You’ve done it! As graduation festivities wind down and reality sets in, it’s time to start dealing with all the stuff you’ve accumulated over the last four years. Whether you shared a house with a bevy of roommates or lived in a 150-square-foot dorm, downsizing after college will help you prepare for what’s next.
First, consider what your next step is and how your stuff fits into your future plans. Traveling the world for a year? Time to streamline to the bare necessities. Store anything you want to keep long-term at a storage unit or with your family, if they have space in an attic or basement. Moving across the country for a new job? Figure out how much will fit in your car, or if you want to pay to move boxes and furniture across the country. You might be sharing an apartment or a room for a while, especially if you’re moving to a big city. Think about what items will help you create a sense of home and what you can do without.
As you consider your new life post-graduation, here are our top six tips to taking the critical next step: downsizing.
1. Donate or sell your old clothes
It’s no surprise you may have accumulated quite the eclectic wardrobe after years of costume parties and themed event t-shirts. Maybe it’s time to say goodbye to that DIY Halloween costume from sophomore year and those piles of intramural sports shirts. If you’re getting ready to start a new job after graduation, this is also a great time to evaluate your wardrobe and figure out what works and what doesn’t for professional attire. Your second-hand dress clothes with beer stains might not cut it. Sell what you don’t want to keep at a local thrift shop to make extra cash, and invest the money in a few nice pieces for job interviews or workwear. Also, if you’re moving somewhere much hotter or colder post-college, consider the clothing and other things you may need to prepare for a different climate.
2. Throw out old notebooks and papers
Now for the most cathartic part of the process — time to burn that term paper! Gather up all your supplies and class notes, and recycle what you don’t want to keep long-term as a memento. One thing to keep in mind, however, is whether you’re moving on to grad school or an internship that will require writing samples. If so, make sure you have digital copies of your best work. They’ll come in handy for building a portfolio to showcase your writing chops (and your conceptual thinking).
Also don’t forget to return those library books and rented textbooks. Inventory the books you own and keep only those few that are meaningful to you or may be valuable in your career. Put the rest up for sale or take them to a textbook buyback location. Textbooks can be heavy and bulky. If you can avoid moving them, both your back and storage space will appreciate it.
3. Organize your mementos and keepsakes
After four years, it’s easy to accumulate a surprising mass of mementos — from concert tickets to retro-style Polaroids and everything in between. Since you might be embarking on a big move (or simply heading back to your parents’ house for a while), you’ll want them stored safely until you can decide what you want to display in your future home. Narrow these items down to the most important keepsakes, then store them in a labeled box so they’re easy to find. Need extra tips on how to pack things up? Check out our guide to how to pack boxes for moving.
4. Streamline your kitchen items
That crazy roommate from last year may have left in a hurry, but all their stuff could still be lingering behind. If you want to downsize after college, it’s important to take stock of all the random bits and bobs in the kitchen and decide what’s essential. Throw out any worn kitchen towels and donate all those excess kitchen mugs, chipped plates, unidentifiable gadgets, mismatched shot glasses — you get the picture.
5. Decide what furniture (if any!) goes with you
Maybe you already invested in a few furniture pieces you love, or maybe it’s time to finally part with that torn-up sofa that your roommate found for free on the street. If you’re planning on traveling quite a bit after college, it might be best to sell all your furniture and get new items when you’re ready to settle down somewhere.
6. Invest in space-saving essentials
Lastly, but most importantly, downsizing is all about saving space however you can. Take a trip to your local storage and organization store and consider getting a few items that make it easy to conserve space (just don’t go overboard, as this can be dangerous for your wallet). For example, try packing your seasonal clothes in a vacuum-sealable bag — it removes all the air and creates a much more compact, flat bag that’s easy to store. Not only will items like this help you transport things easily after college, it can cut down on the amount of storage space you’ll need at your next place.
Whether you’ve been living in a tiny studio or your parent’s basement all four years, downsizing after college is the perfect time to reevaluate all your belongings. Once you do the work of downsizing your stuff, you’ll be free to embrace small-space living and the chapter ahead.