So. It’s finally here. The End of Times. And by ‘times’ I of course mean the three or more years spent intermittently studying, sharing memes on Facebook about that #studentlife, and accumulating a giant mountain of Stuff. You know what I mean. The stuff from Freshers Fairs (can’t believe I never used that Careers Department keyring), from societies, that traffic cone from that night out, and that corner where you’ve been sticking the stuff ‘to sort out later’ until it became an exercise in selective blindness. All this to say: moving out of your student house is never easy. You’ll feel sad it’s over, stressed as you consult your tenancy contract for the first time since moving in, and most of all you’ll think: what the hell do I do with all this Stuff?
Well never fear. The WILD guide is here. You may be tempted to shove half your belongings straight in the bin for the sheer convenience of not having to look at them again, but come on. It’s out of sight, out of mind until your threadbare sock floats onto the screen wrapped around a seahorse 5 years later when you’re watching a BBC documentary about plastic pollution.
So how do you move out of your student house without destroying the planet in the process?
1. Sell your stuff
If you have time, you may as well make some money out of the things you won’t take with you. If you have clothes, books or furniture in good condition, then stick some of your stuff up on local Facebook groups, use Vinted and Ebay. Also for books from your course it’s worth posting on your department society / Facebook group / chat / anywhere.
2. Hit up your local charity shop
Undoubtedly you’ve spent the last few years buying all your clothes from charity shops after being inspired by previous Wild articles. Well now’s the time to give back and accept that you never will wear that shirt you’ve been saving for ‘Just the Proper Occasion’.
As you’re decluttering your room, make a giant pile of stuff that can be donated. This includes clothes, but also household items: working electronic appliances, books, decorations, leftover stationery, furniture, your ten thousand freshers keyrings (really what is it about keyrings at these fairs).
Warning: you may find this takes several trips to the charity shops. Like the gift that keeps on giving, packing up your room has this amazing ability to reveal a never-ending stream of items you forgot you owned. Some charities will even come and collect things from your house for free including the British Heart Foundation.
Top tip: Use Freecycle for large items like chairs and wardrobes (if for some reason you bought an entire wardrobe, I don’t know your life) as usually if people request the item they’ll come and collect it. Or they won’t and, like me, you will end up dragging a small desk 3 streets across the city in the middle of the night to the joy of sleeping neighbours everywhere.
3. Get Your Stuff Fixed
If you have a lot of items which you don’t feel emotionally prepared to let go of but aren’t in any working condition and you can no longer pretend that having fifteen holes in your jeans is fashion darling, see whether there’s any local repair cafes near you. These are great for fixing clothes and electronic items and are often free as well, as the aim is to reduce waste. It’s better for the environment – and cheaper for you – to buy high quality clothes that last longer and get them fixed rather than throwing them out in a panic at the first sign of a seam coming loose.
So after all that there’s still probably a giant pile of Stuff which isn’t fit to use and would otherwise go straight in the bin. Jeans with a leg missing. Fifteen mysterious cables that don’t seem to actually plug in to any of your appliances. A pair of headphones that only work if you hold the cord at a 47 degree angle while leaning forward. Your trophy beer bottle mantelpiece.
Now’s the time to bite the bullet and consult your local recycling guide. Notoriously, UK recycling varies from county to county and trying to remember what your local council can and can’t collect is one of those brain exercises that the newspaper recommend for preventing dementia. Luckily Recycle Now saves your brain from the effort and will tell you where you can go to recycle about a billion different objects. This may take a few journeys around town as a dazzling array of shops seem to recycle one item only (I went to WH Smiths to recycle batteries, M&S to recycle textiles, a giant recycling centre to recycle plastic, and may have sneakily taken some glass bottles to the glass bin on campus) so you can save money on going to the gym that day as you haul all your used light bulbs and broken shoes around the city.
So hopefully after that saga of repairing, selling, donating and recycling you’ve trimmed down your goliath of possessions and come one step closer to actually fitting your room into your suitcases. Now’s the time to move onto the kitchen.
You’ve heard me sing the praises of Olio before in reducing food waste. It’s an app for giving away food you won’t use up, where you advertise what you have and someone requests it and you can organise a pickup time. It’s growing in popularity and a great way to avoid throwing out all those baking ingredients for the cakes you were determined to make as a bright-eyed first year.
Top tip: Use your leftover glass jars to store some of the food (e.g. if you have a tiny amount of rice / pasta / cereals / coffee left) as it makes it easier to transport and also if you put up a picture of jars on Instagram, with a vintage filter, you will get a lot of likes. Scientific fact.
6. Give things to your friends
‘Tis the season for forceful gift-giving. Identify which of your friends are not moving out or at least have a bit longer left on their tenancy and arrange to ‘have one last catch-up before we all go!!’ This is your opportunity to show up laden with a strange combination of post-its, pens and three tubes of icing (aka the things you weren’t able to give away on Olio or donate in time) and gift it to them. Perfect for last-minute decluttering when it’s the day before leaving and you just now remember you actually own the items in that forgotten drawer in the kitchen.
Perhaps some things you just don’t want to donate. You don’t want the good people of Olio to be inflicted to your leftover attempt at a casserole where every ingredient was a substitute and you’re not going to eat it. Or that canned food which is probably fine but the Best Before date conspicuously declares 03/01/2016 on the front. Time to get green and throw it in the compost.
If you don’t have a compost bin in your house or, like me, you thought you did but it turns out you’ve been throwing teabags into your neighbour’s bin and that’s why they glare at you through the window, then see if your university campus has one or look up one nearby.
8. All the rest
So a sad fact of the world is that it’s really really really hard to ensure nothing goes in the black bin, or as I like to call it, the Bin-bag of Doom and Destruction (I’m a fun housemate). The availability of local recycling is patchy and varies hugely by area. We don’t always have the time or foresight to begin decluttering a month before moving out. Things come inexplicably wrapped in 3 layers of plastic.
The best way to avoid creating a lot of waste moving out is to avoid accumulating stuff in the first place. This is easier said than done but it is much less hassle to spend a few minutes each week organising your Stuff and finding a couple of things to drop off at a charity shop before you head into town, than to stick it all in the back of the wardrobe and unleash a Pandora’s Box of THINGS at the end of the year. I won’t go all Marie-Kondo on you because my phonetics textbook brings me about as much joy as broken escalators on the Tube, but it’s not environmentally sustainable to contribute to the consumer demand for more things in the world. Be smart, use what you already have, shop less and spend that time laughing at your fellow housemates as they cry over their fifteen boxes of kitchenware instead.