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Saturday, May 8, 2021

Moving out: even more complicated because of COVID-19

What to do with unwanted items now?

Entrance to Buchanan Towers, one of the two dorm complexes on campus that are still housing students. // Photo by Nate Sanford

By Kiana Doyle

Getting rid of unwanted items can be a big part of moving out, and now because of COVID-19, dealing with these items and moving out will look a little different this year.

The Office of Sustainability has recently decided to cancel the yearly event of Move Out Madness out of concern for the safety of others.

Move Out Madness, a program designed to help students responsibly get rid of their unwanted items when moving out, typically entails arranging dumpsters at locations around town, allowing opportunities for other students or community members to drop off and reclaim unwanted items at these designated areas, as well as the donation of items in good condition, said Lindsay MacDonald, interim director of sustainability at Western.  

However, this year, due to COVID-19, concerns about the risks of spreading the virus when transferring items led to the cancellation of the event, MacDonald said. 

“Health and safety are number one for the university,” MacDonald said. “So, there were concerns around how to manage the logistics to transfer items in healthy ways.”

She also pointed out other factors that were taken into consideration when canceling Move Out Madness, such as a possible aversion to used items at this time in general with those claiming an item worrying about if the item had been in contact with the virus recently, as well as a number of donation centers being closed. 

“Our shift has been toward one of supporting students and the resources they need for moving out, and really focusing on the educational side of things,” MacDonald said.

She said two students from Zero Waste Western have been working all quarter on planning the educational resources about moving out for students.

These students, Zero Waste Coordinator Lauren Sanner, and Zero Waste Assistant Coordinator Haven Johansen said the planning process has been long and challenging.

“We just want to keep people as safe as possible while giving students all the necessary resources,” Sanner said.

Johansen said during the planning process, many different options have been considered for replacing the event of Move Out Madness, but in the end, educational resources answering questions about moving out was the final decision. 

An email from the university sent out to all students, a FAQ page, as well as social media posts have all been part of the education outreach from Zero Waste Western and the Office of Sustainability.

The FAQ page about moving out is available on the sustainability website.

According to the FAQ page, Habitat for Humanity in Whatcom County is one of the two second-hand stores in Bellingham currently accepting donations.

Malie Laolagi, the general manager at Habitat for Humanity in Bellingham, said the store itself is closed but an online store is running, and the store is still accepting donations in a cautious, socially distanced way. 

“We decided to not accept drop-off donations, but we’re following the safety precautions and we felt like we could safely go and pick up items as long as we are not going into people’s homes,” Laolagi said. “The items are outdoors, and the donor stays inside, and we are just really trying to keep that distance from people.”

The items are also sanitized before being resold, Laolagi said.

The pickups started only recently, and Laolagi said she expects donations to start off slowly.  She said getting the word out about accepting donations has been a little difficult, but calls about donations have been increasing, and she still wants the community to know the store is still accepting donations.  

“We’re just really big about our community and anything we can do to help anyone at Western,” Laolagi said. “We know that each year it’s a big deal, the move out process, and we always try to make it there, and so I know this year is probably going to be a lot harder for a lot of people, and we’re just letting them know that we’re an option.”

Kate Yeomann, a housing assistant for Buchanan Towers, said the move out process for students has felt rushed and has resulted in many unwanted items just being left out around the building or next to garbage bins outside.   

“It’s very messy, people will just leave stuff in the hallway that they didn’t want to get rid of,” Yeomann said.

The checkout process for students leaving the dorms is independent now and does not include the aspect of room checks, she said. Information about self-checkout can be found on Western’s On-Campus Housing page.

Yeomann said decisions are still being made about how to handle moving out at the end of the quarter for those who remain on campus.

“I definitely think that they’re going to try to enforce some form of moving out in waves,” she said. “It’s going to be interesting.”

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