How to Get Organized When Your Child Leaves for College

When a child leaves for college for the first time, it’s a big deal for kids and parents. There are new things to buy, and for most people, it’s a good time to take stock of your child’s possessions and make decisions about what to do with them.

Of course, such decisions may be emotional for everyone involved. Here are some suggestions that may help.

Step 1: Sorting

The first step is to sort through your child’s belongings and decide what to do with them. There are many ways to approach the task, but here’s one that works.

Get four boxes and put them in the middle of your child’s room. Label them as follows:

  • Keep
  • Sell
  • Donate
  • Trash

Labeling the boxes helps you understand what your options are. Some people like to add a fifth option for items they’re not sure what they want to do with yet. The goal here is to begin the process of culling the items you know you want to keep. It’s also a good way to make room for the things your child needs to buy for college.

When you’re done sorting, throw away the “trash” items and move on to the next step.

Step 2: Make Donations

The next step is to take the items you want to donate and decide where and how to donate them. First, sort through everything and make sure it’s in good-enough condition to be donated. Clothes with holes or stains should be trashed or used as rags, not donated.

Here are some suggestions about where things can be donated:

  • Donate children’s clothes to homeless shelters or shelters for victims of domestic abuse
  • Donate books to your local library or to local schools
  • Donate toys to shelters and children’s hospitals

Not only can making donations help you make room for new items, it’s also a great lesson for kids to learn as they head out into the world.

Step 3: Sell Things

Next, it’s time to sell what you want to sell. There are several ways to do it. For example:

  • Go to local consignment shops and sell clothing, books, and other items
  • Have a yard or garage sale to sell things
  • List rare items on eBay

You may want to designate any money raised to a fund to pay for your child’s school supplies or textbooks.

Step 4: Figure Out Where to Keep Things

The final step is determining where to keep the things that aren’t being donated, sold, or trashed. For some people, the answer may be an obvious one. They can stay in your child’s room or elsewhere in your home.

However, for some people, it’s necessary for a child’s room to serve another purpose once they’re out of the house. In that case, you may want to consider renting a storage space.

Most items don’t require special packing to be stored safely. Furniture should be cleaned and protected. Fragile items must be properly wrapped so they don’t break during the move.

People who live in damp climates may want to invest in a heated storage unit to prevent books and other items from mold and mildew. A storage specialist can help you determine how large a unit you need to store your child’s belongings.


Getting ready for college takes time and organization. Your child may not be leaving for several months, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t start now. By the time the big day arrives, you and your child will be ready for the challenges that college brings.

Posted in Organizing Tips, Self Storage Tips.