How to Pack Clothes for Moving to College

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We’re much too close to needing to know how to pack clothes for moving to college in my home. Once your child decides what to take to college, the next biggest challenge facing parents is how to pack and load all the stuff your child wants to take to college. We’ve started packing my daughter’s belongings and I thought I’d share some simple tips on how to pack clothes for college.

Stack of 5 white boxes labeled with types of clothing and text overlay.

In my house, we’re getting closer to C-Day for Operation Take My Daughter to College.  C-Day is the day that deployment (departure) begins. (Can you tell I worked in transportation when I was in the military?). While I’m not emotionally ready, I have to be ready to help my daughter get her things packed because she’s going, whether I’m ready or not.

With more than 20 moves (thanks to the military) under my belt, I’ve picked up quite a few tips that I’ve share about how to pack clothes for moving. These moving tips have served us just as well in packing and moving clothes to college. 

Frequently Asked Questions about How to Pack Clothes for Moving to College

  1. What to Pack First
  2. How to Fold Clothes to be Packed
  3. What Type of Containers to Use for Packing
  4. How to Organize Clothes
  5. How to Keep Track of the Packed Items

What to Pack First

We’ll pack my daughter’s summer clothes in her suitcases since she’ll be using those clothing items up until the day we leave.  But her fall and winter clothes can easily be packed up early.

Start by packing clothes that your child won’t be using until later in the fall or winter. Leave the summer clothes to pack last, in the last couple of days before she leaves. 

How to Fold Clothes to Be Packed

I fold the clothes using my usual folding techniques. You can find all my folding tips in How to Fold Clothes and MoreI take the time to fold each item so that it is as wide as the suitcase or box to maximize the space.

However you choose to fold the clothes, take the time to do it neatly to minimize wrinkling during the packing and moving process.

What Type of Containers to Use for Packing

Use the suitcases that your child will take to college for packing clothes. But in addition, I like these banker’s boxes for packing and moving.  They’re small enough that even if you pack them full, you’ll be able to easily pick them up and carry them without much trouble.  The built-in handles are key to making these boxes easy to manage.  Plus they stack so nicely and neatly in your home, in the car and in the dorm room. 

How to Organize Clothes

We started by separating her clothes into piles:

  • fall items
  • early winter (lighter weight winter items)
  • sweaters (heavy winter sweaters)
  • coats

This will allow her to store the boxes away for the first couple of months and then access each box as needed.

I packed one category in each box. I filed the clothes items so she can simply open the box and pull out the item she wants (no pawing through a pile to find what you want is on the very bottom).

Close up of clothes and socks neatly folded in box

We put her winter pajamas and socks in the fall box since it’s always cooler at night.

close up of white box with sweaters neatly folded and filed in the box

Early winter includes her lighter weight sweaters and jackets.

Stack of white boxes with orange labels, one box opened in front with coats folded neatly in box

I folded her heavy coats and placed them in one box.  This will probably be the last box she accesses.

How to Keep Track of Packed Items

Stack of 5 white boxes with labels specifying categories of clothes packed in boxes

I used removable labels so that she can reuse these boxes to pack away her summer clothes.  I could have used a label maker, but I want her to have a piece of home when she sees mama’s handwriting on the labels in a couple of months.

Be sure to label each box clearly.  This will help you when you prioritize what to unpack in the college dorm room in the limited time you have. It will also help your child decided what clothes to hang up and put in the dresser immediately and what clothes can stay in boxes until the weather changes in a month or two. 

My daughter is even considering stacking 2 or 3 of these boxes as a nightstand.  She’s looking for a pretty piece of fabric to dress up her storage box nightstand.  I think she has a brilliant idea since storage space will be at a premium in her dorm room and we live too far away to pick stuff up.  She has to live with all of it all year-long.

Whew,we’ve figured out how to pack clothes for moving to college. I shared the lessons I’ve learned moving my daughter to college and into dorm rooms. You can read more:

Stack of 4 white boxes with orange labels specifying clothes packed in boxes

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  1. I LOVE banker’s boxes! Every time I get one set up, I marvel at the design – so simple and so useful! These are great tips.

    1. Thanks, Leah. I love those boxes, too. It doesn’t even bother me that they’re not decorated. They’re so useful I see them as beautiful.

  2. What great tips. I can imagine this was done with great love and great sadness at the same time. You are the organizing queen and a good mom to do this for your baby.

  3. Oh Susan – It’s really happening… your baby is really going to college. Up until now it’s been fun stuff but those boxes… oh those boxes… they make such a statement. Big hugs my friend. I know you can do it. Holly Oh and PS – I love her idea to make them a nightstand… gee.. wonder where she gets her genius ideas from??? 😉

    1. Thanks for the hugs, Holly, I need them! I’m proud of her ingenuity (and I’d like to think it’s from me, but she’s pretty stinkin’ smart all on her own).

  4. We have moved three children to college and on #3, finally hit the epitome of labeling. There are many (zillions) college helpers on Freshman move in day to help unload the umpteen boxes with the giant potential of misplaced boxes. Several of the kids commented, “wow, this was the best labeling!” By the time we parked the truck, her stuff was all stacked in her room. Amazing. And not one wayward box!

    We used banker boxes and Rubbermaid/Sterlite containers with lids. I printed out my daughter’s name AND room number in a huge font on bright colored paper and taped that strip of paper (mailing tape) to the top and side of each box. We also taped closed the drawers of the Sterlite container, so we didn’t have any toiletries all over the parking lot.

    She is still using those containers in her latest “move back to college” this past week.

    That move sure is heart wrenching, but boy, grown-up children are such fun.

    1. J, such good tips (I’m off to label the boxes with my daughter’s name and room number). Part of what’s hard about her leaving, is that she is so enjoyable right now :). I”m glad to hear that she’ll be even more fun.

      1. PSPS: One more tip that it again, took me till child #3 to get. College is 3 hours away. Not horrible, but enough of a pain when we need to borrow a truck, fill up that gas guzzler (gasp!), chance the weather w/ stuff in the back, and make a killer long day back and forth with my achy back. This past year, my daughter and several friends got together and rented a storage unit for the big stuff. (Fridges, bookcases, and anything that wouldn’t get damaged in the non-climate controlled unit)

        OH. MY. Why in the world did it take me this long to get a clue? It was very affordable when shared and really, even if I would have had to choke and pay the whole rent for three months, it really would have come out pretty even in the end. (2 gas guzzling round trips – move in / move out) The convenience alone outweighs everything! Honestly, SOOO much better. Obviously, I am not very bright as it has taken me this long to figure out! hah.

        And yes, big kids really are wonderful. So much in their heads and hearts to share. If it is good now, it will probably be better. We are blessed. It was good before and all three (plus a new son-in-law) are even more terrific young adults. (They will always be my babies, though. sniff.)

        1. J., great to know about renting a storage unit. I’ve already been wondering what to do in the spring when we have to move it all back here.

  5. Ha Ha! I just looked at your pictures again and see it says Staples…all over them! How could I miss that??? LOL!

    1. Morgan, leaving for college seems to have come in a blink (wasn’t it just yesterday that she was playing dress up?). Enjoy every moment of every day, as you know. And this is a wonderful time, too. It’s just different.

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  7. I am glad to find it. There are so many moving bloggers working on this part but this is one of the best innovative post ever. Thanks for such post.

  8. THANK YOU for posting this. I was looking for something pretty but organized to get me ready for our move.
    Preparing and packing, loading to the truck, and relocating all your life from one state to another can be one of the most stressful tasks you could ever face. Moving Companies are always eager to help a long distance move go as smooth as possible.

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