College Dorm Move Out Plan For A Positively Easy Day

March 28, 2024

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Tips and planning for college dorm move out

Where did this school year go? And especially the second semester. They were just on Spring Break and like 10 minutes later, its time for the dorm move out already.

The good news is that the dorm move-out is much easier than the dorm move-in and the months of planning and shopping that go with moving to college for the first time.

But despite the easier and hopefully less emotional task of move out, it helps to have a plan.

To alleviate the stress and ensure nothing is overlooked, we’ve compiled a comprehensive dorm move-out plan to guide you through this process. This plan is short and sweet, but impactful!

A few Months Before Dorm Move Out

Start With Move Out Research

Like with dorm planning, start your dorm move out with a little research. Here’s what to find out (via your student):

  1. Are there assigned move out times similar to assigned move-in times that you may have had? Are there published check out procedures? Where are you permitted to park on move-out day?
  2. Is there a list of fines for damages? Maybe you can bring some supplies to handle a few simple repairs to minimize fines.
  3. What condition does the school expect you to leave the room? Is vacuuming or mopping involved?
  4. What does your student need to do to return rented microfridges, bed lofts or any other rented property?
  5. Is there a Facebook Marketplace page connected with the school? This won’t be an official school page, likely parent-run, but look for SCHOOL NAME PARENTS – BUYING & SELLING GROUP or similar. If you may want to sell a few dorm items that you won’t need again, join the group early. Ours starts getting DORM FOR SALE posts in March for pickup first week of May (finals week). If you are going to sell some items, search the group for that item to see what has sold in prior years and the price range.
  6. Does the school or someone affiliated with the school accept donations of gently used dorm items for students who may need a little help getting their room outfitted next year? Will they also accept gently used clothes? Determine their policies and timelines for drop off or pickup.
Book college town storage units early for summer
Storage units can fill up quickly especially in college towns with many out of state students.

Book Time-Sensitive Items

  1. Book Travel – If your student or you will need flights, book those as soon as you know their finals schedule or scheduled move out block. Book a hotel even earlier – you may be competing with graduation for hotel space.
  2. Book Storage Unit – If you’re planning to leave items near school for the summer, you’ll want to book a storage space a few months prior. Have your student check with friends to see if anyone wants to split a storage unit.

If you live within driving distance, you probably won’t need to deal with these options unless you plan to arrive the night before move out.

Roommate Communication

Verify that your student is communicating with their roommate(s) to coordinate move-out plans together. This goes for both common used items such as refrigerators and rugs as well as scheduling packing and moving times with family.

The roommates should discuss responsibilities and tasks to ensure everyone has a role and is on the same page. Your student will also want to touch base with their Resident Advisor (RA) about anything special to know regarding move out from this floor or building.

Visits Home In The Last 2 Months Of School

If your student will be visiting home for Spring Break, Easter or other occasions, have them consider bringing winter clothing, shoes, sports equipment or other items they won’t need for the remainder of the school year. Same goes if you will be visiting them at school during the spring.

While they’re home, if they don’t have all of the VENO bags (or similar) with them at school, go ahead and send them back to school with them so that they can pack before you arrive.

Another task before they arrive home for summer is to make space to store their college gear when it all comes home after dorm move out. Make a spot in the basement or in their closet or even a nice neat corner of their bedroom. Knowing where it’s going before it gets there will be monumental in terms of NOT having it get dropped and left homeless in your foyer for days or weeks!

The Week Or Two Before Move Out

Ideally, they get everything done, packed and cleaned so that when you show up on move-out day, you just need to grab a few bags and head to the car. But let’s be reasonable, they’ll be studying for finals, celebrating with friends and going to those last meetings, concerts and end of year parties.

Here are some tasks they can accomplish during study breaks. If they actually want to start packing, have them jump down to the Packing Plan and review that first.

