We took our 18-year old daughter to college a few days ago. It was a huge undertaking – physically, emotionally, and of course, organizationally.
As I’ve mentioned before, I deal with emotional upheaval by getting organized. (See Love, Loss, and Organizing). Getting my daughter and all her stuff to school was a logistical puzzle that kept me focused and helped keep the emotions at bay.
Before I go on vacation, admiring friends often say to me one or two weeks before, “I bet you’re already packed.” In actuality, I never pack until the night before. That doesn’t mean that I don’t think about what I’m going to pack until the night before. I spend weeks planning and strategizing, so when it’s time to actually pack the suitcase, it’s relatively easy.
That is the way I approached my daughter’s relocation to Washington, D.C., to begin her freshman year at George Washington University. We started preparing earlier in the summer by reviewing a checklist provided by her school, as well as a checklist from Bed Bath & Beyond which they provided in advance of a college event held in July. We identified what we already owned and what we still needed. We picked up quite a bit at the BB&B event, and ordered some other things on-line. Gradually, over the summer, we accumulated all her linens and other supplies.
I used her departure for college as an opportunity for her to review everything she owned and make decisions. Every item of clothing, every toiletry, every book, every electronic device, every makeup product needed to be looked at and evaluated for its future use. Whatever she didn’t want anymore got thrown away, donated, recycled, sold on eBay, or given away to friends and neighbors.
When we cleaned out her desk, we put all the office supplies she wanted to take with her into one drawer. This made it very easy to pack those things when that time came.
My daughter wanted to take all of her remaining clothes and shoes with her. I used my professional organizing techniques to guide her to more selective decision-making. She still brought too much, in my opinion, but she brought less than she had originally intended.
Two days before she left, we got down the suitcases and started packing. All of our prior preparation paid off, and it was relatively stress-free. When we got her moved into her dorm room, we were pleased to discover that her stuff fit very nicely into her space.
Nature abhors a vacuum, so I filled up some of the empty space in her room by buying a small sofa bed. I may have lost a daughter, but I’ve gained a guest room! At least until Thanksgiving.