Moving into a residence hall and out of your parents’ house can be a big change. For one, dorm rooms tend to be smaller than you are accustomed to living in, and with a roommate, your personal space may be compromised. The communal bathrooms can take some getting used to as well, so you’d be excused if you missed the privacy and space of your familial home.
However, the relative comfort you know wasn’t so common until recent history. In fact, the U.S. Census Bureau reports, American homes are two to three times larger than they were in the 1950’s, with far fewer people living in them. The graph below shows the change since 1975.
The truth is that larger homes are more expensive. They also require more energy and other resources to power, heat, cool, and build. Although smaller, our dorms are much more affordable than the McMansions springing up all over the country, and believe it or not, there are other perks that come with campus housing:
The sharing of lounges, bathrooms, and kitchenettes fosters community in a way that a single house cannot.
Communal areas also mean that we aren’t burdened with a lot of cleaning or maintenance.
The residence staff often provide resources to be shared by students such as a vacuum, laundry, and board games.
By coming together and living in a smaller communal dorm room, we, as a student population, consume fewer resources than we would if we lived in separate apartments.
Above: Student in her Miller dorm room.
It can be difficult to see these benefits when transitioning into campus housing. You probably had to leave a lot of your possessions behind when packing your bags for college. Maybe you are missing a family pet or thick sweater for the changing weather, but these holes leave an opportunity to find new things.
I have lived in dorm rooms all over campus from the Quad to the Hill, and each room challenges me to grow – not my wardrobe or a collection of knickknacks – but the connections I make with people. Our residence halls cultivate a meaningful social life and community, while pruning away our desire to pack our lives with belongings. They give us the impetus to go out and find what we love.
When I moved into Henry Hall my freshman year, I think I packed every pair of shoes I owned. Most of them sat in the back of my closet until I packed up in the spring so I made to piles as I prepared for the summer. One pile of possessions to return to Hiram and another that would remain at home, and I have repeated this every year. Each time my return pile gets smaller, but my time with friends increases alongside it. When I reduce how many pencils, sweaters, and old textbooks, I have more room for memories. Because when I think back to my time here at Hiram, the only “great rooms” I remember are those filled with great people doing something worthwhile. I don’t remember the stuff.
As we transition into a new year here at Hiram, reflect on the people around you and how relationships (not stuff) are what really fill our lives.
Read more about living smart by living small here and here.
And if you want to know more about the “tiny home” movement, or if you’ve never heard of it, check this out.