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Packing is hard. How do you consolidate your entire life into a few boxes? What if you forget something super important at home? Or decide against bringing something last minute, only to ask your parents to ship it to you three days (and $20) later?

Fortunately for you, we here at Spectrum know not only the definite dorm no-nos, but also the commonly forgotten necessities. Here’s what you should ban from your suitcase and what you should not leave for the airport without.

What you think you need, but don’t

The ~forbidden~

While you might argue that every other item on this list is negotiable (to each their own, after all), don’t even bother with these—ResLife will confiscate them during room checks. Save your money and your stuff, and leave these behind:

  • AC units (window and portable)
  • Candles
  • Incense
  • Hot plates
  • Space heaters
  • Empty alcohol bottles, even if they’re for decoration
  • Microwaves (including mini fridges with attached microwaves)

Binders

Although binders would have been the way to go in high school, you shouldn’t bring as many (if any) as you’ll think you need in college. Most professors won’t give that many handouts, and when they are, they won’t be hole-punched. If you truly have an affinity for binders over folders, only take one or two with you—the rest can be purchased when you arrive. There’s also no need to bring a hole puncher, since libraries on campus will have it (I did not use my hole puncher once the entire year, and it was just super heavy).

“But what am I to use in place of binders? How will I ever be organized again?” We here at Spectrum are big fans of keeping everything in one place. Therefore, we’d recommend one five-subject notebook. Get a nice one from FiveStar that has pocket dividers, and you’ve got your paper and handout storage space all in one place.

An excessive amount of clothes

I’m someone who will overpack heavily on a vacation, but you don’t want to be that type of person at college—your space is limited as is. If when you’re packing you come across things you only think you might wear, or have only worn once, or might wear only as part of a costume, don’t pack it. If you really need a neon yellow raincoat for Halloween, someone else can probably lend you one.

Pro tip: Want more detailed info on planning your small, but complete, NYC wardrobe? Here’s what you might need.

A printer and paper

Too many people have asked us whether they should bring their own printer. Our question to you: Why would you need one? You can print 100 pages every week for free with PawPrint, the University’s printing system. You also have an extra 100 pages per semester in your quota just in case you go over one week, and there’s a printer located in every first-year residence hall. Your printer and ream of paper will just take up space that you don’t have.

A full-length mirror, trash can, and recycling bin

Don’t get us wrong, these are obviously necessities, but the school provides these. Small trash bags, though—make sure you buy those once you get here to keep those bins clean.

A lap desk

It’s tempting to get one, I know, but you don’t need it. You should ideally do most of your school work at your desk (so you don’t associate your sleeping area with being a place of work), and also hunching over the portable desk in your bed might cause you to get a backache.

Seasonal items

Decorations can make a person feel at home, but remember that you’ll have to find a place to store decorations you’re not displaying year-round. Therefore, it’s best to keep seasonal decorations—such as Halloween or Christmas knickknacks—to a minimum. If it’s bigger than a sign to hang on your door, leave it at home.

High school paraphernalia

Photos of your friends are totally OK. Your varsity jacket, framed awards you received, trophies from sports competitions, and yearbooks are not. High school may have been a great time for you, but leave some of those memories behind to make space for new ones.

What you don’t think you need, but do

Stamps

You might not pack stamps because you never sent snail mail at home, but college is a little different. If you want to send a letter home, a birthday card to your friend, a message to your celebrity crush, or (more likely) vote via absentee ballot, you’re going to need stamps. Mail Services in Wien and the Student Mail Room in Altschul don’t sell stamps, so instead of scrambling to find stamps when the time comes, just pack a few.

Wrinkle release spray or garment steamer

Trust us, you really don’t have the space in your room to store an iron and board. Sure, you might be able to make do with a mini ironing set, but why waste the space when there’s a simpler solution? Wrinkle release spray or a garment steamer should be able to get all the tricky creases out of your clothes.

Earplugs

It can get loud in the dorms. That’s not to say that there will be a party on every floor every evening, but when you’re trying to sleep or study, even the sound of your neighbors talking outside your door can be enough to set you on edge. Get yourself some disposable earplugs for sound sleeping and/or studying.

An electric kettle

As we said in our ultimate packing list, a kettle can be good for more than just tea. Use it to make your instant coffee in the morning, or heat water for oatmeal, ramen, and other quick meals.

A small sewing kit

You never know when you’re going to need to replace a lost button. Get yourself a small sewing kit with a couple of different thread colors, so all your clothes are in tip-top shape.

A filtered water bottle

I know a lot of people are planning on bringing full-size Brita water pitchers, but what are you going to do when you forget to fill it up and need to get going to class? In my opinion, buying a filtered water bottle is more convenient, as it cuts out the middleman.

It can be really helpful to see what kinds of things are available in your particular dorm. For example, if you’re living in a dorm such as Hartley or Wallach, you may want to think about bringing a few cooking supplies since each floor has a kitchen. If your dorm doesn’t have AC, you should definitely plan to purchase or bring a fan. Doing your research in advance can really save you time in the future—look on The Shaft for room reviews and pictures, decide what to take and what to forsake, and pack accordingly. Good luck!

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Want to know if something is worth bringing to college? Ask us here, or on our Facebook, Twitter, or Snapchat @CUSpectrum.

Victoria Yang is a SEAS sophomore and Spectrum staff writer. She has a comprehensive packing guide. Ask her for it at victoria.yang@columbiaspectator.com.

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