Help Them Pack

Kid going off to college?


You may have tangled emotions with how much you'll miss their sweet face (a lot). And how much you'll miss their stuff (maybe not so much).

This is a great time to give their room a major clearing out. Here are some tips on how to pack AND pare down and organize at the same time.


Everything will fit into one of these categories:

  • Pack to take with them.

  • Leave in the room to use when they visit on holidays.

  • Store long-term..

  • Sell, give away or throw away.

Here's how to decide which is which.

Category 1 – Pack to take with them, in priority order.

  1. Items they need with them.

  2. Items they use every week.

  3. Items they love.

    • CAUTION: Not every item they love. Obviously, space will determine how much they can bring with them. But even a single item that they love can make the dorm feel a little like home, even if there's no other purpose for it.

Category 2 – Leave in the room.

  1. Clothes that fit, and are in good repair. Usually, they'll swap out off-season clothing during visits home. That said, it's time to clear out anything that doesn't fit or that they don't wear. Closet space is a valuable resource – don't waste it on anything that isn't current.

  2. Things that they use and love and would take with them if they had the room. It will be good to have them during visits. They may take them along the next time. As long as it's in good shape and has a proper place in their room, great. It just has to be put away, and the room left neat. (Left neat? Well, yes. Otherwise, the "maid" might come and get rid of things they wanted to keep. By mistake. Just sayin'.)

Category 3 - Store long-term. Set firm boundaries.

  1. You may decide that the only space they have is in their room, and when they move out completely, it all goes with them.

  2. You may decide that they can store some closed boxes or bins in your storage area, attic or garage.

Whichever you decide, now is the time to be firm: they will take these boxes with them when the time comes. This isn't to be mean, or because you don't want to help them. Rather, it's so that they can make smart decisions on what to keep.

For example: It's tough to decide whether to keep all those participation trophies.  But not so tough when you try to imagine what you'd do with them in your first apartment. Not fair to take up space storing in your house, what they wouldn't store in their own place.


There may be several items that are attached to memories they cherish. These memories should be honored.

Packing stuffed toys into a cardboard box in the cellar is not a good way to honor the piece.

Recognize that things never hold up in storage as well as we expect they will. We end up dragging these boxes from house to house only to open them later and find them, well, not so sweet and special anymore.

There are ways to get around saving these memories in boxes. One suggestion is to make a digital scrapbook of this week's packing adventures. Take pictures at the store when you're buying the trunk to pack for the dorm room. Take pictures of sitting on the suitcases, struggling to close them. Take selfies with favorite stuffed animals. Make one last Lego castle and take a photo peeking out from the drawbridge.

Then put those stuffed animals in a donate pile for another child to love on. Pass that box of Legos on to a kid who'll make new adventures with them.


Upload your photos to a free service like Google Photos. You can upload right into an album, and share it with family members. Later, when you're feeling homesick for your kid, you can go to this album. This is a great time to choose the best photos and send them off to a service like Shutterfly to have them made into a book.

This book is an awesome gift, by the way! The book will fit in that first apartment better than all the stuff will, and it will last much longer!