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The Scarlet & Black

Sage & Blunt: Down in the Dorms

Henry Loomis

Dear Sage & Blunt,

I think I hate my dorm room. I understand that dorms aren’t supposed to be luxurious or anything, but I just haven’t been able to feel comfortable even after putting up all my decorations. Maybe I’ll just get used to it with time, but how do I make this space feel more like home?


Down in the Dorms



Dear Down in the Dorms,

Hate is quite a strong word. Don’t settle on such language before you have a chance to really settle into your new space. This may be the first time in your life you’ve been tasked with creating a home by yourself or with the help of a stranger or friend. It’s an undertaking, one that requires you to ask yourself what home really feels like to you. While you ponder that question, I do have some practical tips.

If you can get your hands on some alternative lighting, I would highly recommend it. Warm, soft light that doesn’t come out of the ceiling does wonders for the psyche. I would also cover up as much of the walls as you possibly can, with whatever you can think of — not just posters and photos, but favorite pages torn from books and magazines, old license plates, wrappers, tea towels and great t-shirts that you have grown out of. I know you mentioned decorations, but if yours don’t include any pictures of people you love, that needs to change! Take photos with your best Grinnell people, and add those, too. More reminders of what you cherish, less reminders of the wall.

Write yourself notes and leave them around your room. “Paper due Thursday midnight.” “Call Mom back.” “Just do what you are doing while you’re doing it, and the rest will work itself out.” Notes with your favorite song lyrics or funny things people have said to you, notes that remind you to treat yourself nicely if that’s something that you easily forget to do. One next to the mirror — “You look better than you are giving yourself credit for.” When you’re far away from the people who raised you, leaving yourself notes is a good reminder that someone is looking out for you.

Make memories in your room. Invite people over — to watch movies or play card games, to help you organize your closet, to make out. Home is home because it’s rich with nostalgia and sentimentality, and you have to build that again once you move somewhere new.

You must also do romantic things in your room. Don’t just use it to sleep and get dressed, although those two rituals can be transformed into high romance if you change your mindset around them. I think of romance as tending to oneself — making tea, preparing yourself a thoughtful snack, perfuming the air with non-flammable means, I love my oil diffuser dearly, reading yourself bedtime stories. Play good music and dance.

Home is home because it’s rich with nostalgia and sentimentality, and you have to build that again once you move somewhere new.

Here’s an example — I keep a bowl of dark chocolate mints in my fridge because I love myself and I give treats to the people I love, and yes, I buy chocolates from the grocery store and decant them into a bowl, because romance! Have you, Down in the Dorms, ever stopped to truly savor a cold, smooth sweet in the comfort of your own twin XL bed? I can’t recommend the experience highly enough. That’s the kind of stuff that makes me feel at home and at ease. 

Of course, time will help. Your room will also hopefully come to feel like home because of all the tears, odd noises and profoundly human things you let fly in there. My room feels like home now because of the routine I execute after coming back from a shower — kick off my flip-flops, set my caddy down in its designated spot, hang up my towel, then rot in my bathrobe while staring at my phone for 45 minutes — not everything is romantic!

College is an interesting time in our lives because our idea of home gets complicated. For some of us, home feels caught between two or more places. For others, we realize that we feel much more at home living away from our folks than we ever did growing up. Your room may never feel like home, it may just feel like somewhere you live for most of the year. You can look for small tastes of home in other spots or in special people, and that will be good enough.


Sage & Blunt

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About the Contributor
Henry Loomis, Graphic Designer
Henry Loomis is a second-year studio art major from Eau Claire, Wisconsin.  He loves books, trees, the artist Ellen Gallagher, movies, but especially queer films involving the ocean, and grows more obsessed with Joanna Newsom every day (the songs seem long, but he promises they’re engaging).
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