Every boy’s dormroom has some alarming similarities. I’ve some time in them during the past year that my son’s been in college, hanging out with him and witnessing visits from his friends across the hall. The boys’ rooms all have these characteristics in common. On a good day (when they know you’re coming), they won’t have all of them, but they will always have some of them–especially Number One.

1. The stench—an undeniable, unmistakable blend of body odor, sweat, mildew, and stinky shoes hits you the moment you open the door. No amount of air freshener can cover it. An open window would help, but he hasn’t thought of that. Truth is, he can’t even smell it.

2. Rumpled bed sheets—the fitted sheet is barely clinging to the corners of an extra-long twin bed, the top sheet is rumpled with the comforter at the end of the bed, with at least one corner of both dragging on the floor. These may not see a washing machine until Christmas break. (See #1)

3. Computer, TV, and Xbox are on, and boys are engrossed in one or all of them.

4. Toilet paper holders are empty, while the toilet paper roll either sits on the floor or on top of the holder; empty cardboard toilet paper rolls are discarded in the corner of the bathroom. Putting the toilet issue on a holder is apparently too complicated of a process.

5. Clothes lie crumpled are on the floor; it is unclear whether they are dirty or clean.

6. Newly-washed clothes compose a wrinkled pile in the laundry basket. But hey, at least they’re clean, and he washed them himself.

7. Space-efficient furniture. Matching desk, chair, wardrobe, and bed give away their institutional origin. The wardrobe is not big enough, but the under the bed, there is ample space. This is convenient, since under-bed storage has spontaneously occurred throughout his lifetime. The space also doubles as the lost-and-found area.

8. A plentiful stash of gatorade, chips, cookies, protein bars, and cereal vie for consumption. The location of food in the bedroom is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream.

9. A bin with his toiletries sits near the sink, fairly organized. (It’s amazing what sharing a sink with non-siblings will do for keeping your toiletries together.)

10. A mini-fridge and microwave. He has always wanted his own fridge. (See #8)

11. Posters and pictures from home are little snatches of proof that he loves his family and remembers his past. These items, in addition to his face, are what’s missing when you look into his empty bedroom back home.

12. Books, calendars, and notebooks—this necessary clutter is the gateway to adulthood, the reason for his leaving your nest and flapping his little wings somewhere else.

So are these characteristics signs that your child is undisciplined or disorganized? No, they merely signify that you miss him when he’s gone and dote on him when he’s home. And that he can survive and thrive without your presence.

Mission accomplished. