Your mom’s been telling you to do this for weeks. When she first mentions it, it seems too early to pack for college (and her request feels a little offensive. Why is everybody so anxious to get rid of you?) Eventually realize that yeah, that duffel bag sitting on the floor in the center of your room isn’t going anywhere until you put things in it. Also, it’s making your dog unspeakably nervous. You have at least three false starts before you actually begin to pack. You aim to pack, but end up cleaning out your closet. Hell, you aim to clean out your closet so that you can pack, but end up distracted by something in your dresser drawer (Where did all these coins come from? Let’s count them!! I can probably buy fries with this!)
Before you can pack for college, you have to decide what you’re going to wear in college. Look into your closet and realize that tragically, everything you own is something that High-School-You would wear (because HIgh-School-You bought them, and you are in fact still High-School-You for at least another six months). Imagine the things that College-You should wear. Maybe go to Forever 21 and buy a cheap fedora that you wear exactly once, and never in public. Google things like “what college people wear.” This will not help at all — it turns out, a lot of people are in college and they wear a wide variety of things.
You decide to start with what is easiest — undergarments. You will regret this, because you are invariably going to need your undergarments every day, and if you have to fish them out of your suitcase and then pack them again when they’re out of the wash, you’ve pretty much wasted your time. But right now it is the easiest thing to pack without confronting your identity crisis (which you forget about for the time being). Now, here is some real advice: throw away anything that is uncomfortable, embarrassing, or otherwise unwearable. They will just sit in your drawer and make you feel ashamed. Once those are gone, pack every single undergarment you own. You can never have too many H&M thongs (that you bought in a multicolored 5-pack).
Find a checklist and attempt to follow it to the letter. Be careful with this – some college packing checklists will tell you you need exactly two blazers, whereas others will be like, “Oh, you need shirts, and pants, and like, socks, I guess,” and I have yet to find one that achieves a happy medium. Fold everything immaculately. Google “how to fold a shirt” so that you can do it the way the professionals do (it requires an Architectural Digest magazine, but it’s totally worth it in certain contexts. This is not one of them, by the way). Again, do not pack anything that you’re not going to wear. Be honest with yourself. If you haven’t worn something in the last year, you probably will never wear it at college (except those light wash boyfriend jeans I bought in like, 2007 that I have only now developed the hips and confidence to wear — these stories are rare).
You try to imagine yourself wearing these things in college. You try to imagine yourself being in college at all. You can’t. You stalk the pictures of older friends, cousins, siblings of neighbors. They seem to be college people. You look at yourself. You are not a college person. This is highly disconcerting.
Stop folding things. Throw all of the clothes you have worn and enjoyed in the last six months into your duffel. Throw in a few sentimental items — the sweatpants you bought at summer camp, the flats you once accidentally wore through the snow to your boyfriend’s house and completely ruined, your cheap fedora that you will never wear. Bring some books from your bookshelf. You probably won’t spend much time reading them, but they’ll be conversation starters if nothing else. A dorm room with only textbooks is a bleak place. Realize when you can hardly close your bag (or bags) (no judgment here) and when looking through your closet and finding nothing appealing that you’re probably done.
Except you don’t leave for school for another two weeks. Oops.Share your college packing stories in the comments. Do you know a good, flexible but helpful college packing checklist? Give us a link! Inquiring minds, etc, I don’t know how this saying actually ends.