Student move out day is coming (sooner than you realize). When the students are moving out, where do you want them to put their unwanted stuff? How do they know where to go and where to throw away/recycle/re-purpose that stuff?
Not everyone knows how the system works. Not everyone knows where every closet or lounge in the residence hall is located. That’s easy to overlook because your student residents have lived there continually for the last 9 months or so. Some of your housekeeping staff may have done this every year for half of their lifetime or more. But keep in mind that you have a lot of family and friends coming to help your students move out. Often, it is those family and friend helpers that are given the task of bringing unwanted items down to the donation area, recycling area, or trash bin. And many of those helpers are not at all familiar with either the residence hall or the system. Some may never have been inside the residence hall. Some may have only been to a couple areas or only been there a couple times since the start of school.
Put yourself in their shoes. If you didn’t already know everything, could you figure out how the system works and where to put stuff?
If you want to test this, partner up with a peer school near you. Go to one of their residence halls you have never been to before. Now, try to figure out where every unwanted item from a student room should go. Amid the labyrinth of unmarked doors, try to figure out which one is the basement trash room or basement lounge. If you struggle, imagine how much people struggle on your own campus. Imagine trying to figure it all out with the added degree-of-difficulty of knowing that you are double parked, knowing that you have to rush to avoid the traffic jam on the road out of town, knowing that you are rushing to catch a flight, or knowing that residence life staff is outside the door insisting that you hurry because they are closing the entire building for the season in five minutes.
To help ensure that unwanted items end up in the right area, you might want to think about adding extra signage for the end of the year. If you’re standing in the middle of the hallway, is there a sign directing you where to go with unwanted items, with recyclables, or with residual trash? How about when you get to the base of the stairs or when you get off the elevator? Is there a sign there directing you which way to go?
If you don’t have signs, how are people supposed to figure out where to go? Is there an app for that? Are you relying on telepathy or their attunement to the Force? Is the campus that your students are moving out of secretly Hogwarts, where people just have ways of knowing those things? Are you planning to have volunteers to help direct people? If your answer to the above questions is no, how are the rest of us Muggles supposed to figure all this out without signs?
If you are putting up extra signage, you might want to think about doing it earlier rather than later – before any student workers and volunteers that you have get busy with finals and disappear, and before any housekeeping or custodial staff get so busy with Commencement stuff that they cannot help either. My experience is that the spring flies by faster than you realize and that you don’t have as much time as you might think to get everything done.
Now, I won’t lie to you. Even with signs, there are going to be people that, for whatever reason, put stuff in the wrong place. Even with signs, the last few hours and days of the school year will still be chaotic and involve overflowing bins, stressed out families, and staff from your housekeeping and residence life departments that are stressed out and spread too thin. But the less effort that you put into showing people where you do want them to put their unwanted stuff, the more likely they are to put it somewhere you don’t want it to go.