Today was the annual “UVA Dumpster Extravaganza“.  Every year folks from the commune go to the University of Virginia right at the end of classes and exams, when everyone is moving out of their dorms and apartments and sorority houses.  The Twin Oakers drive up to the back of the buildings with our large cargo vans, and load them up with a massive amount of what college students consider “trash” as they’re packing to go home: clothes, working computers, all kinds of trashy store-bought food, fans, lamps, books and books and books, shoes, costumes, blankets, and cookware.  Folks from Twin Oaks go in to town for three days, get hassled by campus security, and bring the loot back home.  Then there’s a huge and rambunctious event where we haul everything out of the vans and collectively rifle through the boxes for things we want for ourselves and for the community.   This year we had the party up at the warehouse because it was raining; usually we have it in back of the community center and spread everything out in the parking lot.

People come with plastic bags, cardboard boxes, and garden carts for hauling away their personal loads at the end of the event.  Me, I came with a medim-sized cardboard box; I didn’t want to get too carried away.  I knew I wanted to find a backpack to replace mine that recently busted it’s second zipper, one I’ve had since college.  I found a rad space-age bag with black webbing and lots of snaps and buckles that actually seem to have some purpose.  I didn’t have any other specific desires, and I wanted to be intentional about only getting stuff that I really thought I’d use.  I found some great crafty things, like nail polish and fabric and feathers, and a got a bunch of colorful half-used blocks of Post-It Notes.  And a pillow, one of those leany ones with “arms” that stick out, that you can lean against when you’re sitting on the floor.  I’ve always wanted one!

One of my favorite parts of the event today was finding things for other people.  I loved rooting through the masses of random stuff and finding something that suits someone else so well, and then running up to them with it.  Endless opportunities for gifting people I love!  There’s someone here who really likes the color orange, and UVA’s colors are orange and blue, so she was getting lavished with gifts (a bit to the point of overwhelm!).

This event is often a powerful experience for me, and the power of it changes from year-to-year.  The first year I experienced it, I was rather horrified by the waste involved, thinking about how this happens on college campuses across the country every year.  I remember it from Wittenberg, sticking around for a week after classes and pretty much living on the food that other students had put out for the trash.  This year, the power of the event for me was in noticing my “hoarding” mentality, and conscously choosing against it.  Whenever I saw something nice or valuable, there was a voice in my head saying “I should grab that before someone else does”, and then I had to ask myself “do I really want this?”  Most of the time, the answer was “no”.