Organised life, University tips

How to pack for uni without getting a back injury

The idea for this post came to me while I was coming back home from uni, carrying a massive handbag full of god only knows what, with two bags full of groceries on top of that (because I’m super intelligent and went to Morissons on my way home). While clenching my teeth, trying to convince myself I’m almost home and that I’ll soon be able to drop all that and get rid of the pain in my arm, I thought that I must be doing something wrong. Like, seriously wrong. I’m a relatively small human, who probably shouldn’t be carrying that much on their petit frame at once.

Then I remembered how much I used to carry around last year, and I patted myself on the back. Save for the groceries (and they don’t really count), I have made progress. However, given that a dull neck pain has become a frequent part of my day, there’s still more progress to be made. And looking around in a lecture last week, I have noticed how much stuff some people carry around with them, which made me realise overpacking wasn’t my problem alone, that’s why this post has come into existence.

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(I can see you! Yes, you! You, adding another thing to that already overpacked bag!)

I know some of you might have only just started university, or you’re coming back, but have been overpacking till now, or you don’t even go to uni, but somehow always have a heavy bag on you. Or you just need tips on how to become a bit more of a minimalist in the packing area.

  1. Don’t bring a full water bottle

    Most universities (if not all) have water fountains spread around the campus. Carrying a big bottle full of water adds serious weight to your bag and is completely unnecessary. Fill your bottle with only as much water as you need for your commute, and then top it up once you get to university. Check your uni’s website for information on where the water fountains are located. If you can’t find it, email the administration or ask someone in the year above.

  2. Buy thinner notebooks

    I used to buy those nice, thick ones for each module, thinking about all the notes I’ll be taking. And, although I do take a lot of notes, I haven’t managed to fill even half of any of them. This year, I have decided to say no to millions of pages, and say hello to B5 sized exercise books. B5 is a format that’s kind of in between A5 and A4, and I find it perfect. The page isn’t too small, and the notebook doesn’t take up too much space in my bag. And if you finish the notebook before the term ends, you can just buy a new one.
    And just look how pretty they are!
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  3. You don’t need your whole make up bag at uni

    Even though I like make up a lot, I rarely take even a lipstick with me to university. I just can’t be bothered with touch ups (also, if I put a lipstick in my massive bag, it’s pretty much lost for eternity). But if you’re one of those people who just can’t stand being shiny during the day, I’ll still insist you don’t need a whole make up bag. Find a small and cute one, and only pop in the essentials. That is, in most cases, pressed powder and a lipstick/lipgloss/lip balm. Unless you’re going out after classes, these two should see you through the day. Because, let’s face it, no one gives a toss about whether or not your eye lashes are on point.

  4. Invest in some foldable lunch boxes

    Ok, so this won’t really affect the weight as much as it will the bulkiness of your bag, but I feel that it could still improve your quality of life. Or maybe it’s just me who really hates having a super bulky handbag. Anyway, I don’t use a foldable lunch box myself, but I’m quite tempted to try, as carrying around an empty plastic box annoys me quite a lot. The way they work is very simple – you pop your food in, take it with you to work/uni, eat it (the food, not the box), and once you’re done, fold the box into a flat package.
    There are loads to choose from on Amazon, if that’s your favourite destination for online shopping, in various shapes, colours, sizes and at different price points.

  5. Don’t bring your laptop and/or charger to uni if you don’t have to

    Although we live in an electronic era, where kids learn to use tablets before they learn how to write, research shows that we retain more if we take notes by hand. Sorry, typists. If you don’t have to bring a computer to uni, just leave it at home. If you think you lost the ability to take notes by hand, do a week long experiment and see how it works for you. If you absolutely can’t leave your laptop at home, because you have to work on coursework after lectures, or are going straight to work (that’s me!), try to not bring a charger (unless your battery is absolutely terrible). Laptop chargers are surprisingly heavy, so removing that from your bag will significantly decrease the weight you’re carrying around. If you have to bring a laptop with you, use a carrier back if you have one, it’ll spread the weight more evenly.

  6. Leave your textbooks at home

    The number of times I’ve seen people bring a textbook to a lecture… And never wrapped my head around why. You really don’t need it there, you’re never going to even peek inside, unless your lecturer specifically tells you to. I don’t know about you, but my textbooks are big and heavy and bulky. There are only two occasions on which I would walk around with them: when bringing them home from the library, and when bringing them back there. If you need to urgently look something up in a lecture, you’re going to do it on your phone anyway. Cause, you know, digital generation and stuff.

  7. Make your wallet lighter

    Hands up, who has an unreasonably heavy wallet, and can’t figure out why? (My hand is so high up you could probably see it from Japan). I have no idea why my wallet is so damn heavy, but my suspicion is that the pile of loyalty cards might be at fault. If you’ve a similar issue, I suggest you have  look if you maybe have loads of 2p coins in there, or maybe a discount card for that little shop in northern Scotland that you’re never going to go to again, because you’ve moved to Greece.

These are just a little few ways of making your bag a bit lighter, but a few small changes will add up to one big one and, hopefully, make it easier on your back. Some days will obviously cause our bags to explode with stuff (because you simply have loads to do), on others you will get away with a pen and a notebook, because you only have one lecture. Either way, keeping your back in mind when you pack is definitely a good thing to do.

If you have any other tips, I’d love to hear them because, you know, my bag is still heavy as hell.

Cover photo by Lotte Löhr

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