Given the option, most of us would not choose to move four times in as many years. Packing and unpacking, protecting delicate items, moving large pieces of furniture – it’s a stressful process. And yet, it’s considered perfectly normal for college students to move in and out of their living arrangements each year as dorm assignments change or apartment leases expire.
This usually ends up being a family endeavor, with parents and siblings pitching in to help the move go as smoothly as possible. Unfortunately, there are always things you can’t prepare for that inevitably complicate matters.
Architecture poses one of the biggest unexpected challenges. In my sophomore year of college, I lived in a dorm that was entered by walking down a flight of stairs. This was not a mere two or three steps down – we’re talking about a good two dozen steps.
This flight of stairs did not appear to serve any significant architectural purpose apart from being part of an incredibly dysfunctional design, for they only led to the lobby, which included the elevator and stairs leading to four floors of dorm rooms.
The day we students were scheduled to move in, the elevator happened to be out of order. And guess whose room was on the fourth floor? These circumstances led Dad to question whether I had employed my critical thinking skills when I had selected my dorm. (I believe the exact turn of phrase was, “Are you an idiot?”) I chose to live in a different dorm for the remainder of my college career.
Oldest Younger Brother fared well with dorm living, having been graced with a functioning elevator when moving in and moving out. Impractical architecture reared its ugly head once again, however, when he began living off campus as a sophomore.
That year, he and his roommates rented the top floor of a triple-decker. There was no elevator, which was fine because we hadn’t really expected one, but the architect had seen fit to design a narrow staircase that had a landing, immediately followed by a 90-degree turn, every five feet.
Dad and Oldest Younger Brother labored valiantly to heft his new-to-him loveseat up the stairs by passing it from landing to landing, up the center of the stairwell, only to discover it wouldn’t fit through the doorway of the apartment.
They borrowed a hacksaw and cut off the legs of the loveseat, but it was still too tight a squeeze. Dad and Oldest Younger had to remove the doorframes in the apartment – yes, the doorframes, not just the doors – before they could settle the loveseat in its new home in the living room. Even then, it barely made it.
When it was time to move out, Oldest Younger Brother opted to leave the loveseat. There was no way they were getting it back out of the apartment unless it was in pieces, and it might just save the next renter some hassle.
Another unexpected challenge you might encounter is the unpreparedness of your college student. My junior year, I was living in a dorm with a reasonable arrangement of steps and a functioning elevator, so Dad figured the two of us could handle the moving-out process by ourselves. He told me to make sure I obtained boxes so I could be all packed up when he arrived.
I don’t know really know what my thought process was, but I didn’t get boxes. Nor did I tell Dad I didn’t get boxes.
I do remember he thought I’d be able to get them on campus. Apparently, some colleges sell boxes and other packing materials at the end of the school year to make things easier for their students. Given that my school did not consider a broken elevator on Move-in Day to be an issue, it was no surprise that boxes were not being sold on campus.
Getting boxes would have involved taking the college shuttle to the mall, walking to the home supply store several plazas over and carrying the boxes back to the mall without getting flattened by unconcerned urban drivers. It was not a risk I was willing to take.
So when Dad arrived, expecting to load up the van and go, he was shocked to find that I was, by and large, not packed. He made an emergency run to a nearby drugstore and returned with a pack of lawn bags – big, heavy-duty paper bags used for grass clippings and other byproducts of lawn maintenance.
I don’t think a dorm room has ever been packed up so quickly. Parental frustration is an excellent motivator.
On the plus side, we did discover that the lawn bags were more durable (and easier to store) than the banker’s boxes we had been using previously. I was glad my lack of preparation had resulted in some sort of positive outcome, but I didn’t mention that to Dad until, like, next year when I was packing to move in.
We just moved Youngest Brother out of his dorm after his first year of college, and I’m pleased to report that this was quite possibly the easiest move-out process we’ve ever had. Neither architecture nor student unpreparedness interfered – there were no inappropriate stairs, the elevator worked properly and he did some packing beforehand. The half-dozen large tote bags Mom brought easily accommodated everything else.
Our cousins who live nearby volunteered to help, and between the five of us, everything took three trips, the last trip being devoted solely to the refrigerator. We were even able to go out to dinner afterwards without anyone being grumpy or frustrated due to moving day mishaps.
I hope things will go as smoothly for Younger Sister when she starts college this fall and we move her into her dorm. She’s a very responsible young lady, so I doubt preparedness will be an issue, and the dorms appear to be laid out in a logical fashion.
But then again, there’s always the elevator.
– Teresa Santoski