minimalist student packingQuick: count how much stuff is on the desk in front of you. Now think about how often you actually use each of those items.

Students who are traveling far for school, living mindfully, or just wanting to be frugal would all benefit from minimalist packing techniques. You can reduce a huge source of stress before you come to college by packing with intention.

Opting for fewer, more expensive, long-lasting items can be costly, so living minimally may not be accessible to everyone. No matter how long the transition to minimalist living takes, the intentionality in mindset is what counts.

Starting minimalism in college is a great way to prepare for a less materialistic and more sustainable, economical future. Below are steps I wish I knew before packing for college.

1. Bring just enough clothing for two laundry cycles

Folded t-shirtsThat means about 14 of each daily item—tops, bottoms, socks and undergarments. Bring only a few trusty accessories, workout sets and pairs of shoes. Think about the most important items in your closet and only bring those.

Before you try to bring clothes for all four seasons in one trip, consider how often you’ll visit home and plan to bring new clothes accordingly. This lightens your load and allows you to rotate your closet.

2.  Two notebooks and three pens

Notebook and pensWhen I first moved to college, I bought five huge notebooks and still haven’t used them all. All you need is one three-subject notebook and one reusable notebook.

My favorite reusable notebook is the Rocketbook; they’re sold on Amazon for about $30. They come with erasable pens and a microfiber cloth to wipe off the pages. You can even upload your notes via the Rocketbook app to your Google Drive—no more saving stacks of notes!

I’ve never needed more than three of each pen, pencil and highlighter at a time. When they’re empty, just buy enough to replace them and keep the rotation minimal. You’ll avoid lugging around a big, clunky pencil case.

3. Online textbooks

E-readerServices like Chegg, McGraw-Hill and Amazon Kindle provide thousands of textbook files online. This lightens your backpack—and your wallet.

Online textbooks offer portability, ease-of-access and search functions that surpass the comforts of print-style books. Plus, you’ll be doing the environment a favor. Not every textbook is available online but taking the extra time to search for a PDF or e-text version is worth it. Your back and wallet will thank you.

4. If you love it, don’t minimize it

Woman knittingMy favorite pastime is knitting; I have overwhelming amounts of yarns, needles and half-finished projects stashed in bins.

Whatever makes you happiest, don’t even try to cut back. Allow yourself to fully indulge in the possession of those items. Maybe one day, you’ll realize your interests have changed and you can minimize your once-loved stamp collection. But for now, let it make you happy.


5. Buy it later if you need it

College studentWorst case scenario, if you don’t bring enough socks or realize one notebook won’t suffice, you can get more at a later time. It’s all about maintaining balance and you won’t know your preferences until you try. Minimalism is a journey unique to each person.

Lean into the discomfort of living mindfully and clutter-free when you move to college. You might discover new passions, spend more time with people who matter or even live a healthier life. It’s time to stop investing in things and start investing in people.


Sasha Shadrina is a second-year business information and analytics major with minors in Chinese and leadership. Originally from Ulan-Ude, Siberia, she has lived in Aurora, Colorado, since she was 5 years old.