Getting More Out of Less Space
How my college dorm room taught me to live in a more minimalist and happier way.
At the end of last August, I undertook the biggest change of my life by leaving for college. It’s an exciting time; full of parties, new friends, and new learning experiences. But what most people (including myself) don’t anticipate is how drastically living arrangements change.
I live in a triple dorm, shared with my two fantastic roommates. Having three people, three beds (one bunk and one lofted), three desks, and three dressers is a tight squeeze in a room of about 200 square feet. There isn’t much space for extra stuff.
But here’s the surprising thing: we don’t need it. Everything I need fits nicely into my desk, dresser, and my ⅓ of our shared closet. After measuring, the space is roughly 40 square feet for all my belongings.
Moving into the dorm forced me to pick and choose what items were absolutely essential, and which ones weren’t. Before arriving to college, I got rid of about half my wardrobe, shelves full of books, trash bags full of useless trinkets, and piles of other things from my room at home. It’s amazing how much stuff we allow to build up when we have space to put it in. Some things you wouldn’t even think of as being extraneous—extra soaps and lotions in the bathroom, decorative furniture and pillows, and folders of old papers that “I might reference some day!”
But after settling in to college, I didn’t miss any of the things I had gotten rid of. I have a single suitcase of clothes that I bring back and forth from home in Connecticut to school in Maryland, a shower caddy worth of hygiene products, and a small stack of my seven favorite books. I have just enough writing utensils and school supplies, a small baggie of medicine, and a small box of makeup. Anything more than that is just unnecessary and impractical with such little storage space.
It’s astonishing how much of a change the simplification has had on my attitude. Back in high school I was constantly stressed, threw every last thing into ‘junk drawers’, and didn’t take nearly enough time to appreciate what I had. But in college I became more easy-going, selective in the items I brought into my life, and started taking time to reflect on just how fortunate I am. Instead of going shopping or trying to clean my bedroom, I spent more time with friends. Before I knew it, this tiny dorm room began to feel more like home.
So what’s the moral of the story? Don’t let the ability to have more stuff allow you to keep more stuff. For me, it took moving to a confined space to convince me to get rid of the things I didn’t need. I wish now that I had simplified back when I had a large house and a spacious room to fill—it had just never occurred to me that I didn’t need to fill it with superfluous items.
Take time to look around your living space. Could all of your stuff fit into a dorm room? If not, it might be time to get rid of the things that don’t matter in order to make space for the people and experiences that do.