While I will be soaking up the last month of summer before my twins go back to school next month, I know that many school years around the country are going back in the next couple of weeks (or already have!) and many college-bound kids are packing up and preparing for the upcoming school year.
Over the years many of our clients have hired us to create systems in preparation for back to school (i.e. backpack/paper drop zones, supply lists, homework stations), and that has often included setting up their older children to be college ready. Whether it’s creating packing lists for the supplies that are “must-haves” or choosing systems that they can implement into their dorm life, our experience working in many small spaces over the years and learning how to maximize square footage has come in handy and made us a natural fit for those parents to reach out for advice.
For many college-bound kids, college is the first exposure to a lot of “adult” responsibilities as they are living away from home, which include keeping a schedule, balancing priorities and due dates, cleaning, groceries, and and the increased responsibilities of living on their own away from home. While a lot of the college experiences/adult expectations will be learned as the year goes on and through trial and error, there are some things that college students (and parents) can anticipate and prepare for.
Last year we shared our school organization and time management tips for college students with Teen Vogue, which we have included and expanded on below. You’ll notice that a lot of these tips and takeaways can be adopted into your own daily routine (college student or not) which is the goal for everyone that we work with: to create systems that are flexible and can grow/modify as your needs and lifestyle change. College is a great time for young adults to get in the habit of introducing and leaning on organizing systems that make their life and schedule run more smoothly, along with discovering their preferred organizing style and how to best maximize their efficiency on a daily basis.
- Use a calendar system to stay on track. College is the perfect period of your life to work on time management and figure out what type of schedule works best for you. Between social events, internships, and the inevitable workload, it can be a lot to balance. Block off times in your schedule for everything from working out, grocery shopping, and even laundry. Try to be strict with your schedule and get tasks done when you say you will to avoid feeling overwhelmed and frustrated.
- Color-code your calendar. Whether you prefer to write everything down in a planner or swear by your iPhone calendar, get into the habit of writing down your to-dos. Assign colors for each category (ex. blue=social events, red=homework due dates, purple=meetings so that you not only stay on track of what's coming up, but can use it as your daily checklist for how you need to prepare for the day. Nothing is more frustrating than being all the way across campus and realizing that you left something in your dorm room and have to trek back to get it.
- Bring what you use and actually need, leave the rest. It can be overwhelming to choose what clothing, personal items, and desk supplies to bring to school. While it’s important to make your place feel homey and like everything is important, remember that the dorm/shared living space is likely going to be smaller than you are used to and not everything will fit as well (or be as necessary) in your home away from home. During your packing, stick to the essentials and reevaluate during your first break home. Are there clothes or items that you haven’t reached for in the first couple of months? Are there items that you find yourself wishing that you had? Take note of these items and swap out as necessary so that everything in your dorm room adds value to your lifestyle and needs.
- Get creative with your storage. When you’re living in close quarters (and especially when you’re sharing a space), make sure to maximize the the storage in your room. The back of rooms, under the bed, and wall space are valuable real estate. Storage bins and boxes come in every design under the sun and price point, so find options that meet your aesthetic and add to the design of your room. If you have extra floor/under-the-bed space, consider adding storage ottomans, vertical shelving, or plastic drawers to keep anything from extra clothing to snacks controlled and contained.
- Create a grab-and-go command center. Use a small pouch or clear zippered file holder to store your most frequently used (and needed) items. Include a couple of "just in case" items, like a $20 bill, floss, and your cell phone charger so that when the inevitable happens you don't have to trek across campus when you are in need. Not only will it help you organize your go-to items and ensure that you remember the necessities, but it will save you time when those inconveniences pop up!
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Rachel and Company is a professional organizing firm based in Bethesda, MD, serving clients in the Washington, DC area including: Potomac, Maryland Georgetown, the Palisades, McLean, Arlington, and Alexandria, Virginia.