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Move-in Day 101: Her Campus Bentley’s Ultimate Survival Guide to Packing & Unpacking!

Well, it’s that time of year again! Move-in day is quickly approaching—so I’m here to share my tips & tricks for a smooth move-in day with everyone! Despite only being a junior, I’ve already moved in 3 times (I switched dorms mid-semester last fall—boy was that fun), so I’m somewhat of a move-in pro! I also love anything organization-related, so I’d like to think of myself as an expert on the topic! For those of you who have experience moving in, hopefully some of these tips will help you have an even smoother move-in day—and for our freshman readers, I hope these will ease your nerves a bit, as I know move-in day can be quite daunting!

First, let’s chat a bit about move-in day…you know how in movies move-in day seems to somehow go super smoothly? You know the drill: the whole family piles out of the barely-packed car, grabs the boxes, and makes their way into the dorm without having to rush or fight off other families for elevator access. And then they happily set up the room, taking their time decorating and reminiscing and mingling with their new friends? Oh, and the roommates immediately become best buds and bond over their similar taste in décor?


Well, life isn’t exactly like the movies; for some people move-in day is an easy-breezy event that almost seems effortless (in my experience this is what it’s like for boys—they just throw their stuff into trash bags and haphazardly set up the room as fast as possible before running off to hang out with their new friends), but for others it’s a very stressful experience. Now, I don’t want to freak you out, I just want to prepare you for the chaos that will surely ensue. No matter what happens, just take a deep breath and do your best to stay calm—but know that it’s totally okay if you need to freak out for a few minutes. Moving into college is a HUGE step that is both exciting and scary!


Essentially, the key to a successful move in day is organization! It’s important to start organizing at home. This year I took some time to organize everything once I got home for the summer. This turned out to be super beneficial because I was easily able to determine what I needed to buy this summer for the upcoming school year! Since I have an apartment this year, I had a lot of shopping to do—and as the pile grew, I ended up generating lists of what I had and still needed for each room. So far, all of that work has paid off! Now I just have to figure out how to get everything in the car…wish me luck!

Now that I’ve probably freaked you out a bit, let’s dive into my tips and tricks! Feel free to take notes—this is going to be a long one ;)


Storage & Packing

There are many methods used to go about packing your stuff and getting it into your car—so remember that there is no one-size-fits-all scenario, especially since all cars are different sizes!

Before you can even think about packing everything up, it’s a good idea to spread all your dorm stuff out in a relatively open area in your house and group things by what they’re for—such as all bedding related things in one pile, all food related things in another, etc. When it becomes time to pack, you don’t want to be like this:

Then you have to figure out what you’re going to use for packing! A few things to keep in mind are the size of your things, the size of your car, the weight, and how convenient it is to carry!


Here are some methods that have worked for me:

1.) Buy a bunch of Sterilite plastic totes, and fill those with all the weirdly shaped things ~not clothes~. Be sure to label them with both what’s inside and your name/room number—especially if you’re a freshman, because they enlist the Football team to assist with moving, and you don’t want your stuff to end up in the wrong room! Labeling is key no matter what you’re using to pack everything; it makes unpacking much, much faster because you’ll know where everything is.


2.) You know those $1 reusable shopping bags from Marshall’s? Well they’re an amazing packing tool; they’ll pretty much fit anything and they’re easy to carry—plus they come in super cute patterns so you can be stylish as you lug your stuff up four flights of stairs. I usually use them to hold my clothes and oddly shaped items that won’t fit in one of the totes or drawers. An extra bonus is that they fold up to be very small, and can be easily stored even in the smallest of dorms! I also store them in my car so it’s easier to carry things I buy!


3.) Some people prefer to use suitcases or duffle bags to carry their clothes and shoes. I did this Freshman year, but it made it a bit more difficult to carry everything. No matter what you use to store your clothes, make sure to roll or fold your clothes neatly in your suitcase or duffle bags so they can go easily into your drawers and don’t wrinkle—plus it saves space in your bags.

4.) For your hanging items, leave them on hangers and either put them into a tote, or wrap them with a trash bag and tie the tops together so that you can easily whip them into the closet—and voila you’re unpacked!


5.) Some of my friends prefer to bring laundry baskets and put all their stuff in those because they’re easy to carry! Plus you’ll need a laundry basket while you’re at school anyway!


6.) Utilize your underbed storage—it is a lifesaver, trust me—I lived in an 87 square foot single last semester, so I had to use every last inch I could to fit all of my stuff into the room. While it’s super helpful in your dorm, it’s also a space saver when you are packing and trying to stuff everything into your car! If you buy plastic drawer sets or the white cubicle containers from Target, you can use them to store things and keep fragile things (like a Keurig or lamps) safe while you’re transporting!


It’s also smart to tape your totes and plastic drawers with green frog tape, so you don’t have to worry about them opening and all of your things flying everywhere! My dad actually discovered this helpful tip, and so far we haven’t had any problems with losing things—knock on wood.

Remember to pack things that go together in the same bin or bag—so all desk and office things together, all plates and kitchenware together, etc. That way, it’s easier to unpack in an organized fashion and you won’t have to dig through layers of clothes to find the paper towel roll. This is particularly important when moving into an apartment or suite, because you’ll have even more stuff! Also, be sure to pay attention to how heavy your bags and storage containers are—and try to evenly disperse the weight where you can!

