Seniors shed dorm-room baggage for postgrad pursuits

Noah Johnson ‘15 is preparing to move to the West Coast after graduation. In order to make the move, he is taking on difficult decisions about which belongings to take with him and which to leave behind. Photo By: Sam Pianello
Noah Johnson ‘15 is preparing to move to the West Coast after graduation. In order to make the move, he is taking on difficult decisions about which belongings to take with him and which to leave behind. Photo By: Sam Pianello
Noah Johnson ‘15 is preparing to move to the West Coast after graduation. In order to make the move, he is taking on difficult decisions about which belongings to take with him and which to leave behind. Photo By: Sam Pianello

Four years at Vassar can leave seniors with a wealth of experiences to sort through—and a pile of unwanted possessions to get rid of. With only a month before commencement, the Class of 2015 is looking to unburden themselves of the material detritus of their undergraduate career. Seniors face a mix bookshelves, fans, kitchen equipment, carpets and laundry hampers that they either do not want anymore or cannot be bothered to transport hundreds of miles away.

“I have more stuff than I know what to do with and it’s because I like things,” said Maddie Oldfield ’15. Planning on traveling across the country and relocating in Seattle, Oldfield has to pare down all of her possessions into what can fit into her car. She explained how she is using the time as an opportunity to reevaluate how she sees herself living in her post-grad life. “I think I am going to have to take a step back from my life because I can’t be carrying around that much stuff,” she said.

Kayla Abe ’15 brought a lighter load to campus and only has a few things she is trying to sell or donate before the end of the semester. Said Abe, “I live far away, and knowing that I would have to lug everything back, I didn’t want to get rid of too much at the end of the year. I’m very, very conscious of how much I consume and try not to have anything in excess.” This habit has been successful in keeping Abe’s room free of burdensome clutter. “My walls are so barren,” she reported.

Still there are a few miscellaneous possessions that Abe has been trying to vend on the Free & For Sale Facebook Page. Already, she has been able to sell a rotating fan and a running armband to interested buyers.

Abe and Oldfield’s housemate Noah Johnson ‘15 is trying to cut a larger deal on Facebook. Johnson will be selling his car, a 1996 Honda Accord, on Free & For Sale, where the typical price for an item is between $5-10. “It will probably be like the biggest ticket item up there. I don’t know anyone who’s ever put something over like twenty bucks up there yet,” he said.

Johnson regrets having to sell or donate his college possessions only to have to start over again when he moves to the West Coast after graduation. His housemates worked hard to furnish their kitchen and rooms and now they are working hard to strip it down again.

“We’ve accumulated so much stuff even in the past year, not counting all the stuff from the past three years. Then all the sudden you have to get rid of all of that,” said Johnson.

He offered the following advice to underclassmen: “I would say get as few things as possible. It’s way easier not to have that much.” He added that what isn’t sold or donated will probably be passed down to their junior housemate. Indeed, many seniors choose to bequeath their possessions to their younger peers who are moving into apartments next semester.

One popular venue for donating gently used items is the SWAPR program. An acronym for Stopping Waste And Promoting Reuse, SWAPR is spearheaded by the Sustainability Coordinator Alistair Hall ’11 in conjunction with the College Committee for Sustainability. Since 2002, SWAPR accepts used clothing, furniture and other miscellaneous items at drop-off points located across campus. “I think it’s kind of a win-win. I don’t think people intend to throw away stuff. We’re just kind of providing a positive outlet for it,” said Hall.

He went on to explain how last year alone, SWAPR saved upwards of 120 garbage bags or more than 3000 pounds of clothing from ending up in the trash. Additionally, SWAPR partners with over a dozen community organizations, like Dutchess Outreach and Hudson River Housing, to make sure that the used items are matched with the right recipients.

What’s left over in past years was offered to returning students at heavily discounted prices. Hall graduated Vassar in 2011, but when he returned in August of 2013, he found a couch that had been in his apartment back when he was a senior. “It’s kind of an interesting way of community heritage or reuse,” he said.

After he graduates, Jeremy Burke ’15 plans on donating his coffee table but taking his collection of books with him as he moves to New York City. Burke explained how he considers the books he’s bought and read during his time at Vassar to be important enough to hold onto. Said Burke, “I’ve been cautioned by my parents a lot about buying too many books.” He then added, “But I don’t really care. I think it’s worthwhile.”

Oldfield also plans on keeping a few of the textbooks she read in the course of her studies as a drama major. She also said she feels like she should hold onto essentials like her bedding. However, the lamps, carpets, bookshelves, black-out curtains, storage containers and a Cuisinart food blender all need to go.

Deciding to get rid of something like a vacuum cleaner may seem inconsequential, but these are the first decisions seniors make as they transition out of college and into the post-grad world where certainties are scarce. According to Oldfield, tied together with the act of shedding away her old belongings is the dream of a more independent life in the future.

She said, “I think it’s also an idealized notion of “Okay, I’ve collected all this baggage through college, and now I can sort of let it go and go on new adventures.’ I want to be able to travel and move to different places and be working in different cities.” The prospect of starting over with fewer material comforts can be daunting. Oldfield joked, “It’s like I want to be a hoarder and a free spirit. Can I do that?”

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