September 1st: Boston’s Big Move

Boston Moving Day, by Erik Jacobs of the New York Times

September 1 in Boston. It brings forth images of a new school year with freshly sharpened pencils, crisp mornings, and the promise of new beginnings. But it also marks a distinctly Boston experience: the Big Moving Day.

While September 1st is likely a busy moving day in other towns and cities that boast large student populations, there may not be anything quite like what happens on Boston’s skinny, winding streets in the days before Labor Day. With a reported 79% of rented units in this city turning over on September 1st, it’s as if someone picks up Boston and gives it a good shake. By the time all the dust has cleared, a huge chunk of the city’s population has switched apartments- all within just a few hours. For a visual look at this process, see this slideshow.

Boston streets become a battle zone, as the usual mix of cars, pedestrians, bikers, buses, and T trolleys face a glut of moving trucks, many manned by people who have never driven anything larger than an SUV.

However, more than just a day known for U-hauls getting stuck under the low bridges on Storrow Drive, it has also become a day known as “Allston Christmas”.

Though the name is a reference to Boston’s most crazed September 1st neighborhood (due to it’s proximity to BU and it’s high rate of rental properties), the phenomenon certainly applies to Brighton, Brookline, Mission Hill, the Fenway, Somerville, Cambridge and parts of the South End as well.

This morning, I saw a tweet that read as follows:

@jesssicaa: This coffee table and West Elm couch will be #FREE on sidewalk in approx 2hrs @ corner of Tremont/Dartmouth.. #southend

Disappointed that I had missed such a deal, I began to notice other tweets and updates, mentioning similar “deals”. Soon, I discovered that there is even a citation in Urban for Allston Christmas:

Allston ‘Christmas’ refers to the bounty of “new” stuff that one can easily acquire free of cost simply by walking down to the sidewalk and running off with it back into your own apartment. Much of the items that are left on the sidewalk are free to take because people can’t fit them into their new apartment or don’t have enough space in the truck to move them. However, many of the items are simply left on the sidewalk temporarily and are rummaged (read: ‘stolen’) by the neighbors in the chaos that is the city of Boston on September 1st.

Here, we see an example of the “goods” that can be procured on this most crazy of days. One savvy celebrant, Thespian, shares an itemized list of items found a few years ago:

  • 300 thread count sheets in gold with matching purple pillowcases
  • an unused queen size duvet cover, black fleece
  • a full roller lint brush 
  • An NES with about 20 games
  • 6 glass tea-light holders
  • 2 refractive glass candle holders, in red and blue
  • DVDs of: The Office, Season 3, Le Divorce, The Break Up, Walk the Line, Dirty Dancing II: Havana Nights, Inventing the Abbotts
  • A pile of cds I need to sort through, but it contained both Emmy Lou Harris and 311, so it’ll be interesting
  • A neat little shopping cart with a shelf in the middle to keep things at the bottom from being squished
  • A soap dish (hey, I needed one)
  • A tiny little lamp with a red velvet cover 
  • A ceramic spoon rest to replace the crappy plastic one that got too close to the heat once
  • Harvest Leaf serving plate from Pottery Barn
  • Dishcloths (brand new)
  • Kitchenaid measuring cups and more importantly, measuring spoons 
  • Metal kitchen tongs that are much better than my old ones (these ones have insulation where you grip)
  • A bamboo pot container thing 

Photo courtesy of

This year, in an added twist, there is a group of cartographers that are actually attempting to MAP Allston Christmas. Their goal is to map all the couches, chairs, and other abandoned goods seen on the street as the September 1 moving day approaches. To help them out, see the rest of their post here or follow them on twitter at @bostonography.

Alternatively, you can do as we do: retreat into your homes and don’t come out until September 2, when that dust has cleared, the couches are off the sidewalks, and the U-hauls have been dislodged from the overpasses on Storrow.

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