When it comes to packing the car, all I have to say is good luck! Definitely try to use every inch of space available in the car, in a safe manner of course. Also, start packing the car as early as possible. I plan on doing it the afternoon before we move in—but as long as you aren’t doing it 5 minutes before you’re planned to leave the house, then you should be fine!

Oh, and when packing the car, put your bedding, sheets and pillows in last, so they’re the first things you pull out. That way, you—or your mom—can make your bed as soon as you get everything into your room!



Unloading the Car

When moving everything into your room from the car, be efficient, but don’t haphazardly pile everything or else you may get trapped. It can be very overwhelming and chaotic with everyone moving in at the same time—and the fact that they only give you 20 minutes to unload your car can be quite stressful. However, don’t fret! They won’t kick you out if you take a few extra minutes, so make sure you move everything into your room in as organized of a fashion as possible. This is where being organized when you pack comes into play! If you pack the car so that like things are together and everything is labeled, it will be a lot less hectic when you are unloading.


The Residential Staff usually provides moving carts to help get everything off of the curb and into the building, but that’s really only helpful if you live in a dorm with an elevator #blessed. So if you’re one of the unlucky ones to not have an elevator, you may want to start some strength training in preparation.


Also, this may appear rather #extra but my dad usually brings a fold-up mini hand truck to move in some of the bigger items. Trust me, it beats trying to carry a fridge up four flights of stairs! As funny as it is, you don’t want to repeat this scene from Friends


Setting Up Your Room

Check out the floor plans on the Bentley housing website and plan out where everything is going to go ahead of time. Then, when you arrive in the room your first priority should be moving the furniture around; otherwise you’ll end up in a very cramped and unpleasant situation.


First things first, take out those Clorox wipes and help your mom clean EVERYTHING—from the windowsill to the desk drawers and especially the mattress (which you will probably be covering with a mattress cover, but clean it just in case). Dusting is a good idea too, especially on top of the lighting fixtures on the wall, and be sure to wipe down the air conditioner!

The first thing you should unpack is your bedding, which is why it’s best to put that in the car last to allow easy access! I would suggest having your mom make your bed for you—because she does want to and because you don’t want to—it’s a win-win.  Once your bed is all set up, you’ll feel much more settled, and that way you can use your bed as a staging area as you unpack.


As you start to unpack and set up your room, it’s bound to get kind of crowded. If you have both parents in tow, or even siblings, friends, or significant others…well, let’s just say it might get ugly! Your best bet is to create an action plan for who is going to do what! You’re probably going to want your mom to help you organize and decorate, so you’ll need something for dad, and anyone else, to do!

Here are a few things for your dad to do so you can keep him occupied:

  1. Send him to get your textbooks from the bookstore—that will take at least half an hour!
  2. Send him to get lunch at the nearby Panera Bread, or whatever your favorite restaurant is! This will be a win-win because he will bring back some delicious food and he won’t be in your way while decorating.
  3. If you’re in a suite or an apartment, you can set your him up in the common area with very specific tasks such as building a bookcase or getting the TV all connected so that you and your mom are free to decorate and organize your room as you please!

Of course, if your dad happens to like decorating or is useful in the height department, maybe it’s best to have him help you set up the room! My dad has great spatial relations, so I usually have him help me set up the room and then send him off for a bit while my mom and I handle the details.


General Survival Tips

Although we are assigned move-in times, it’s important to communicate with your roomie so that you move in at least an hour apart—it can be super cramped if you’re both maneuvering your stuff and families through a tiny door into your room, which is probably quickly filling up!


Definitely pack a small cooler with some waters and a few snacks for yourself and the fam. Move-in day is typically a hot sunny day (which is much better than a dreary wet day, trust me, #beentheredonethat), so it’s important to hydrate and have a little something to refuel and ward off being hangry!

When you’re done moving in, let your parents take you out to lunch or dinner, because it’s nice to end a stressful day with some delicious food. Some ~yummy~ recommendations in the Waltham area are Not Your Average Joe’s, In a Pickle, and Joseph II’s!

Bring trash bags in the car, because as you move in you’ll be generating trash, and you don’t want to start off your first day with an overflowing trashcan!

As you decorate and set up, it’s important to make your room as homey as possible! It’s going to be your home base for the next several months, so you’ll want to like the space you’re living in! Everyone has their own personal style—so I won’t tell anyone how to go about their decorating—but don’t be afraid to go a little overboard with the wall decor…cinder block walls couldn’t be less homey if they tried!


Oh, and buy a LOT of command strips and hooks. It’s best to buy a bunch of different types and make your own assortment of supplies!


I hope everyone enjoys these wise words of wisdom and that you find something helpful in this long, long list! Hopefully you are no longer feeling like this:

Special thanks to all of my friends and fellow HC writers who contributed to our little Move-in Day Survival Guide!

Enjoy! And…





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Bentley University Junior majoring in Information Design and Corporate Communication and a double minor in Management and Politics. I am a Gamma Phi Girl with a passion for fashion, Netflix, and all things Shonda Rhimes. Always ask yourself "What Would Brook Davis Do?" and never say no to coffee!
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