Shipping Them Off To College? Read This!

My friend Gwen stood in my kitchen, turned to look in the surrounding rooms and asked, “Where’s YOUR stuff?” It was akin to her staring at a gaping hole between the cabinets and asking, “Where’s your refrigerator?”

“Under the billiards table.” Relief and understanding flooded her voice, “Ohhhhhhhhhhh.”

We were both only a week away from our daughters leaving for college. And not just any college, an all woman’s college–which means they defy the odds (think Elle Woods) and schlep more stuff to school than the average girl–from decor, craft supplies, equestrian and other sports equipment, anything and everything available in shades of pink and green, monogrammed or from Lily Pulitzer and of course a minimum of one strand of pearls from a cherished family member.

Gwen’s daughter’s stuff had temporarily taken over their entire dining room. Which my daughter’s stuff probably would have except we don’t have a dining room hence, the billiards table. I figure if it fits under there, it’ll fit in my car and thereby fit my rule which  is, “If it doesn’t fit in my car, you don’t need it.”


When I moved Melanie home in May, I considered hauling her boxed up life into the attic, but realized I’d only to have to haul it all back down  8 weeks later.  In the heat of a Southern Summer.  As you know, the only time during the summer I venture to the attic is when I want to pretend I’m at a swanky spa complete with cucumber slices for my eyes and a masseuse named Sven. Alas, this year’s garden only yielded tomatoes and Sven left me for my imaginary housekeeper Inga so there ya go.

My shattered fantasy love life aside, I’ve learned a few things about packing for sending a daughter to college:  Namely: Ask before you buy. With a boy, as in my perfect, no fuss, no muss firstborn child—if you ask what he wants for the dorm, you’ll get the standard One-Eyebrow-Raised-Are-You-Serious-Look from behind his laptop and ear buds. This is, remember, the male species. Go do all the fun list making, planning and shopping for him. Go ahead,–buy him a year’s worth of shower gel and floss and devise a clever if not miraculous storage system so it all fits in a room the size of your closet.

Not that I’ve ever emptied my closet in order to replicate a freshman dorm room. No really. I have not. I mean, have you ever tried to locate a twin extra long bed? Sheets sure. Although you’ll never find XL sheets after the fall semester starts. They all go back to XL Twin Sheet Purgatory and wait to be resurrected next August.

But oh right, packing for your daughter? Ask first or risk hearing, “Mawwwwwwm! I’m FIIIIIIIINE! If I need more than 3 gallons of shampoo I can hitch a ride to Walmart and get more! Besides, Courtney and I already coordinated and bought all our bedding, posters and rugs on line.” (Wherein all a mother hears is, I don’t need You anymooooorrrrrrre and your taste in decor is sooooooooooooo 1986!)

Occasionally I score a victory for Not Quite So Needed Moms everywhere—like the itty bitty sewing kit I fashioned for my daughter her freshman year. And the little tray of “office supplies” I covertly slipped into her desk drawer—the very supplies she now calls, Things You Didn’t Think You’d Need at College But You Do.

Hey, with both kids in college and on the road to independence, I’ll take any tiny moment of being needed I can get. Even if if it’s simply a paperclip. Circa 1986.)


At no added cost to you (you’re welcome) here is Melanie’s list of dorm essentials. Please add your own!

Melanie’s List of Things You Things You Didn’t Think You’d Need at College But You Do.

A stapler and staples

An old fashioned pencil with eraser

Eye mask for sleeping

Ear plugs for sleeping

Air freshener–you will never have too much of this

Scotch tape, Packing tape, Duck Tape

Paper clips

An entire set of Extra Fine Point Sharpie Markers (Do NOT steal the set off of your mom’s desk or she will stop paying your tuition.)

A small sewing kit

Light blocking curtains

Small vacuum (for that area rug you must have)

Tool kit

Glass cleaner and roll of paper towels

Flashlight and extra batteries

Power surge multi outlet strips plus extension cords

Copies of insurance cards and other crucial info (NOT Social Security #–call Mom for that one!)

Did we mention Duck Tape?

Apple Cider Vinegar and dish soap to put in small bowl for the inevitable fruit flies. Don’t ask. Seriously.

P.S. jumbo trash bags are awesome for moving: Fill. Sit on to squeeze out all air. Toss in car.


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