More Treasure than Trash in Students’ Dorms

By this point of the year if you’re living in a dorm, you’re probably starting to look around and give your room that soft appraisal of dismay. Shaking your head in mild horror you ask yourself, “How did I accumulate all of this stuff?” and then worse, “What the heck am I going to do with it?”

As you sift through your room you’re likely to find impulse buys from Value Village that you no longer think were a good idea, books that you’re pretty sure aren’t yours, and half-used shampoo bottles that don’t necessarily make good garbage, but that you can’t take on the plane.

Move out week at Seattle University is when the trash piles rise beyond belief as people pack up only what they want to, or can, take home.

As a result, many of these move-out casualties end up in the garbage can. But as many students are finding out, this doesn’t have to be the case.

National Public Radio recently published a story about DePauw University in Indiana where the same thing was happening. Many useful things were being tossed out in the hustle and bustle of move-out. To deal with this they came up with a program, wherein donated items would be relocated to a barn, so that families in the community could take their pick of what they needed. Six years into the program, the donation center is helping dozens of families.

Sophomore Lauren McCann sought to do something similar at the end of her freshman year. Knowing that she had a lot of extra laundry soap, but that she didn’t want to bring it home on the plane, she thought about starting a laundry soap drive. She figured that everyone could compile their yet-unfinished laundry detergent, and they could give it to an organization that helped people get their laundry done.

But upon inquiry, she found that many organizations can’t take opened containers. So she had to abandon her idea.

On her part, it was not a lack of desire to do something effective with her unwanted items, but a lack of available information about how she could do it.

“I’m sure there are lots of churches, and different services that could use these type[s] of donations, I just don’t know where they are,” McCann said.

As we come down to the end of the year, Seattle University Housing and Residence Life is emphasizing that in the move-out process, there is a variety of useful options for nearly everything that students might feel inclined to throw away.

As usual, there will be several donation sites outside of the residence halls. The big blue bins from Northwest Center are already up, and they only take clothes. There will also be piles for other donate-ables, including food, to go to places like St. Vincent De Paul and Northwest Harvest.

There will even be places to donate partial hygiene materials.

But just because there are great options available, doesn’t mean that students will take full advantage of them. This can be for a variety of reasons. Students, for example, might not know they even exist.

Resident Assistant Maddie Olson said that if you have any questions about what you can do with the things you don’t want, you should ask your RAs.

“Always ask your RAs if you’re unsure of what you can donate, because chances are, you can,” Olson said.

According to Housing and Residence Life Associate Director Tim Albert, another reason students might not dispose of their items in the best way possible is that they will wait too long to pack up, and not have time to carefully consider their options. He encourages starting the move out process early and in pieces, so that your things can either go to people who could use them, or are disposed of properly. His biggest piece of advice?

“Start bringing it down a little bit before,” Albert said.

When students are pressed for time, Albert said they throw away things that could be donated or recycled. They are stressing reusing and recycling at Housing, and Albert said not to be intimidated by full-looking recycling bins.

Lena may be reached at lbeck@su-spectator.com

Lena Beck

Lena Beck is a freshman Humanities for Leadership major. She does best with ample access to coffee, and enjoys people-watching from the top of parking garages.


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