm room, Mellen recommends these recyclable storage boxes from Staples.

Don’t buy in bulk. Don’t go to Costco or Sam’s Club and load up on five shaving creams to last the entire school year. “There’s no place you’re going where you can’t find something,” Mellen says, so pack a small starter kit of toiletries in the car, and pick up any other miscellaneous essentials once you arrive.

Load bigger items first. To maximize space, Mellen advises loading larger items, such as suitcases, plastic bins or a mini fridge, into the car first, and then packing smaller items around them (just make sure you can see out your back windows!). Also, avoid strapping things to the roof, as the excess weight increases aerodynamic drag, which hurts fuel economy.

Coordinate with the future roommate. Does your student really need two printers in one dorm room? Mellen advises soon-to-be-roommates to have a quick conversation in advance about who’ll bring what. Deciding first which items they can share the cost of maintaining, such as a printer or coffee maker, can help free up space in the back of your car that would otherwise be occupied by an unnecessary bulky appliance.


Source: Andrew Mellen