  • Start removing trash early. By move-out week, hall and building trash will start piling up. If there are things that need to go, get ahead of the trash pile.
  • Take pictures (or use pics from move in day) to list items for sale on the Facebook Marketplace group that you hopefully found a month or so ago.
  • Start finishing food items in the fridge and freezer and stop buying more groceries, especially perishables!
  • Sell last semester’s textbooks back to the bookstore or return rentals to Amazon. Timing will depend on class completion date, but at least have a plan.
  • Condense bottles of lotion, shampoo and other toiletries.
  • Throw out/recycle any empty containers or ones that don’t have enough in them to be of good use.
  • Place items to be donated or sold out of the way if possible.
  • Do they know where their door stopper is?

Defrost/Unplug The Mini Fridge

One to two days before moving, the students need to unplug their fridge to have it completely defrosted for the move. Remind students to have a towel ready near the fridge to absorb any water.

Try not to use other appliances in the last day to allow them time to dry. This includes coffee makers, hot pots, electric kettles, etc. You don’t want them to get put away and forgotten about for the entire summer with water trapped in them somewhere.

Things To Bring From Home

A suggested list of items to bring from home to help with the move out is below. And just like move-in day, bring extras to share with less prepared hallmates and their families.

  • Cooler with water and snacks. Larger cooler if they have things in the fridge that need to come home. *** If you’re showing up early morning, consider bringing a box of coffee and a bagels from a local breakfast place to share with the hallmates and any other parents who may be around for move-out at the same time. ***
  • Some older blankets to put under the fridge in the car, around the TV, the coffee maker and any other delicate items. Remember all of those things that arrived in boxes? They need a safe ride home now. You can also use bath towels and bedding to pad the smaller items in moving bags
  • Kitchen or larger trash bags. You’ll need them, plus they may come in handy for bulky items.
  • Duct tape or strong masking tape.
  • Optionally, shrink wrap for mattress topper and possibly storage drawers and other items.
  • Gallon Ziplock baggies. These are great for the loose items to be stored together and keep them from falling out of or getting lost in other storage.
  • A Sharpie to label boxes and bags, or to write on the tape to label the moving bags.
  • A small toolkit with a rubber mallet (unless the student has these at school – if so, remind them not to pack them!)
  • Hand truck if you need to move a fridge or other heavy or bulky items such as nightstands or chests of drawers.
  • Cleaning supplies if they don’t already have them in the dorm.
  • Wall repair materials if needed. See your leasing/dorm contract for your specifics.
  • And of course, ALL of the moving bags! If you have the VENO bags with the little plastic window on the side, bring a few index cards to write the contents of that bag on and put in that plastic holder.
  • Tie-down straps if you are placing items on the roof of the car or in the back of a truck.
Preparing for dorm move out
Put the VENO bags back to work on dorm move out day.

Dorm Move Out Packing Plan

Think Ahead

Before you start putting belongings into moving bags, now is the time to think through future use of the items in your dorm room and make decisions about their future. If you’re moving into another dorm room next year, this should be pretty easy. If you’re moving into off-campus housing, you’ll have more decisions to make!

Be ready to apply these categories to each of the items as you pack the room:

  1. SUMMER: These are items you will need to use over the summer. Label these items as HOME or SUMMER.
  2. NEXT SCHOOL YEAR: Not needed over the summer, but you’ll use these for the next school year. Label these BACK TO COLLEGE.
  3. DO NOT NEED: What’s left? These are items to consider keeping for your next child, donating or selling. If you will keep items for a hand me down, label those items <SIBLING NAME> COLLEGE SUPPLIES.
  4. While making these decisions, be sure to have a trash bag ready for those items that won’t be needed and aren’t in a condition to donate.

Start Packing!

Of course, be sure to separate your belongings from your roommate’s before you start packing.

1) BEDDING & LAUNDRY: Remove everything from the bed so you can stand on it to reach the decor above and have better access to what is stored below. Put all items that can or should be laundered into the same moving bag(s) or into your laundry hamper. You may want to reserve some bedding or towels to wrap any delicate items. Assuming you will not need the bedding over the summer, bring it home to launder. If you’re flying and leaving bedding at the school, you will probably want to launder it before you store it.

2) MATTRESS TOPPER: Remove the mattress topper and roll it up tightly, then do one of the following:
a) Put it in a kitchen-size trash bag or inside 2 pillowcases and secure with duct tape or velcro straps.
b) Wrap it with shrink wrap to keep it rolled in a tight roll.
Do not fold a foam topper, and ensure the topper stays in room-temperature conditions at home or in storage – don’t let it get cold or hot!

