by Jillian Stevenson
Whether it's your first year away from home or your sixth year trying to wrap up a thesis, there's a space you do work in. It could be a bedroom above the garage or a tiny dorm room on the 12th floor of a not-so-cozy high-rise. But that space is yours, and it says a lot about you. It also plays a major role in how you function. Is your wardrobe a massive pile of clothes next to a closet that just doesn't seem able to do its job? Does your desk look like it just threw up? Do your walls have the same barren blah of a padded cell?
Decorating doesn't have to be as overwhelming as writing a 20-page thesis, or as expensive as your degree. There are affordable alternatives to the standard dry-erase board or the half-lit strand of Christmas lights that screams "co-ed." Your room can be a highly efficient zone of coolness, and it doesn't take a fat roll of cash or a week's worth of research to make it happen.
You may be the most alternative kid on your floor, but you're not going anywhere if you can't find your keys, you lost the CD that is your mantra, or you misplaced the first three chapters' worth of psych notes somewhere between the latest issue of Spin and a greasy pizza box. The easiest way to get organized is with crates, and you can get them anywhere. Old metal milk crates can be found on the corner, sticking their figurative thumbs out waiting for a ride. Or you can spend your allowance for one midnight snack on some cheap plastic alternatives at a discount retailer like Target or Wal-Mart. Wegmans' annual back-to-school display prominently features Yaffa bubble crates in a variety of colors that look good enough not to shove under your bed. And if you wait a couple weeks, you can use your Shoppers' Club Card -- a definite Rochester must-have -- and get a pretty sweet end-of-the-season deal.
Crates have infinite uses. You can stack them, you can put them together with a tablecloth and make a little breakfast nook (highly unlikely, but you might meet a girl...), you can fill them with socks, you can file a year's worth of chemistry lab write-ups. You might use a larger one for dirty laundry, and when it's filled to the brim, you know what time it is. Experts in organization and time management say if everything has a place, and if you put it there, you'll be a lot happier. The crate system is your starting point.
Beyond crates, head to Linens-n-Things or Bed Bath & Beyond for some affordable organization hangers for your closet. For as little as $7.99 your dorm-room closet with a curtain for a door can look like something straight from an infomercial, and you'll never scramble for your favorite hoodie.
Once you've got some order to your chaos, your room will need some items that say something about you. Posters are great, but why not up the ante? Mercury Posters (1 Sumner Park, 273-3110) carries an eclectic selection of wall art, and specializes in framing and PLAK mounting. When you PLAK it, your poster is mounted to high-quality wood, sealed with durable laminate, and the edges are finished in the color of your choice. Not only does it give a postered wall a more grown-up look, but PLAK mounting is more reasonable than framing, and the colored edges bring a little cohesion to any space. PLAK mounting will also save your Misfits poster from the frayed edges it's bound to acquire by graduation time.
Poster Art (654 Monroe Avenue, 271-3690) has a huge selection of glossy images just in case the one you packed of Britney Spears doesn't fit into your new room's color scheme.
Your laundry has regrouped and your walls are covered, but you need a couple more items that nobody else has. Early fall's a great time for estate and garage sales, and ads for them flood the newspapers on the weekends. Grab yourself a double-shot of caffeine and hunt down something that says something about you. Old glass jars or fish bowls make a great place to stash ticket stubs, the keepable fortunes from Chinese take-out, and those Snapple caps that make your snort. The key word here is "bargain." Most sellers are trying to unload as much as they can, so a reasonable offer from you is hard to refuse. You'll end up with something as unique as you, and it usually won't cut too much into your beer budget.
Some other places to check out include Utta Clutta (121 Park Avenue, 271-1130), a great little shop where you can find candles that look like Catholic nuns and other trinkets that will liven up your nightstand. The owners do the estate sale shopping for you, bringing the best of their finds to their wacky little storefront. Retro Metro (1241 Park Avenue) also specializes in showcasing antique goodies, and focuses on keeping its selection reasonably priced.
A little tranquility might be in order around midterm time, so stop by Urban Essentialz (664 University Avenue, 271-8220) and get a mini-fountain for a measly $16. Other neat-o finds at this boutique include a lovable rubber duckie ($4.95), a super-suave bulletin board ($25), umbrellas with a light-up shaft ($24.95), and tasteful lava lamps ($13.95).
If you're into glass art, check out Elab Boutique (719 Monroe Avenue, 473-5882), Ghost Dog Glass (631 Monroe Avenue, 473-7680), and Skyehigh (610 Monroe Avenue, 271-5750). They're sure to have something for every budget.