Moving Home: What To Do With Your Stuff

At the beginning of the year you feel organized and ready for what’s to come. You have your closet and shelves arranged just the way you want, and your drawers organized perfectly. There is nothing hiding under your bed or shoved on top of you desk. You promise yourself (and your roommate) that it will stay this way all year.

Fast forward to May. Finals are over, classes are done and you are now faced with the daunting challenge of not only cleaning your room, but packing it. Somehow the “clean” space you once set up has morphed into a sinking hole of stuff. You have shoes here, there, behind that, under there. Your books are stacked, your papers thrown; nothing is where it once was. How did that happen? Where did the time go, or more importantly, where did all this stuff come from?

Regardless of where it came from, you have to get it together—literally, and move out before the semester is over. This year it took me three days to pack my room. One day to wrap my head around the amount of physical stuff I had to pack, and two to actually move and organize it.

I don’t want the same thing to happen to you, so let’s lay some ground rules. How are you going to go through your stuff and be sane enough to make the journey home? Don’t worry, no stress. There is an easy way to visualize and prepare for the task that lies ahead. Take notes, grab some water, and maybe change into some workout clothes! (I’m not ashamed to admit that I broke a sweat just starting to think about compacting my room into rubber maids—whew, what a workout!)

First, you need to mentally prepare. Put on some music and wrap your mind around what you’re about to do. This is a big job. It won’t take five minutes, and it doesn’t need to take all day. Start small and work in areas! If you want to tackle the closet first, great! If not, try the drawers! Whatever puts you most at ease is fine.

Second, make piles. The great thing about college is that no one forces you to keep anything. Find something you know you’ll never need, or use again? That’s okay! But before you toss it, think about where it could go. Is it reusable? Could someone else benefit from the unused treasure that just emerged from under your bed? I would recommend making three piles as you organize: One for trash, one for goodwill or donations, and one for stuff to keep. This way, once you make it through everything you have a visual sense of what you’re taking with you, what you are getting rid of and what you need to find a new home for.

If you can, check with your campus for collection sites, or dorm drives. At some campuses student groups will hold collections for unwanted, gently used items that can be donated to local shelters, homes, and thrift centers. It saves you a trip, and goes to a good cause—win, win!

So you’ve made piles, you’ve organized your stuff into the must-haves and no-goes, so what comes next? Now you have to pack efficiently so if can all fit in the car. What has worked best for me over the last few years is rubber maids. You can buy them from Target or Wal-Mart for relatively cheap—or you can keep an eye on sales, you never know when they’ll pop up!

Storage bins are light weight, easy to pack, and fit A LOT of stuff in them. I broke it down into categories—one for clothes (most likely fall and winter since you won’t be using those anytime soon), one for desk and “school stuff” (stapler, hole punch, random paperclips, folders, and paper), and then one for bed stuff and towels. By compartmentalizing your room into categories you don’t get overwhelmed by volume. The simple categories are easy to comprehend and will make for easy unpacking and storage as well!

Don’t get stressed at the thought of packing your room. If you go slow, and take breaks—including some time to dance around to music, time will fly and before you know it your room will be empty and you’ll be ready and rolling out the door! But don’t forget—now that you’ve packed up your room, keep track of your system and take note of where you put everything. August will be here in the blink of an eye and it will be move in day once again!

-Ring Queen

I’m reading Organizational Communication: Approaches and Processes