College Move-Out Day

Over the years here, we’ve discussed moving to college and how to decorate dorm rooms. What we haven’t addressed, if my memory of almost 800 Admit This! posts serves, is moving from college. So, let’s talk about that today.

The major arc of college life seems to be that we take way more stuff than we need to move in freshman year and then progressively less and less stuff over the next years. One of the techniques I mentioned in a past article about packing for college involves laying out everything you think you’ll need for the coming college year, including everything Mom thinks you’ll need, which almost always doubles your load.

Once you have all that spread out neatly before you, the next step involves taking away at least half of it and leaving those items behind. You’ll be surprised how much you won’t miss those things. You can always buy an odd or an end here and there during the year as the need arises. Plus, you’ll have so much more room in your tiny domain of college turf.

But … what happens when it’s time to come home for the summer? Moving out is not exactly the opposite of moving in. There are creative ways to deal with it, however.

I found some helpful articles on the Web and on the College Confidential (CC) discussion forum that can give you parents a heads-up about how to handle move-out day, which should be happening any time soon, since we’re about to enter the merry month of May.

overloaded car

For real-world experience and enlightening anecdotes, though, you can’t beat the posters on the CC forum. For example, there’s one very helpful thread entitled Fall dorm move-in vs. Spring move-out, which I find indispensable. The originator of this thread posits:

Our daughter’s semester will be over at the end of this week and we are driving to her campus this weekend to get her moved out. She’s our first to go away and I know now that we overpacked last September [See, I told you so] and have already brought home a few things that she didn’t need (a microwave, extra comforter) I have to say, though, that we found move-in to be relatively straightforward and easy.

We’ve mentioned our upcoming move-out to a few people and the responses seem uniformly negative: not fun, a lot of hard work, stressful, bring lots of garbage bags, just rushing to throw out stuff at the end of the day.

For those of you who have been through this, what has your experience been? Any good survival tips?

Here are some highlights of those great tips (and experiences):

– … My daughter did a terrible job packing, so it was hard to fit everything into the car. Even though some things had come home early, not the 420 extra t-shirts she’d accumulated over the year, the extra books, the knick-knacks, the extra clothes (does one really need 10 college sweatshirts, even if they were ‘practically free’?)

The excitement of moving in and starting something new is not there, just the vacuuming, the wiping down, the lugging stuff to the car.  

– The best move out each year for us was the cross country kiddo who just stored everything … and flew home with her suitcase and computer bag. [Storage … why didn’t I think of that?]


– The main difference between move in and move out … at our kids’ schools during move in, there were a ton of upperclassmen to help schlep the stuff, and those big rolling laundry bins to move things in. At move out … you are on your own … period.

We took black trash bags for anything soft … clothes, linens, etc. and some boxes for the other stuff … like books and decor. We schlepped a fridge back and forth too … ridiculous.

black trash bags

We told out kid that anything that didn’t fit into our van needed to be tossed.

I will tell you, by the time he was a senior, he moved in and out in a sedan.  

– The best tip I got for packing for college was to buy the blue rectangular zippered bags from IKEA. We bought our daughter 8 of them. With the exception of odd shaped things like a lamp or clothes basket, she was able to fit all of her things into these bags. They are very easy to carry in and out of the dorm. [Here’s a review of those bags.]


– I never sweated more than when I helped move my second out of his Socal dorm in blazing heat. Bring a change of clothes for you to drive home in, even if you are stinky, a fresh shirt still feels better than slimy one.

– I going out four days early [!] to help D pack. She and a couple of friends want to share a summer storage unit …

– I forgot last year’s move out where my daughter was the last one out of a 6 person apartment and the other girls left everything in the common kitchen and just bailed. The RA was nice enough to bring my daughter and I giant garbage bags and we just chucked everything out – food in the fridge, cabinets, freezer, pots, pans, dishes, etc. What a disaster.  

– We use a combination of duffle bags and large garbage bags. She is going to have to clean the apartment (they are off campus). Last year her house mate left a mess and everybody got billed for it … The school sent home some information about storage. Evidently you can pay to store your stuff there for the summer.

big duffle bag

– [I like this one.] … it takes multiple people hours because you don’t just take everything and put it in the car – you have to throw out the 20 + empty amazon boxes with bubble wrap from the stuff you sent all year, clean out the fridge (and all the expired rotten food), sort through the dirty laundry, undo the bed linens, take the stuff off the walls (and windows), throw out the half empty toiletries, gently pack and wrap the delicate souvenirs accumulated from events throughout the year, run to a friend’s room to return whatever it was that was borrowed and is in your child’s room hidden so she didn’t realize she still had it, stop and say goodbye to the kid two doors away who is leaving, go buy yet another bottle of cold water from the store next door because you are hot and sweaty, etc.  

– I’m telling you….the best thing about having the kid 3000 miles from home was that she stored her college stuff someplace beside my living room …

– [Finally … and appropriately …] I feel tired just reading this thread.  

man on car roof


So, we live and learn the lessons of college move-out day from others. Parents, if this is going to be your first move-out day, take the time to read through the entire CC thread. It may help you have a positive moving experience, so to speak.


Be sure to check out all my college-related articles at College Confidential.