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If you’re moving into a college dorm for the first time, packing might seem like a daunting task. How do you know what to bring and what to leave behind? And, as you gather the essentials, how will you fit everything in your car? Here are some tips that may help you get organized before you start packing for college.

Pack Efficiently

There’s no need to pack everything you own when heading off to school. When it comes to clothing, try to focus on basics. Jeans and shirts can be worn with different accessories to give your staple wardrobe new looks, suggests Better Homes and Gardens. And keep the season in mind. If you’ll be returning home soon, such as for a holiday break, you can swap out your clothes for warmer outfits.

Continue to focus on packing the essentials when it comes to other apparel and belongings, too, Reader’s Digest says. Pack weather-appropriate outdoor gear, pajamas and enough socks and undergarments to last you between trips to the laundry room. Also, pack your laptop, smartphone and any related charging devices, as well as surge protectors. And don’t forget items like your bank card, driver’s license, insurance cards and any medications or vitamins you take.

When packing the car, try not to waste space, Better Homes and Gardens says. If you’ve already stocked up on school supplies, for instance, pack them in your backpack for easier transport. They’ll take up less space and, when you arrive at your dorm room, you’ll know just where to find your binders and pens. Similarly, if you’ve already purchased storage containers, fill them up with other items, Reader’s Digest says. By consolidating your belongings, you’ll save space in your car.

If you still find yourself with a hefty load, it’s important to pack your car strategically. Put the heaviest items into the cargo area first, so they are closest to the center of your vehicle, Consumer Reports says. This may help prevent the weight from negatively impacting your car’s steering, braking and handling. In addition, it’s important to contain small items and strap down larger belongings to help prevent them from moving around and potentially injuring someone if, for instance, you need to make a sudden stop. And be careful not to make your vehicle too full. You should still be able to see out your rear-view window, Consumer Reports says.

What Not to Pack

From bedding to lamps to a mini-refrigerator, it may take a lot of items to make your dorm room feel like home. But that doesn’t mean you need to make all your purchases before you move in. If you haven’t already purchased storage bins, wait to buy them at a store near campus, Reader’s Digest says. By not hauling bulky items like laundry baskets, storage boxes, waste baskets and lamps from your home to the dorm, you’ll have plenty of room in the car for the true essentials.

Also, be sure to check in with roommates before packing large items or planning a shopping trip. You probably don’t need two microwaves or area rugs, for instance. Decide in advance who will contribute shareable items to help save money, room in your car and space in your dorm room.

Packing to move to college can require some careful planning. Taking an organized approach to your packing may help you transport what’s truly necessary so you can avoid overloading your car or cluttering your dorm room.

Originally published on August 18, 2014.

What Should You Pack for College?