When you’re a college student, moving home for the summer can be a major relief from the pressures of school. But a temporary move can also present logistical challenges when it comes to organizing and storing your belongings, especially if you attend school across the country.

The good news is that a little preparation goes a long way. Jennifer Lava, professional organizer and productivity consultant, says sorting and organizing your stuff at the start of summer makes the transition to fall semester that much easier.

Certified professional organizer Ellen Delap agrees: “It will save you time and money in the end,” she says. Here are six steps to decluttering, organizing, and storing your stuff over summer.

1. Consider Your Future Housing Situation.

Before you go on a decluttering spree and potentially discard something you might need, it’s a good idea to square away the details of your accommodations for fall semester. Are you living in the same location, moving from a dorm to an apartment, or changing roommates?

These different factors will affect what you decide to get rid of and keep, as well as where you’ll store your things. Once you nail down the details and discuss plans with your roommates, make two lists: “Save” and “Donate.” The first list should include any household necessities you need for next year, like your desk or dishes. The other should list items you won’t need for next year, either because you no longer want them, you don’t have space for them, or your roommates already agreed to bring them.

2. Declutter.

After you set aside the main things you need for next year, start decluttering your closet, bathroom, and kitchen.

“There is no sense in moving or storing items you don’t need, use, or love,” Lava says.

Paring down your belongings will help streamline the packing, organizing, and unpacking processes.

“The simplest place to start is get rid of the trash first,” Lava says. “If it is broken, damaged, torn, or too old, let it go.”

From there, Lava recommends grouping similar items together and sorting through them one by one. Get rid of anything you don’t love or haven’t used in a year, including clothes, shoes, toiletries, textbooks, school supplies, and decor.

3. Sell or Donate What You Don’t Want

Gather up everything that didn’t make it into your “keep” pile, then set aside whatever is still in decent condition. If you want to sell some of your pricier possessions like furniture, appliances, sports gear, or textbooks, considering posting on your university Facebook group. For everything else, Delap recommends donating to local organizations or shelters.

4. Organize Before You Pack.

Delap says it’s crucial to organize your stuff before you start loading up your luggage. Start by grouping things into categories, she says, like clothes, bedding, kitchen tools, and bathroom supplies.

Once you do this, you’ll be able to see exactly what you need — and don’t need — for the summer. Set aside only what you plan to use on a regular basis when you’re home — think: warm-weather clothes, tech devices, and toiletries — then pack those necessities into one or two suitcases. Everything you don’t need access to for the summer months, like textbooks and winter coats, can go into a series of labeled boxes.

5. Use Lists And Labels.

To stay organized over the summer and set yourself up for success come fall, take an inventory of everything you have before you pack it.

“Don’t trust your memory,” Lava says. “Number your boxes and make a general list of what is in each one,” she adds.

Make sure you keep a copy of the list on your phone or computer so you have access to it over the summer. When you’re figuring out what items you need to purchase for the new school year, it’ll serve as a handy guide and reminder of what you already own.

6. Set Up A Storage Unit.

Instead of carting home all your belongings just for the summer (and trying to clear space for them in a corner of the garage), Delap recommends using a local storage service. It’s a great option to safely house everything you don’t immediately need for the summer, like furniture, appliances, dishes, winter clothes, and sports gear.

Here’s the catch, though: you still have to declutter and organize your stuff before you store it. Otherwise, your storage unit will turn into purgatory for all the items you don’t know what to do with, but can’t bear to get rid of.

To keep yourself in check, Delap says, “Put in storage only what you will use next year.”

Paige Smith
Paige Smith is a freelance writer from Orange County, California. She specializes in lifestyle, wellness, and travel topics.