Congratulations! You’ve made it through your first year as a college student, and you’re still standing. That, in and of itself, is a major accomplishment, and it likely has taken some adjustments, some patience and lots of focus.

Now, the summer lies ahead. No classes, no midterms or finals. But you will face a different test, of sorts, and that is getting prepared and organized to pack up your dorm room, or shared apartment, for a few months. Don’t worry; this is something that becomes easier with repetition, but even the first time can be handled with ease if you have a plan.

First up, make sure you have all of the pertinent information about departure dates that must be met. Other students will be a great source of information, but for the essentials, go to your RA or Leasing Manager to be certain your information is spot on. They will be specific about what (if anything) can be left in your space and the condition to which it must be restored before vacating it. Some dorms require that the original furniture placement be duplicated; you don’t want to waste fun summer dollars on unnecessary fines.

There are some simple rules to keep in mind:

Where will you store your stuff?
If you are attending school reasonably close to your home, you will likely be piling in on your folks with all of your things in tow. Hi folks; say goodbye to the garage for the summer! In the event that you are lucky enough to have good friends staying near your school over the summer, explore the potential for storing your things at their place. It’s far more likely, however, that the most practical approach will be to get an offsite storage unit near your college. Lots of students share storage units to keep costs down, and if you decide to do this, make sure everyone is extremely clear about the ground rules. And brightly mark every box, bag, and container so there is no mistake about who owns them. An ounce of prevention works well.

How will you prepare and pack your stuff?
The essential issue here is cleanliness. This is the time to overcome your dislike for cleaning, washing, wiping and dusting! No one wants to come back to school and unpack a bunch of sticky, smelly clothes, dishes, and small appliances to start the next semester. So, start ahead by washing as many clothes, towels, and bedding items as possible and pack them up and set them aside. If you decide to pack fabrics in cardboard boxes, it’s a good idea to line the box with a plastic garbage bag first. That keeps items fresher, once you close up the bag inside the box. Plan ahead that on the day before your move takes place, you will do another load of laundry to know that everything you’ve packed will be pristine at the end of vacation.

Clean microwaves and refrigerators, all kitchen items and dishes. Wipe down any other small appliances and electronics. You will want to box up everything; don’t plan on simply setting items in place in a storage unit (especially if shared). It may take additional time and effort, but if handled with care, these items should last for your full college career – and perhaps beyond. And unless you are the rarest of all creatures – a college student with wads of money to waste – you will want to keep your things in good working order.

What do you need to take home with you?
This is pretty straightforward. No need, for example, to take cold weather gear or winter clothes. Likewise, it’s doubtful that you need to take textbooks and other class-related reports, binders and folders. Unless your toiletries have expiration dates, they can safely be left behind. It is especially important to pare down as much as possible if you are flying to your summer destination. So comfortable clothes and shoes, swimsuits and a few date appropriate clothes should pretty well cover it!

Is there anything you no longer need that you can sell, share, or donate?
Top of the list: can you sell your textbooks and recoup some dollars either for the summer or for next semester’s books? If you have leftover snacks and drinks, share with friends. If you have accumulated a pile of paper, notebooks, pencils and pens, donate them to a youth organization in the community. If you decide some of your clothes no longer suit your style, or that some of your room furnishings could be passed along, craigslist may be the way to go. If that is your choice, plan ahead to give the transactions time to take place.

How much time will the process take, and how soon should you start?
You know best the pace at which you will work, so reverse-engineer your schedule and start accordingly. Allow time to secure your storage unit, arrange the transportation to and from it, to collect your boxes and bins, and get the process underway. Allow a cushion; in almost every situation, you will have underestimated the time to clean and pack your items to be stored. Don’t forget, either, that your room or apartment needs to be cleaned before you go. This may include spackling walls, vacuuming/sweeping, washing down bathrooms and kitchen areas. So, the rule of thumb, to make life easier is: start as soon as you can and avoid last minute panic.

This may not be the favorite task you will have as a college/university student, but look on the bright side: aren’t you fortunate to have the opportunity to be where you are right now in life? So kick back and enjoy your summer!