Advice from a College Custodian: Navigating Move-In, Fire Safety, and Necessary Items for College Students

Hey, Moms and Dads,

I’m a college custodian, and I’ve seen a lot in my years working there. Based on my experience, I have some thoughts and really important advice that I hope will help parents who are sending their teens off to college. 

family helping son move into college
This college custodian has some advice on move-in day. (TWenty20 @mylove4art)

Move-in is the most poignant part of the year

The hardest part of the year for me is move-in. It’s the same every year, and it’s just so hard to see y’all in tears. Would it be wrong if I handed out mini tissue packs this year? Or would you think that rude? To be honest, I am often in tears myself because it breaks me to watch the emotional goodbyes between parents and their kids.

But let me say this too. You’ve done your job well. Trust in your child; they’ve listened to you, even when you didn’t think they were. They may put on a brave face or rush you off acting fine, but they will break down missing you too. Give them the space to do this.  

COLLEGE IS THE ULTIMATE SUMMER CAMP, just a bit more expensive and way more beneficial. But DO keep up with your student: I just heard of a student who had stopped attending classes and was partying and wasting his parents’ money. Sadly, the parents didn’t find out until the student was already expelled due to his academic status at the end of the semester.  

Keep an open mind with them! Allow them to speak their feelings and needs to you without fear of being judged or reprimanded. Remember, as much as you want to see them as your child; they are now adults; treat them as such.

Also, one more thing above move-in: Last year for move-in, we collected 28 giant rolls of dumpsters (like you find at construction sites) of cardboard and trash. The campus looked like a landfill! It was ridiculous, and parents were complaining about all the trash…But this can be prevented. PLEASE bring as little trash with you as possible. 

Good luck moms/dads/siblings….on the next chapter!

We need to talk about fire safety

There are extinguishers and sprinkler systems in the dorms, but I’ve witnessed firsthand that the students do not understand fire safety.  

  1. Please ensure your students know how to use a fire extinguisher; most people don’t know how.  
  1. If your teen has access to cooking space, please teach them how to put out a grease fire. Last semester one student burned his apartment because he had no idea how to put out a grease fire.  
  1. As much as we pray it never happens, if your student is on a higher floor, do they have any other way other than the hallway to escape? Maybe get a fire escape ladder that can help them out the window. Add a hammer for breaking glass and clearing a safe way out.  
  1. Consider a small fire extinguisher, just in case. 

Better safe than sorry, always.

DO NOT sneak in banned items. This could result in fines from the housing, and if there is a fire because of a banned item, you will have substantial legal fees coming your way. It’s just not worth it in the long run.

AND NO CANDLES! Holy fire hazard! We all like feeling at home, but college is more of an extended camp than a home.

Teach your teens these things before they head out

Please teach your student how to plunge a toilet and make sure you purchase a plunger for them to take to college. Also, teach them where most sinks and toilets have shut-off valves. Lately, it seems the students don’t know, and when there’s a toilet or leaky pipe under a sink, they’ve no idea how to shut them off.  

Yes, our custodians are responsible, but “helping us help you” always pays off for the students and their families.

5 tips about move-out

As a custodian, I die a little every move-in (as explained above) but also, for different reasons, during move-out. I see SOOOO much stuff that comes in that’s seriously unnecessary and ends up trashed, most less than a month after move-in! 

1. Please let me suggest, bring the least possible!  

Remember, you‘re only on campus for a short time, and about 50% of what you bring will end up in the trash because you don’t have enough room to take it with you once the semester ends. 

2. Contact paper

As for the contact paper: yes, it does leave a residue. Use rubbing alcohol or Spitfire by Diversey and a scraper; it will come off. Please don’t leave it for us custodians; we have hundreds if not thousands of dorm rooms/houses/apartment spaces to clean and prep for the next semester.

3. Extra food

Also, if you find you have food you don’t need or can’t take with you, PLEASE call a local food bank and donate it! I have seen so much perfectly good food go to waste!

4. Figure out what you need after you get to school

Your students accumulate so, so, so much throughout their semester; plus, they don’t use a lot of what they thought they would. Keurigs, three-tier carts, decorative pillows, curtains. If wanted or needed, they can get those things later. But most of them are truly unnecessary!

Unless they’re in a house or apartment, they DO NOT need toasters, air fryers, etc. They are very likely banned. Check the material the colleges give you.  

5. Cleaning supplies you will need

Some cleaning supplies that might come in handy: A stick vacuum, a Swiffer wet jet or mop and bucket, wipes, spray bottle, paper towels, and toilet cleaner if you have a private bathroom. Also, get DampRid.

More Great Reading:

College Move-In Day: 12 Things That Will Save Your Life!

Top Twelve Dorm Shopping Mistakes

Dorm Room Essentials: Here are the 12 Things All Students Need

About Amy Sue Graham

Amy Sue Graham was born in PA and moved to FL in 1990. Crafter, cleaner extraordinaire and amazing cook. She’s worked both college food service and campus custodial services at three different campuses in Central Florida in the past decade.

Read more posts by Amy Sue

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