Packing for uni: essentials for a happy home

Suzanne Bearne
Photograph: Roos Koole/Getty

As your child heads off for a new independent life at university, you have one last chance to make sure they’re prepared – so when it comes to packing that car you’ll want to make sure every item warrants its space.

First off, check with the university or accommodation provider to find out what they provide – many of the rooms in halls of residence and rented houses will have some of the basics, including a bed, desk, wardrobe, bedside table and chair. Although some unis also provide duvet covers and sheets, you may prefer to splash out on some new linen instead, so it’s essential to know the size of the bed. Given the likelihood of a springy bed, a mattress protector is a sound investment too.

You could try slipping a framed photo of the family into a box so they have something to remember you by, but, equally, your offspring may want to cover the walls with snaps of that Ibiza trip they all took as a final school-leaving hurrah. It’s all about personalising this blank canvas of a new room. Lobby for a few low-maintenance plants to help generate a healthy homely atmosphere in their new space.

If you’re worried about them making friends, arm your child with some icebreakers – and that all-important doorstop, to encourage others to come wandering into their room. Board games have been enjoying a resurgence, as well as branching into new areas – dinosaur evolution anyone? – whereas the likes of Cards Against Humanity are best played once a few barriers (and drinks) are down.

But back to the practical stuff … You’ll need to cram in a clothes horse, a couple of towels, a laundry bag – for the weekly pilgrimage to the washing machine – a tin opener and bottle opener. There should be enough crockery, but it’s always worth them taking an extra glass, cup, bowl, and plate. Many students recommend a multi-plug extension, as there’s often a lack of plug sockets in rooms, and light sleepers should bring earplugs – maybe an eyemask too. A bike will give them a bit of freedom to explore on their own, if communal living becomes a bit much (and you have a roof rack).

You may as well stock up on toiletries, washing powder and the like, because heading to the supermarket may not be top of your offspring’s priority list. Stash away some condoms, too, if your relationship functions on that level, and a medical kit.

They’ll certainly thank you for a box of hardy and non-perishable food too – think olive oil, sauces, noodles, pasta, rice, beans, pulses, salt, pepper, teabags, coffee and cereal.

Still got space? There’s work to do at uni too, so squeeze in highlighters, folders, plastic wallets, pads and pens. And don’t forget ID and any other uni documents they might have been sent.

If they need anything else, they can always use the opportunity to knock on their new neighbours’ doors and say hello.