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picture of young adult tossing clothes in air

Getting Ready for College: Digging Out the Past to Pack for the Future

By Mir Kamin

My entire Facebook feed has turned into a series of hilarious and sometimes panicked updates from my fellow parents to imminent college freshmen. “Does anyone local have a minifridge for sale?” asks one. “I looked up the dorm room measurements, but can someone tell me how many hangers you can actually fit in one of the closets in [dorm name]?” asks another. There’s a lot of shopping and planning happening. But a friend of mine absolutely took the cake this week with the following update:

I find hard to take seriously a checklist of stuff to bring to your dorm room that includes a “small funnel.” Seriously?

The comment string on her post is a delightful series of tongue-in-cheek possibilities for such an item in the average college freshman’s life. I laughed until I cried. And I think we’re all still wondering why on earth that made the list. (I mean, of all the things you might find yourself wanting/needing when away from home for the first time, a funnel??)

We’re in the final countdown, here. As you read this, my daughter is attending college orientation; her move-in date is just under a month away. My closet sports piles of supplies I keep threatening to move to her closet, except that her closet still needs to be cleaned out before there’s room for anything. A lifetime of “oh, I’ll deal with this later” has been tossed in there, seems like (I swear we cleaned it out just last year, but she is the master of the mess), and I have stopped arguing about when she needs to clean it up. “You can do it before you leave or I can do it after you go,” I tell her. “You won’t like how I do it,” I add. She can clean and organize or I can throw it all away. She knows it’s not an empty threat.

You will not find a funnel amongst her belongings. College school supplies, yes. Sheets and towels, of course. She has started accumulating pictures and posters and various baubles, and trying to figure out what to take now and what to take later. Her schedule is already set and professors have posted textbook requirements, so she’s gone ahead and gotten her first semester textbooks via shrewd online comparison shopping. But the closet remains untouched, most of her clothes remain on the floor of her room, and her priorities are… well… let’s say they’re interesting.

So far I’ve been called upon to “help” her clean several times (closet notwithstanding). The bookcase behind her door—the one that’s spent nearly a decade overflowing with not just books, but also a hundred things which do not belong on a bookcase—has been emptied, purged, and and set back to rights in a way that would bring a tear to any librarian’s eye. Her dresser, too, has been relieved of its contents, cleaned out, and for once in its life, filled with folded clothing. (I’m not saying my husband once started a Twitter account to chronicle the perpetual state of what often looked like her dresser was projectile barfing an impossible number of items, but I’m not saying he didn’t, either.) There’s a storage bench in her room that’s about halfway to organized. Someday soon, her desk—and the dreaded closet—will be tackled, or not. I’m not holding my breath.

Here is a partial and woefully incomplete list of items I watched my darling daughter discover while digging out various parts of her room. If you have a fledgling adult of your own with a history of being a pack rat, perhaps you can relate (if you can’t, lie to me and tell me this is normal):

What I found

  • Black socks. Five years of marching band (black socks are part of the uniform) and countless “no, I need more, I can’t find mine!” declarations later, it turns out that the elusive black socks were usually… stuffed behind other things on her bookcase. Because that’s totally where they go.
  • Food wrappers. Good god, the candy and cereal bar wrappers. Everywhere. How is my house not full of roaches?
  • Several pairs of little girls’ underwear (like, size 6x). I didn’t even ask. I’m pretty sure she was bigger than that when we moved to this house.
  • Approximately ten spiral notebooks which had fewer than five pages utilized for various school subjects. (And yes, they were all in different places. Of course.)
  • Erasers. You know, the big pink or white rectangle ones? I’m pretty sure I bought her a new one every year for school after she assured me the old one was “used up.” Good news! She’s now set to erase everything in the entire world!
  • Her brother’s socks. On the bookcase. Man, I don’t know.
  • Close to a dozen books borrowed from other people. In case you’re wondering (you were, right?), none of those were on the bookcase. Don’t be silly.
  • An entire fleet of tiny origami creations. Itty bitty swans and impossibly tiny boxes and the like. Awwww.
  • Reams of notes passed between her and friends from middle school.
  • About a ton of unused origami paper, which she totally needs to keep, because you never know when you might need a tiny crane or three thousand.
  • A stack of 3-ring binders (“No, I don’t have any, I need new ones”) that came up to my waist. No, not all in the same place. I think one was on the bookcase.
  • Pencils. Regular pencils as well as colored. At least a several hundred, and yes, she needs all of them, why would I even ask??
  • Some awards she won in elementary school.
  • Several top-secret journals, all blank except for the first page.
  • Multiple gloves, all orphans. (We live in Georgia and you need gloves here about three times a year. But if you need some, check under my kid’s bed.)
  • Bubble wrap!
  • An entire farm of hair ties and barrettes. Pretty sure they’ve been breeding.
  • Her watch, which was “not lost,” but I’m just saying this was the first time I’d seen it in months.
  • A dog toy. On the top shelf of the bookcase.
  • No funnels.

I can hardly wait to help her with the closet. Who knows what untold joys await us? I just, um, need to go buy some more hand sanitizer before we begin….

Photo source:

More on Getting Ready for College from Alpha Mom:

  1. D-Day: College Dorm Drop-Off and Beyond
  2. Loosening the Reigns Before College
  3. The Final College Reminder: Failure is Human


About the Author

Mir Kamin

Mir Kamin began writing about her life online over a decade ago, back when she was a divorced mom trying to raise two regular little kids and figure out what she wanted to be when she grew up. Now ...

Mir Kamin began writing about her life online over a decade ago, back when she was a divorced mom trying to raise two regular little kids and figure out what she wanted to be when she grew up. Now her life looks very different than it did back then: Those little kids turned into anything-but-regular teenagers, she is remarried, and somehow she’s become one of those people who talks to her dogs in a high-pitched baby voice. Along the way she’s continued chronicling the everyday at Woulda Coulda Shoulda, plus she’s bringing you daily bargain therapy at Want Not. The good news is that Mir grew up and became a writer and she still really likes hanging out with her kids; the bad news is that her hair is a lot grayer than it used to be.

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