This is an open letter to college students, their families, and their friends all across the country. Please forward this to anyone that you know who is moving out of a residence hall in the next few months or just as importantly anyone who is going to a college or university campus to help their child, sibling or friend move out:
Please, for the sake of all that you consider sacred, when you start to move out do not leave the pile of stuff that you are planning to take home with you unattended next to the trash dumpster or the donation pile. It will not end well.
I know you have to go get the car, or go back up to the room to get more stuff. Just, please, please, for your sake, and for the sake of the person running the solid waste and recycling on your campus, please find somewhere else to leave your stuff when you do so.
Yes, moving out is hard. Yes, parking is really really horrific this time of year. I can’t sugar coat that for you. And yes, I know you are in a rush because you are about to be stuck on a highway, freeway, or back road with thousands of other families all moving out the same time you are. You have my condolences for how much of a pain this process is. I have done it myself and I have been a part of that process for decades. And I know that if you hurry, you will get out of that mess several car lengths earlier. I appreciate all of that.
But for the love of all that you hold holy, I beg of you, do NOT leave the pile of stuff that you are planning to take home with you (you know the pile that invariably has a family heirloom in it) unattended next to the trash dumpster or donation pile while you go to get the car. I know that at the time it will seem like an OK idea. I know that it seems like the only patch of land that is not covered by someone else’s pile of stuff. I know that you will tell yourself that you are only going to leave it for a few minutes. But it won’t be. It will be more than a few minutes and a lot can happen in that time.
Unfortunately, you are not the only one who is busy and for whom this is chaotic. The crew that is picking up the trash has likely been working overtime all week. If yours is like most campuses, they have had to haul an extra month’s worth of trash in the past few days. Do you see that mound of trash bags, broken furniture and cracked plastic desk organizers, the pile that is burying the trash bin or dumpster? They have had to haul that from every residence hall all week. By the time they get to your hall, they have seen too many nice things deliberately thrown away. I know that you think it is easy discern your pile of wanted items and family heirlooms from the tons and tons of stuff they have seen deliberately thrown away or left for charity over the past few days. But I can assure you from first-hand perspective, it is not. The only way with certainty to tell the difference is to not leave your pile of stuff anywhere near the trash pile or the donation pile.
In more than 20 years of doing this, I cannot even begin to recount how many Mays I or the people working with me have had to comb through tons and tons of donation items looking for a family heirloom that was left too close to the donation pile. I cannot even begin to recount how many times we have had to dump the trash in a special area to sort through it looking for something that was not intended to have been thrown away. Sometimes we found it, sometimes we didn’t. But either way, it never went well for anyone.
So please, I want you to be able to get home as smoothly as possible. I want you to get through this quickly so you can get to the front of the line on the highway, freeway, or back road and get to wherever you are going as soon as possible. I want you to begin a wonderful summer vacation or exciting start to the rest of your life. I don’t want you to have to waste any time yelling in disbelief at the fact that you came back and found your pile of unattended items gone. I do know how much you have paid for tuition over the past year and you deserve for the year to end better than standing in a parking lot yelling at a custodian or campus administrator about missing stuff. But for you to get the smooth trip home that you deserve, I beg of you: do not leave the stuff you are taking home with you unattended anywhere near the trash or donation pile.
Wishing you the best for a safe and speedy trip home,