It would be wonderful if everyone could be happy with all they have, but unfortunately that is not a human instinct. Instead we are conditioned to see what others have, envy it, do what we can to get it, only to seek more once we have obtained it. Last year I was in the smallest double on my hall in one of the worst dorms on campus, and it was sometimes very hard to not be really bothered by the seemingly unfair room we had been dealt. Over time we did come to appreciate our room and find ways to get around the less than ideal circumstances, and so here are some of my tips!
Acknowledge the Feeling
Time is very easily wasted in the denial stage, so try to take a day or two to accept the circumstances. The room is not going to magically grow nor the cracks going to evaporate. Instead of focusing on the room in comparison to neighboring rooms or other dorms, focus on the room itself because that is what is relevant. While your room cannot change, neither will the other rooms, but the first step to feeling better about your room is allowing yourself to acknowledge its flaws. It’s all there and it’s all yours for the foreseeable future. Talk about your frustration with your roommate because he or she is probably just as annoyed as you.
Now Time to Fix It
A good rule to follow for a better, more constructive attitude is to only allow yourself to complain if you are working to solve what you are upset about. Once you have acknowledged the problem, you have to start thinking about how to fix it. If there are serious problems regarding the safety of the room, contact your dorm advisor or residential department immediately. This can be anything from a serious infestation to furniture that was damaged when you first entered the room. The sooner you fix these problems the better because if you wait too long, you and your roommate might get blamed!
Smaller problems like cracked plaster or rough floor can be remedied with a little nifty decorating. Try hanging wall decorations to hide some parts of larger cracks or at least distract the eye. If your floor has rough spots or broken areas (my floor was missing a thumb-sized chunk of wood) first cover it up with blue painter’s tape and consider getting a rug to completely cover that part of the floor. While these small fixes may not revolutionize the room, they do allow you to take charge and improve your situation, which can transform your mood about the room. Instead of seeing it as some bad luck that cramps your style, you will begin to see it as your project, and a part of your life that you are capable of making better in a physical, immediate way.
There is no legal way to change the walls of your room, but you can make the space you have work to its full potential. Minimize the amount of stuff in your room by consolidating and keeping it neat. Talk with your roommate about bunking your beds, and get rid of unnecessary rugs.
And Now for the Jealousy…
All of the above tips are great for improving on a bad room, but that does not make feelings of envy completely go away. What really helps with jealousy is time and a change in perspective. With time you will adjust to your new living arrangements and rather than see your room as your new problem, it will just be part of your life. Consider what lifestyle your room facilitates. For me it was the fact that while I love to socialize I would prefer to do so in other people’s rooms because I don’t want to deal with others’ mess or having to kick them out. While my roommate and I rarely had more than two extra people in our room at a time, our friends would gather in the room two doors down, and so I still got to spend time with the people I cared about.
Being unhappy with your room could also be incentive to get you out of it, allowing you to try new things and meet new people. If I felt too cramped in my room I often worked in a neighboring room or just in the hallway which meant that I got to meet new people and spend time with friends.