By: Michael Maher

I currently have two years of experience living in the residence hall dorms at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. One year as a resident (Tutt), and another year as a Resident Assistant (Wells West). In those two years, I have experienced both the benefits of packing smartly and suffered the consequences of packing the wrong things. I’m here to shed some light on the unknown when it comes to packing for living in the residence halls.

What to Pack:

We will start with an easy one. Yes, you will need food inside your dorm room. You simply cannot rely on only using meal plan swipes or other campus currency to fix your hunger. Late night snacks are a must for nights of studying or returning from evening activities. However, no one wants to overpack when it comes to food. It can take up too much space and become costly due to expiration. The key to food is finding food items that have long expiration dates and don’t necessarily have to be refrigerated. These foods could last you almost a whole semester depending on the quantity you purchase and can be easily stored. Remember, you’re not packing meals, mainly just snacks. You can also utilize Dining Dollars and Purple Points on campus to purchase some of these snacks if you don’t want to bring them from home. Below is a list of food that I have found most beneficial.

Granola bars/breakfast bars
Fruit snacks
Beef sticks
Trail Mix
Protein bars

Laundry Accessories
On to the next thing, and this one is pretty straightforward. In terms of quantity, just keep in mind how often you plan on doing laundry. I prefer to do laundry once a week, however, some people are able to span their laundry out to every two weeks. It’s a matter of lifestyle and preference, so choose what you think is best and base your packing decision on that. But here are some essentials that I would recommend when it comes to laundry.
Liquid detergent or tide pods
Dryer sheets
Laundry basket
Laundry hamper

Finally, a must-have item on your packing list is a fan of some sort. Moving into a residence hall room in late August or early September can be overwhelming if you’re not properly prepared for the heat. Sleeping is honestly probably the hardest thing to do in the heat. But having some sort of fan (tower, box, bed, etc) is a true life saver. I recommend taking a look at either Walmart or Amazon for an affordable and durable fan that will last you the whole year. Even in the winter months, having a fan can be useful, as you won’t have control over the heat settings inside the residence hall building.

What NOT to Pack:

Ok, so I covered some of the essentials that you should pack for living in your residence hall room. But the key to packing efficiently is to not overpack with things that you do not need nor will use in your residence hall room.

Kitchen Appliances
It’s a good idea not to pack these for several different reasons. First, many of the kitchen appliances you would normally use at home are prohibited in areas other than residence hall or suite kitchens due to fire and safety hazards. The prohibited appliances list can be found on University Housing’s website under policies and procedures. To name a few, toasters, air fryers, crock pots, and hot plates are prohibited. It would also not be practical to have these items in your room due to space limitations and the availability of residence hall kitchens and on campus dining options. There are plenty of ways to prepare and cook food that are permitted and will save you space for packing.

Too Many Clothes/Shoes
My main advice is to just think practically when packing clothes and shoes. Keep in mind a few things. One, you can do laundry. This will help ensure that you’ll have clean clothes on a regular basis and won’t have to worry about running low. In addition, you don’t have all the storage space in the world. You are limited to the dresser and closet space that is provided in each residence hall room. I usually pack enough clothes that I think will get me through ten days. That way, in case of some unforeseen circumstance that would prohibit me from doing laundry at my usual time, I’ll be covered, literally. When it comes to shoes, I usually pack just one pair of shoes for every type of occasion. A pair of everyday tennis shoes, workout shoes, shower shoes, flip-flops, and dress shoes for special occasions. Any more pairs of shoes than what is necessary will just take up too much space and make packing a lot more complicated.

The Big Picture:
In the end, you should pack according to your specific needs and what you’ll be comfortable living with. These are merely recommendations that won’t apply to everyone. I hope this serves as a helpful guide when deciding what to pack for your room. But in the end, it might just come down to experience and making adjustments along the way.