Are you SFU-ready? 2: Packing for residences

Under no circumstances do you need a dozen stuffed animals or decorative pillows, but extra towels and a power bar might come in handy.

Image courtesy of SFU

By: Victoria Lopatka 

Whether you’re coming straight from your parents’ house or you’ve rented in Vancouver before, moving into residence can be nerve-racking. Luckily, I’ve been there and have some wisdom to share:

Make sure to pack:

1) A mattress topper and other bedding

A few words I would NOT use to describe the mattresses in dorms: fluffy, luxurious, soft, inviting. A mattress topper — which is essentially a few extra inches of foam you can place on top of your dorm mattress — may be expensive, but it’s a great investment to make your bed a little comfier. You’ll also want to bring a few pillows, sheets, and a comforter, as you’re only provided with a mattress.

2) A lamp, or some type of extra lighting

Many of the dorm rooms I’ve been in have two lights: a light above the bed, and a brighter light above or near the desk. These are great during the day, but you may want more lighting when the sun sets. Fairy lights, a tall lamp, or a small light-up make-up mirror can make great additions to your dorm and give it a more comfortable, well-lit feel.

3) A full-length mirror

You don’t want to be running back and forth between the mirror in the bathroom and your closet in your dorm room when trying to pick an outfit. Bonus: good for taking dorm-room mirror selfies and making the room look bigger.

4) A cheap printer

Printing on-campus can be expensive and stressful (especially when you’re doing it last-minute because you found a spelling error on your title page that wasn’t there twelve seconds ago when you looked your paper over). Paying to print at the library is fine once or twice, but if your classes have multiple essays and assignments, consider investing in your own printer.

5) A power strip

The last dorm room I was in had exactly three outlets. One was behind the fridge, one was right above the middle of my bed, and one’s sole purpose was to keep my Wi-Fi on. This left very few places to charge my phone or laptop overnight, or plug in my lamp in the evenings. I often had to pick and choose which item was a priority: do I want to charge my phone? Do I want to keep the Wi-Fi on? Do I want extra light to read by? Investing in a power strip resolves these issues by upping the number of available outlets in your living space.

6) A pair of flip-flops and a shower caddy

If you’re sharing a bathroom with other residents, a good, sturdy pair of flip-flops and a shower caddy to keep everything in one place and organized will be helpful.

7) An umbrella

For rain, of course.

8) Extra towels

Picture this: you’ve just gotten out of the shower, and you see that your towel has fallen off the rack. Now it’s laying on the damp, dirty bathroom floor. Who knows when that floor was last cleaned properly? It’s always a good idea to have an extra towel or two so you’re not rushing to the laundry room in situations like this.

9) A sleeping bag

You’ll most likely have guests staying the night at your place, and a sleeping bag is a space-efficient alternative to having spare blankets and a foam mattress.

10) Some mementos from home

For homesickness…


Leave behind: 

1) Scented candles

Most residences do not allow candles, incense, or anything else that could be a fire hazard in the rooms. A good alternative to keep your room smelling fresh is a steam essential oil diffuser.

2) Mini fridge, desk chair, a Wi-Fi router, etc.

These items are already provided in most residence rooms. You can check online to see a complete list of the furniture and amenities provided in each room of each different house.

3) Anything illegal

Note that this includes alcohol (if you’re under the legal drinking age), drugs, and weapons.

4) A TV or big video game consoles

Your room is going to be smaller than you think, and you’re not going to have space to keep large electronics – never mind a functional space to keep them in so that you can use them. Your laptop with a Netflix account is a better alternative.

5) Non-essential clothing

Be realistic about what you’re going to end up wearing most days. For many students, that’s T-shirts, leggings, sweatpants, jeans, hoodies, sweaters, runners, and flip-flops. Bring one or two fancy-dress items, for special occasions, and one or two workout sets. That’s all you really need. If you don’t wear fully-coordinated, high-fashion outfits to class now, you won’t miraculously begin when you start living in residence.

6) Stuffed animals

I’ll admit: I did this. I had an entire shelf of stuffed animals from my boyfriend or parents that I thought were super cute, but I’m sure my neighbours thought were… kind of weird. Besides that, you don’t actually need them. Stuffed animals are bulky and inconvenient to pack and will mostly just sit on your shelf collecting dust.

7) Your entire book collection

Like stuffed animals and clothing, we tend to overestimate how much we think we’ll need. I’m an avid fiction reader, but during the semester I only read a handful of books. After hundreds of pages of readings for class, you’ll probably be more interested in watching Netflix, so pack three or four of your favourite books, or make use of the SFU Library’s fiction section.

8) A million decorative throw pillows

I know Pinterest dorm room inspiration has got you thinking you need a fancy headboard and 600 decorative pillows, but after a few weeks, these pillows will become an inconvenience, and you’ll probably just shove them under your bed until you move out.  

9) Getting to residence in the first place

When you’re moving in, also avoid huge packing bins and boxes. You know what I’m talking about: those giant, plastic blue bins. They’ll seem great when you’re leaving your parent’s house — all your stuff organized in one place! Upon arrival, and once you unpack, you’ll realize you have nowhere to store these hulks and they’ll spend the next few months getting in your way. Disposable cardboard boxes or reusable bags that can be folded up and put away are much better.