Guest Guru- Nancy Meyer

Organizing Your College Student to Come Home for Summer Break

Moving my daughter Marissa from Orange County, CA to Bloomington, IN was hard enough logistically her freshman year, but at that time she was living in the dorms and most of her things were fairly easy to transport back or donate. However, sophomore year she lived in an apartment with her girlfriends, with lots more space for clothing, furniture, and electronics. Now that we’re approaching summer, the logistics of moving out of her college house and into a sublet for summer school, back to the O.C. in July, and then to a completely different campus home in fall, is extremely difficult. It takes a lot of time, planning for storage, organizing of her possessions and ditching the clutter.

Setting up moving and logistics

So where does a parent start in trying to organize all of these elements? 1st and foremost, deter them from buying expensive, heavy and hard to move items. We like IKEA for coffee tables and end tables and finding apartments/houses that are furnished. Students often sell or give away items like sofas, desks, etc. at the end of the year to avoid having to store them over the summer. Marissa and her roommates found a great sofa for very little money, and after a year of constant use, they can resell it and feel no guilt. This also saves on the moving costs.

Do your homework. Have your son/daughter research the cheapest options for storage. Campus companies may have better deals than national name brands.

Think about the labor. Personally, Marissa and I alone can’t move a whole lot of stuff on our own. While ideally you may want to have strong friends of your student help out, remember that college kids have busy schedules, stresses and usually all have to move around the same time. It may be worth it to hire help for a little more reliability. You do not want to be stranded when the people you asked for a favor don’t show up.

Look for package deals. At the University of Indiana, they have a storage company that moves your things into storage, keeps your goods for the summer, and will unload it into your new house in the fall—All for about $300!

So you have organized the services, but what about the packing? This is the real bear of the process, especially when many students have finals on one day and have to be completely moved out the next. We use large plastic storages containers with rollers for everything…and they can be used over and over. We pack bedding, clothes not coming home for summer, kitchen items, etc in these. They are easy to move, easy to see what is inside, and no need to get boxes, tapes, etc. We pre-print large bright colored labels stating name, contact phone number, and basic items inside. There is one initial investment, but they can be used year after year and work perfect during the school year as extra storage space in dorms or apartments.

If your student has acquired a pet during the year (Marissa was given a kitten by a friend in the winter), remember this can be stressful for them as well. Make sure the pet is cared for or boarded while the move takes place so they do not get spooked and run away.

Time to declutter!

Clothing goods. Marissa is an Apparel Merchandise major, so this one is not easy, but here’s the rules we work with- Any item of clothing or shoes that doesn’t fit or that she doesn’t wear is donated. Items that are ripped or stained should be thrown out. We store all the winter clothes (no need to bring home for summer) and then clean them in the Fall after unpacking.

Kitchen. The kitchen is also an area with heavy or bulky items. Again, anything that is not used and takes up too much space should be donated or thrown out.

Paper Products. Recycle and purge them. Unless your son/daughter really feels they will need the notes again, they will certainly just cause clutter.

Books, Books, Books. These heavy and expensive pieces should be sold back to the bookstore or on If your student can get $100 back for their semesters worth of books, that will pay for one month of storage!

Electronics. If your child has a lot of electronics like video game systems, blu-ray players, stereos, etc, most of them should probably go in storage, especially if they are living in a sub-lease. Living with new roommates for 8 weeks with people they may not be as close with (or don’t know at all) can leave them more vulnerable to theft. Keep in mind that while the roommates may be great people they may have friends over that aren’t so honest. It’s just a smart precaution for the few weeks they will live in the sub lease.

Staying happy during the stress of moving

There’s one final, and possibly most important parts: be cool. Moving is stressful for everyone. Your child is going to be tense and strained from their finals already. So adding in the chaos of moving and mom/dad being in town will heighten the tension. Make sure you have food in your stomach. It sounds simple but trying to move without some fuel will cause people to snap easily and be forgetful. It’s also a good idea to put on some music and plan to do something fun when the packing and moving is over. Have your son/daughter take you to a campus burrito hot spot or treat them to their favorite meal.

When organizing for summer college moves, remember that it’s stressful for everyone. Planning ahead, searching for deals, and decluttering as you go will save you time, energy, and money. Plus the donated items will help another person in the community!

Good Luck and Happy Moving!