How to Cut Clutter Before Heading Back to College

Anne Wynter
August 22, 2019
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If you’re like a lot of students who are packing up to return to college, you’re probably wondering how you accumulated so much stuff. Thinking of ignoring the issue? Just keep in mind that packing too much before you head off to school can set you up for some ongoing problems—beyond just angering your roommate.

Having an abundance of possessions in your dorm room or apartment can contribute to poor time management and a constant feeling of being overwhelmed, said professional organizer Julie Stobbe, owner of Mind Over Clutter. To lighten your load and set yourself up for a year with less clutter and stress, follow these tips from the experts.


If you think you have more clothes than space in your dorm or apartment closet, start off by setting aside any items that no longer fit, that are worn-out or that haven’t been worn in awhile. Donate these clothes to places like Goodwill, or take them to a resale shop to earn some extra pizza money.


If you don’t want to permanently downsize your wardrobe, simply make smarter choices about which clothes you bring to school. Stobbe recommends sorting through your closet and packing only items that fit into a few favorite color schemes.

“This makes it really easy for all your shirts and sweaters to match what you’ll be wearing on the bottom,” Stobbe said.

Bottom line: You’ll be able to create several outfit combos with fewer pieces.


If you need access to all your notes from previous years, you could end up with huge piles of papers and notebooks that crowd your desk and make it hard to find what you need. Fortunately, there’s a much better option that requires only a little planning.

“Get a small scanner and make everything digital,” said professional organizer Barbara Reich, owner of Resourceful Consultants and author of “Secrets of an Organized Mom.”

college networks

Digital files not only save a ton of space, but they make it faster and easier for you to locate any document you need. Just make sure you keep the hard copies in a safe place—like back at your parents’ house—or that you back up your files in case your computer crashes.


Even though you aren’t setting up a permanent home in your dorm room or apartment, you’ve probably stocked up on some household tools, sewing materials and similar items. Unfortunately, you can waste a lot of space (and money) if you’re hauling full-size toolboxes or first-aid kits to school. Stobbe solved this problem for her children by giving them small boxes that contain miniature versions of these necessities.

For example, a mini-tool kit might contain a small hammer, a screwdriver with interchangeable heads, a small adjustable wrench, nails and rolls of tape. The mini-clothing repair kit could contain a couple spools of thread, needles, safety pins and straight pins.

“I also send first-aid materials,” Stobbe said.

first aid kit

The key is to keep everything in a small, easy-to-access box so you can avoid keeping all these items in various spots and creating more clutter. Make sure to pack only the most commonly used items in each category (think hammer, not power drill; Band-Aids, not trauma dressings) and search for the smallest possible sizes that still can get the job done.

Sentimental Items

Whether you have a soft spot for your middle-school yearbooks, printed photos or your old baby blanket, sentimental possessions can be the hardest things to leave behind. But while it might be comforting to have these items close by, there’s a good chance they’ll just end up collecting dust in a corner or under your bed.


If you want to bring along certain mementos, Stobbe recommends putting favorite photos, meaningful scraps of fabric, certificates and other similar items on a bulletin board that you can hang on your wall. Your favorite memories will be on display so you can enjoy them all the time without sacrificing extra floor or shelf space.


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The SpareFoot Blog offers tips about self-storage, information about storage auctions, advice about home organization, news about SpareFoot and much more.
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