Dorm Packing Checklist

Chances are college students use a dorm packing checklist whenever they move into university housing. This is a checklist with all of their dorm must have essentials.

Truth is, whether you’re moving out of your dorm for the semester, the summer or forever, it’s always a good idea to have a checklist to work from. This is especially relevant if you need to pack up your dorm room fast.

While many colleges are doing the lion’s share of instruction remotely, there are still college students living in dorms. Which means, unfortunately, they need to be ready to pack up their dorm room at any moment. Yes, it’s a terrible way to have to think about being away at college. But I believe in being prepared rather than worrying about the what ifs.

dorm packing checklist closet organizer
If you already have a shoe organizer in your closet, just take it down as is to pack up on move out day.

Dorm packing checklist

For that reason I’ve put together these dorm packing checklists. First, I’ve got a dorm packing checklist of what you need to identify if you need to pack up your dorm room fast. Second, I’ve put together a checklist of what to use to pack up your dorm room fast. You’ll find both at the bottom of this post.

Third, you can use your own dorm packing checklist if you happened to have packed up to move into the dorm using your gift registry. Like, did you have a Target dorm college registry? Then, use that to remember what you brought so you don’t leave anything behind. 

What’s on the dorm packing checklist

So, what have I included on the first dorm packing checklist? Well, it’s everything I can remember my own daughters taking with them to their college dorms. This includes everything from their clothes and books to supplies to decorate their dorm room. I even had them review it to make sure I hadn’t forgotten anything.

Included on that list:

  • books
  • notebooks
  • desk things (like pens, paper clips, etc.)
  • clothing
  • shoes
  • toiletries
  • electronics
  • computer, printer and other gadgets
  • charging cords
  • Keurig
  • snacks
  • towels
  • decorations
  • medicine
  • bedding and pillows
  • rugs
  • cups and dishes
  • lamps and lighting

What to use to help pack up your dorm

The second dorm packing checklist includes tips to pack your room fast. I’ve come up with ideas on how you can use what’s already in your dorm room for packing. In addition, I think it’s important to have the following on hand as your supplies:

One note about boxes for packing up a dorm room. If you have an Amazon Student Prime account, which I highly recommend, chances are you’ve gotten a ton of boxes with your deliveries. So have your dorm mates, too. That means that the garbage room in your dorm is likely stuffed with flattened cardboard boxes. If all else fails, you can raid that room for boxes.

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Or, you can order boxes online and pick up in store. You can usually do this pickup the very same day.

When we were moving a few years ago, we discovered how convenient this was to do with Staples. You just go to, choose the size and quantity of boxes you want, and a few hours later you can head to the store to pick them up.

I’m sure Office Max/Office Depot has this option, too.

In addition, you can buy boxes online and pick them up in store with Walmart and Home Depot, too. All these store will have bubble wrap, garbage bags, packing tape and the like, if you need to do a quick run to get your moving supplies.

How to use this checklist to pack a dorm fast

So, now that you’ve gotten your supplies, how do you pack a dorm room fast? Here are my tips.

Dorm packing checklist: clothing

Don’t go crazy trying to fold and pack all of your clothing in any suitcases or duffel bags you have from move in. Instead, keep all the clothes that are already on hanger as they are. Then, take your garbage bags, cut a hole in the bottom and spread them out over your hung-up clothes like a garment bag.

If you didn’t keep any suitcases with you from move-in day, no worries. Just put all of your clothing in garbage bags, too. It will be easier to pack a car with bags of clothes you can squish and mold to fit into empty spaces.

college dorm closet
Don’t repack all your clothes from your dorm closet. Instead, get garbage bags and put them over the already hung up items on hangers.

Dorm packing checklist: shoes

Do you have a bunch of reusable bags or even plastic take out bags in your room? Use these to pack your shoes.

Alternately, if you got a hanging shoe holder for a closet door, just take that down and close up with packing tape. No need to unload it into something else.

Dorm packing checklist: toiletries

If you have a bathroom in your dorm room, then take an empty laundry basket and place all your toiletries and bathroom supplies in it. Maybe put a bath towel folded in the bottom to catch any drips.

Bathroom down the hall? Then, you likely have a carrier for your toiletries. Just keep everything in that tote for moving out.

Dorm packing checklist: rug and mattress topper

Depending on how old your rug or mattress topper is will determine if you take it home with you. In other words if they’re dirty or gross, it might be best to leave them behind or toss them in a dumpster.

