Thursday, August 09, 2007

Guide to Packing for Midd

Guest Post by Hallie Gammon '10. Portions of this article have previously appeared in Insite Magazine.

Whether you’re moving across town or across the country, packing for college is an ordeal: a battle of wills, an examination of priorities, a test of your ability to squeeze things into very tight spaces. Last summer, after a week of sorting, throwing out, packing and repacking, and arguing with my parents over the sheer volume of my belongings, I shipped five huge boxes off to Vermont. Less than a week after my arrival, one box went back under my bed, full of all the things my mother had correctly but futilely warned me I would have neither space nor use for, destined not to see the light of day again until I repacked everything to come home. By that time, I had accumulated so many things I’d forgotten or not realized I would need that the second round of packing was more harrowing than the first. The following guidelines will hopefully spare you some of the agonies of decision-making and let you have fun planning your home-away-from-home.

What not to bring:

  • Your entire wardrobe. Under no circumstances should you simply dump the entire contents of your closet into a box, especially those hideous sweaters lurking at the back that you would never dream of wearing. If you’re like me, you probably wear the same jeans again and again and ignore a large percentage of your wardrobe. If you’re thinking “the more clothes I bring, the less often I’ll have to do laundry,” forget it. You’ll end up doing laundry anyway just to get to those favorite jeans, and the closet in your dorm room is going to have to store more than clothes. If you don’t wear it now, don’t bring it (unless it’s that adorable halter top your dad won’t let you out of the house in.)
  • Knick-knacks. In a dorm room, your decorating space is limited mostly to the walls and ceiling, so bring posters, pictures, bulletin boards, wall hangings, mobiles – anything that doesn’t take up precious space on top of your desk and dresser. As an added bonus, posters don’t collect much dust.
  • All your books. For one thing, they’re really heavy. For another thing, as a freshman, you want to be getting out and making friends, not holed up in your room. Dorm room bookshelves are tiny, and they have to hold textbooks too. Bring your favorite “comfort books” for when you’re having a really bad day, but leave the complete works of Tolkien at home in favor of a good dictionary for any language you’ll be studying (including English). Besides, if you get desperate for reading material, there’s always the library.
  • A microwave. They take up space and a power outlet, both of which are at a premium. Unless you have a serious Ramen fetish, you’ll probably only need to heat up the occasional bag of popcorn, and for that you can use the microwave in your dorm’s kitchen. Or you can borrow from that one person on your hall who thinks they just can’t live without one.
  • Your high school identity. By all means, hang on to the interests and talents that made up who you were in high school, but leave labels like “valedictorian” and “school newspaper editor” at home. Chances are, if you got into Midd, you were Somebody in high school, but stories starting “In high school, I…” more often lead to competitions (“Oh yeah? Well, in high school, I…”) than conversations. Everybody has a few hilarious or truly interesting stories of former escapades, but bringing up your high school experience again and again won’t make you a popular conversationalist. Figure out who you’re going to be in college and don’t look back.

What not to forget:

  • Laundry supplies. Unless you’ll be able to bring your clothes home to mom on the weekend, you’re going to become very familiar with the college laundry facilities. One of the most useful things I took to college was a box of Shout color-catcher cloths. It means you can throw your colors and whites all in the same load without fear of them turning pink, an idea that might scandalize your mother, but at college you’ll have better things to do than sort laundry. Industrial washers and dryers are hard on clothes, so you’ll probably want to bring a delicates bag and a drying rack. Or you can simply let natural selection determine which of your clothes are college-worthy.
  • A printer. While free printing in college computer labs sounds like a great deal, unless the library is right out your back door, you’ll be spending a lot of time running around campus at midnight before your paper is due, vainly seeking a printer that isn’t out of paper, out of ink, or just out of sorts. I survived my first two months without a printer mostly by mooching off my friends before I broke down and begged my parents to send me one. If you and your roommate work and play well together, sharing a printer is an economical solution. If you do get your own printer, it will make you almost as many new friends as owning a car.
  • A first aid kit. This should more or less replicate your medicine cabinet at home, since you’ll have to take care of yourself if you get sick. You can (and should) always go the campus health center if anything is seriously wrong, but for average colds, stomach bugs and sore throats, you’ll want to have medicine on hand. If you don’t normally pay attention to what your mom gives you when you’re sick, ask her to go shopping with you to make sure you have everything you need and know how and when to take it. Besides, if you’re not 18 yet she’ll have to buy your Sudafed for you.
  • Dishes. You don’t need a service for 12, but sooner or later someone will have a birthday and it will be BYOB (Bring Your Own Bowl-and-spoon). If you don’t already drink coffee or tea, college will soon remedy that, and travel coffee mugs (i.e. with lids) are handy for keeping you awake through early-morning classes, especially in the dead of winter. However, you can probably skip buying your own Nalgene, as they seem to have become the giveaway of choice at college orientations.
  • Rain boots. Come spring at Midd, when all that picturesque snow starts to melt, you will be truly miserable without some kind of seriously waterproof footwear. You can try Scotchguarding your regular shoes, but when it’s raining on the already slushy ground, that approach doesn’t really cut it. Besides, galoshes are such a classy fashion statement, why miss the opportunity?


Anonymous said...

I'd add a toolkit and those mobile/stackable drawers/drawer units.

Anonymous said...

printer - an extravagance, given that there is bound to be a printing location within a 5 min radius.

Hallie said...

re: printer extravagance
i thought so too, but at 2 a.m. in 15-degree weather, not having to leave your room doesn't seem so extravagant. but it's only my recommendation, you are certainly more than welcome to do as you like.

on the books...