The Thrifty Magic of Boston's ‘Allston Christmas'

‘Tis the season to find piles of unwanted furniture and other items up for grabs across Boston as students move in and out of their apartments.

September’s move-in period in the city is known as “Allston Christmas” due to the sheer amount of stuff left out on the street that incoming students, or locals looking for a freebie, can pick up. Tables, chairs, couches, decorations and many the odd find are laid out for the taking.

Longtime Boston landlord Alexandra Bartsch has been an Allston Christmas devotee for many years and has gathered quite the collection from it. She sees the practice as a great way for her tenants to recycle good items to new owners.

"Half my house is furnished with Allston Christmas and it is a real win-win situation. It is the sharing economy before we knew what the sharing economy was."

Congestion Areas in Boston Area During Move-In Time

This interactive map shows the potential congestion spots during the move-in period in the Boston area based on moving truck permits issued by the city.

She has a cabinet full of dishes and other pieces of furniture from “Christmases” throughout the years, but her favorite items are pieces of history that she has picked up.

One of her favorite finds is a 1936 version of The Boston Cooking School Cookbook that was left from a tenant. She also was happy to find a paperweight from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education, which she gave to her father, who is an alumnus of the school.

While she has found some treasures, Bartsch said Allston Christmas is a really a benefit for students moving in who might need a microwave, blender or even a good book to pass the time.

The holiday isn’t confined to the city’s Allston neighborhood, but it is the most popular version of the title due to the high concentration of students in that area.

Boston officials have been doing their best to make sure the holiday spirit is kept in check so that these unwanted items do not become an issue. The city is less keen on the move-in period as a time to reuse items due to the cleanup and, more importantly, the bed bugs that may be hiding inside.

While bed bugs are not dangerous, they can be a nuisance and become a pricey issue to deal with if they make their way into another apartment.

Bartsch says she makes sure to keep trash separate from reusable items with her tenants because she wants to see the spirit of Allston Christmas continue.

Allston Christmas can be a crazy time for students, but Bartsch says that the best way to get through it is to work closely with your landlord and have everything prepared ahead of time. She also recommends having some extra hands to help carry the load.

"If you can get your parents to help you move, do it. Beer is always a good currency if you can get people to come along and carry some of the big mattresses for you."

Boston University junior Kobi Kassal recommends incoming students bring as little as possible when they come to the city. It makes moving in and out a lot easier, and it is one less item for the city to deal with during the student move-in period.

"Freshman year I maybe had three cart fulls worth of stuff. Right now I have downsized to one and a half. You learn what you need and what you don’t need."

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