But if you just got them–and you find yourself having to pack up your dorm room and move home–try this trick. Roll up the mattress topper and cinch it with a belt. Maybe two belts. Do the same with your area rug.

It will be much easier to move them out rolled up. In addition, it will be much easier to ensure they stay rolled up if they’re closed with a belt.

Dorm packing checklist: lamps and lighting

First, remove any light bulbs from lamps you will be packing up. Still have a box of light bulbs with an empty spot in it? Put the bulbs there. If not, wrap in bubble wrap for transport. Or, throw them out.

Second, wrap the lamps in towels or bedding for protection. Or, use the aforementioned bubble wrap.

Third, place lamps in an empty laundry basket, under-bed storage bin or a moving box. Don’t forget to secure with packing tape so things don’t fall out during the move.

Dorm packing checklist: laptops and electronics

Can you fit your laptop and your electronics in your backpack? Yes? Perfect. You’re all done.

Or, maybe your laptop, iPad, etc. fits in your backpack but your other electronics don’t. Wrap them in towels or bedding or bubble wrap, and place in a moving box or storage bin.

Dorm packing checklist: charging cords, headphones and plugs

Keep these in your backpack for easy access. Alternately, you can put them in pairs of socks and then in your backpack so they don’t get destroyed or lost or damaged. Or, keep them in plastic storage bags.

Dorm packing checklist: decorations

Take your twinkle or fairy lights and place them in a plastic storage bag. Same with any photos you may have affixed to your walls.

Dorm packing checklist: bedding and towels

By now you may have used up most of your bath towels as packing materials. Whatever is left–plus any bedding you still have–pack inside the pillow cases for easy carrying.

Fun fact: in the future, after you wash your bedding, put everything from a sheet set inside the pillow case. This way you keep sets together and it makes it easier to find bedding. You don’t even have to bother with folding the sheets, because who cares if they’re wrinkled on your bed.

Dorm packing checklist: Keurig, cups and dishes

You can put your snack stash in a reusable bag. Wrap your Keurig or coffee machine in towels and place in a box. If you have a glass carafe, splurge and wrap it in bubble wrap. You don’t need that shattering on the way home. Same with any ceramic coffee mugs. Place them all in a box and put on the floor of your car so they don’t move around a lot.

Dorm packing checklist: books and notebooks

If you’re still got room in your backpack, put all your books and notebooks in there for easy carrying home. Alternately, you can put them in boxes.

dorm packing checklist backpack
Put all your books, notebooks and papers in your backpack.

Dorm packing checklist: medicine

We had our daughters keep their prescription medicine in a lockbox at college. If that’s where you’ve got yours, great. Just grab that box and go.

Otherwise, act as if you’re going on an airplane and put your medication in your “carry-on bag.” That is, the backpack, fanny pack or purse that you’ll keep with you on your travels. Medicine is too precious to lose, especially if it’s a prescription.

Dorm packing checklist: desk supplies

Take your pens, Post-It notes, paper clips and more and store in a plastic storage bag. Make sure you pull the desk drawers all the way out to ensure that nothing has slipped to the back where you can miss it.

Dorm packing checklist: cleaning supplies and laundry detergent

Better to be safe than sorry with your cleaning supplies and laundry detergent, which are likely to leak. Place them all in a garbage bag for the trip home.

Dorm packing checklist: laundry basket

Whatever you do, don’t forget your dirty laundry, which may be piling up in a laundry basket in a corner of your room or your bathroom. I once moved out of an apartment and completely forgot my laundry basket in the bathroom. Yes, I had a bathroom in my space, not down the hall. Anyway, I got about 30 minutes away and realized I’d forgotten it. So, I had to turn around and go back and get it. Luckily, there were still people there who could let me into the building so I could retrieve it.

I believe these free PDF printable checklist could be invaluable for both students and parents to have. They make packing up your dorm room is so much easier on the other end.

By the way, you can see all of my printables on this blog’s printables page

Dorm packing checklist final sweep

Once you’ve got everything packed up, here’s a checklist to do one final sweep through your room.

First, check the bottom of the closet for anything that fell

Second, if you’ve got shelves in the closet or in the room, check the tops for anything left behind.

Third, look behind all furniture for things that may have dropped.

Fourth, pull all drawers in a dresser and desk all the way out to look inside.

Fifth, don’t forget the back of a door where you might have hung something.

Sixth, do a once-over in your bathroom or the hall bathroom.

Finally, stop in at your dorm storage room, if such a thing exists, for something you might have forgotten like your bike or a scooter.

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