3) STORAGE DRAWERS: If the drawers are going home, will you use them again next year? If yes, fill the drawers with items that need to come back next year too such as items in your desk, kitchen items and other loose ends that you won’t need over the summer. Tape or shrink wrap the drawers closed. If the drawers are going to storage, you can similarly fill them with items you won’t need over the summer, but be sure not to store food, coffee pods or anything that will attract pests. If you will not use the drawers next year, these are a good item to donate or sell.

4) CLOSET: Put clean clothes that are going home into moving bags or suitcases. If you aren’t flying, you can place hanging clothes into the moving bag by leaving the hangers out of the short end with the zipper. Put shoes, belts, accessories, and bags in a separate bag. If shoes are really dirty, those can go in a trash bag inside the moving bag. For any items staying in storage near school for the summer, such as winter coats and boots, place these into a zipped container or possibly into your storage drawers. If you’re taking your laundry hamper home, you can fill this with dirty bedding and towels and save a VENO bag for other items.

5) DESK: Bring gallon zip lock bags for small loose items like desk and school supplies. Use the Sharpie to label if necessary. Maybe these baggies can fit in the storage drawers?

6) FIRST AID/MEDICATIONS: If your kids are like mine, we brought home a good bit of first aid and OTC medication at the end of the school year. Try to keep this packed in a place where you can easily access when you return home to try to make use of these items before their expiration dates.

7) BATHROOM: Try to pack all of the bathroom, makeup, and hair care items in one bag. Wrap up any breakable items like nail polish and jars in padded toiletry bags or in towels. This bag is likely a SUMMER bag to go straight to their room at home on arrival.

8) APPLIANCES: Try to keep the fridge upright during travel and in storage if at all possible. It should stand in the back of a minivan or an SUV. If you’re moving a microwave -wrap the glass dish inside if it has one. Depending on other appliances and how fragile they are, you can wrap them in a blanket or towel and put them in a moving bag, or just carefully take them to the car.

9) LAPTOPS & DEVICES: Put all device chargers into the student’s backpack with the devices for travel home so you make sure they stay together.

10) KITCHEN ITEMS: Wrap and place food storage containers, utensils, water bottles, or anything delicate in a Veno bag or even a cleaned out trash can for storage. You may want to keep this bag available to do a good deep clean on these items if they are coming home.

11) ASSEMBLED FURNITURE: As you disassemble, place all of the pieces, bolts, screws, and connectors into a baggie for each furniture piece and label the baggie with a Sharpie. If you don’t need to disassemble, consider shrink wrap around drawers to keep them closed during transport.

12) WALL DECOR: Remove wall decor and pack as needed to protect it.

13) WALL DAMAGE: Remove Command hooks or other materials used to hang things on the walls. Use the materials you brought from home to patch any wall damage.

14) RUG: If you’ll be bringing the rug home or keeping for next year, vacuum it well before rolling it up. You can put duct tape or shrink wrap around the outside of the rolled up rug to keep it together. Secure in at least 3 places – near each end and around the middle.

I’m sure there is more, but by the time you get through all of this, you’ll know what to do with the rest!

Reflect & Document

As you conclude your year in the dorm, take a moment to reflect on the memories you’ve made. Take pictures with your roommate, your hallmates and your favorite things in the building and the area. Document it all. These college days fly by, but try to stop and soak in all that you accomplished this year, and store those memories as tightly as you can.

Keep In Touch!

Whether you’ve been a part of our Dorm Shopping Facebook Group or not, let’s keep this community going in our sister group, After The Drop Off: Parenting Through The College Years. A smaller group, more of a support community, where we help each other out as we handle life and the challenges that come with having kids in college.

Dorm Move-In Plan

If you have other students moving into dorms in the future, be sure to bookmark our very detailed Dorm Move-In Plan.


For updates and new content related to young adults and college, please subscribe to our newsletter. We’ll be publishing a full recommendations list for college apartments this spring and will let you know when it is published.

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