Please note that I might receive a small commission from items on this page if they are purchased through their respective links. Don’t worry, you won’t be charged more, but the small commission allows me to continue posting blog content you love. Thanks for your understanding.
College packing lists can be overwhelming. Sometimes I see lists on Pinterest that contain hundreds of items. But the reality of college is that your room is small. And odds are you’re sharing it with at least one other person, if not two. (Okay, maybe this semester is a little different because corona, but if you’re reading this in 2025 or something hopefully things are “back to normal”). Living in dorms means maximizing all the space you have, so here’s what you SHOULDN’T pack for college:
1. Too much decor
I know, I know, you have your Pinterest board and Redbubble cart all ready to go for this one. Butttttt you might want to rethink buying all of your decor before you move in. As helpful as those photos of your dorm room are on your school’s website, you don’t really know what your situation will be until you get there. Anything that you plan on ordering online, I would wait to buy until after you move in. By all means, buy the basics: duvet, pillows, blanket, etc. before hand. But anything going on the walls can wait. You’ll save space in the car and not have to deal with trying to transport a huge flat poster in your cramped car without creasing it.
Okay, yes you need hangers. But you definitely don’t need to buy a whole new set of hangers. Anything you need to hang up in your closet at school is already on a hanger in your closet at home right? So I would just use the hangers you already have. I know you have extra also. And the beauty of online shopping: you can buy more if you need them and have them in two days. Having too many hangers is just annoying to deal with, especially when you bring them home at the end of the year and add them to the million hangers you already had in your closet. It also saves plastic 🙂
3. A steamer
This might be an unpopular opinion, but I’ve only used my steamer once (!) in my two years of college so far. Instead, I recommend a wrinkle releaser spray. It’s much more convenient as you don’t need to fill it up, plug it in, and then wait for water to boil. You just spray it on your clothes and go. And it smells nice! I was shocked when I brought this to college and none of my friends had ever heard of it.
** 15 Most Essential Items for a College Dorm **
4. Too many shoes
Shoes are some the most annoying items to pack. They’re heavy and take up so much space. And those behind-the-door shoe racks you see everywhere? Those either fall down on the daily or straight up don’t fit on your closet door. You need six pairs of shoes MAXIMUM: casual sneakers for every day, shoes for the bar/frat, rain boots/winter boots, sandals, running shoes, and maybe a pair of heels if you plan on attending formals. Hopefully you can find a nook under your bed or some space at the bottom of your closet to store them.
5. Drawer Organizers
I really don’t see the point of these. The wardrobes and dressers that colleges provide are so small, I don’t know why you would want to sacrifice even the tiniest amount of space for organizers. Unless you are absolutely meticulous about your clothes, odds are you’ll just end up having to rummage around to find the shirt you want and ruin the organization anyway. When you’re running out the door late for your 8am, you can’t take the time to re-fold everything and put them back in their space. Cramped college dorms mean embracing the chaos that comes with them, and I’m warning you now, those organizers will not keep you organized.
6. A Brita pitcher
My number one item for what you shouldn’t pack for college is definitely a Brita pitcher. Perhaps another unpopular opinion. If you’re working with a mini fridge (key word mini), a Brita pitcher isn’t worth sacrificing the small amount of space. If you have communal bathrooms, the last thing you’ll want to do is walk all the way there to try and fit your pitcher under the sink (which it probably won’t) only for it to hold one bottle’s worth of water. The only reason I can see why you would want a Brita pitcher would be to keep water cold. However, most soda fountains on your college campus will have a cold water button. Additionally, no school is pumping their sinks with nasty undrinkable water. There is simply no reason to filter it. And if you’re that adamant, buy a Brita water bottle. It will save you space and time.
7. A TV
In the world of streaming, a whole television in a dorm room is a waste of space. Unless you’re into video games, you don’t need a TV in your room. The only live TV event that people watch these days in The Bachelor, but with corona, who knows when the next season of that will be. If there’s a show you want to watch live, most dorm buildings have a lounge with a TV that’s open to the building.
8. Tons of school supplies
Like the situation with decor, you don’t really know your situation until you get there. College curricula are very different than high school, and most of the materials tend to be online. Laptops are allowed in most classes, and you might find that note taking is much easier electronically. Of course, every person has their own study system that requires different materials. But because college classes are so different from high school, you might want to wait to get in the groove of things before you invest in a bunch of notebooks, flashcards, and binders. All you need on day one is a piece of paper and a pencil.
I hope that this little “what you shouldn’t pack for college” post was helpful for your packing process! If you bought any of these items but they are still unopened, I would recommend returning them! I know each person’s college experience is different, but trust me when I say you would rather under pack than over pack.
For a list of my college must haves (when I say that, I mean it) check out 15 Most Essential Items for a College Dorm.
Whether you are online, in person, or a little bit of both, good luck this year! 🙂
Don’t forget to share!