Home Forums Work Too much of a free thing!

This topic contains 10 replies, has 10 voices, and was last updated by  hmr 7 years, 5 months ago.

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  • #159546


    I hope the forum members can help with a positive outcome for our office dilemma.

    I work in an administrative office at a large urban (NYC) college. As such, we have a conference room we use for various meetings, and is reserved by other departments for their meetings.

    Refreshments are a large part of the meetings.

    Since the refreshments are usually delivered, they come with the various utensils needed to consume the food (forks & knives, napkins, small condiment packs). Also, the items are often packaged on heavy duty trays. This is all very convenient for the various staff members who are handling the meetings, but it is starting to overwhelm the space.

    I have one office member who is something of a pack rat (The Saver). He saves all of the above mentioned items with plans to use them again. Some of the items (napkins, forks) are great to have around for lunch and coffee breaks. But other stuff (condiments, over sized trays) collect dust and hang around for years. For example – I have a medium sized box in one of out storage closets, FILLED with the disposable tongs given out when salads are ordered.

    I know that it is easy to say, “Don’t have the items put in with the delivery,” but given how many different departments use the paces, it is not practical to assume 100% compliance. There will always be napkins (and other items) coming into the room.

    So what I am left with is a massive overload of “disposable” food serving items that I have no use for, and no space for. I would be happy to throw everything away (I know, I know! Not great for the environment, but you can’t believe how much we have!) , however the Saver can’t just get rid of the accumulated items by tossing them. He would see this as wasteful.

    I think the best thing would be to donate the items, but I need some VERY specific ideas. Just saying “Goodwill” is not enough. This is an office set up, so the time and effort put in would be above and beyond for someone (probably me) and I want to feel confident that the items are going to be used. If I’m going to spend a Saturday at the office every few months, I want it to be worth it.

    Can the forum members offer some advice? Once we have a plan in place, I can monitor the piles and every few months suggest we offer another donation, but where?

    Thanks in advance.

  • #195041


    Too much of a free thing!

    Soup kitchens or missions that serve meals might be able to use these things.

  • #195042


    Too much of a free thing!

    I work as a salesperson who often has meals catered to the clients that I am presenting to. Each office has their own solution to this.

    1) has their own reusable plates and silverware at the office, a dishwasher, and a person assigned to run it each day (complicated)

    2) donates to soup kitchens or missions as Julia said

    3) recycles on their own (easy in our city, where clean plastic ware and un-used paper plates, styrofoam plates, and unused paper napkins can all be recycled in curb side bin)

    4) gives written notices to anyone who brings in food from catering, etc that only exact amounts of service ware are welcome (caterers like this, saves them $)

    I’ve had to deal with all four… they all are pretty simple for me when I place the food orders… but knowing how it is in offices I know that even simple things can be made so complicated by people like The Saver!

  • #195043


    Too much of a free thing!

    I second that: soup kitchen or mission. Churches, even if they don’t host one themselves, will know where they are, so it shouldn’t take more than a couple phone calls starting with the closest church to find someone who can use them.

    Food pantries that give out bags of groceries might be another route to go.

  • #195045


    Too much of a free thing!

    I would designate specific space for these leftover items–a reasonable amount of space. Like one drawer and one box or one shelf. Then fill the rest of your storage space with the things you actually need to store.

    Box up all the extras and trot them down the hall to Mr. Saver. Inform him that you’ve had to reorganize the supply cabinets and these items don’t fit. He can store them in his office; he can donate them somewhere; or you can throw them out. His choice. Present him with an accomplished fact and let him deal with the problem he has caused.

    Moving forward, clearly label the space allotted for these leftovers. Inform Mr. Saver, when he tries to cram more stuff in, that it doesn’t fit and he will either have to take them home or store them in his own space. I would make it very clear that I have no problem tossing the stuff, and that if he wants to save it, he can’t take up valuable office supply space to do so. He is the one that wants to save it; he is the one who then has to deal with it. (Assuming Mr. Saver isn’t the head of the department.)

    Me, I’d try to the be the first one in the room after the meetings were over, just so I could throw out the stuff I know won’t be used again.

    If that won’t work, put the stuff out on the conference room table at a time when there isn’t a meeting, with a huge “FREE STUFF” sign on the door. At least some of it will disappear before you know it.

    Another thought–if the food and supplies are coming from the campus food service, call them and see if they will take any of it back. Or even if they have large trash cans that you can deposit it in. Or if they know if any of it is recyclable.

  • #195074


    Too much of a free thing!

    Put everything that you want to keep in a box, and put that box in your office.

    Then, send an email out to everybody (1) explaining that you are going to throw away (or recycle) all the [list items] in the [list location] on [specify date], and (2) letting everybody know that they are welcome to take any of the stuff before that date.

    Once all the junk is taken or thrown away (or recycled), put the stuff from the box in your office back into the conference room.

  • #195079


    Too much of a free thing!

    HMR, is there a group at your university that either feeds free meals to students (my university had one, called “Free Lunch”) or is made up of students who feed homeless or others? If there’s a nursing program they probably have students volunteering at Open Arms or hospice programs. I would start with university organizations because I would be they’d pick up for you.

    If not, specific suggestions: Meals On Wheels, Food Not Bombs (they cook at ABC No Rio on the LES), Coalition for the Homeless (Coalitionforthehomeless.org).

    Since there’s a constant influx of new stuff, putting a pickup or dropoff date on the calendar each month or each quarter (depending on storage space) shoulnd’t be difficult.

  • #195080

    Too much of a free thing!

    1. Offer them to the next caterer
    2. Offer them to a homeless shelter
    3. Offer them to an organization that feeds the homeless
    4. Offer them to a food bank
    5. Offer them to staff via a box labeled “Help Yourself” that you set up in the room

  • #195131


    Too much of a free thing!

    Offer on freecycle? There may be someone local who could use the stuff, like someone planning their own wedding on the cheap or something, or a small caterer who would love to save some money.
    Since it’s an ongoing problem, I would try to look for an ongoing solution if possible.

  • #195587


    Too much of a free thing!

    Thanks, everyone, for your responses. The office as a whole as come to an agreement that one cabinet in our shared closet should be used to hold the bulk of teh “breakdown” items. A small assortment will be kept in a smaller cabinet near the actual microwave and coffee maker, but once we have reached capacity, we can accept no more items until we have used up some of what we have already.

    The Saver got on board as the rest of the office started cleaning out other little used items and spaces (we dumped three big bags of unneeded research data, some of which reached back over 20 years). I think it helped that we didn’t single out any one person or type of item, but rather took it as an opportunity to toss stuff from every corner of the office suite.

    It will be a few weeks more before we have everything in complete order, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and I have some great resources now for the items we don’t need.

    Thanks again, all. And keep your fingers crossed we can keep up the momentum.

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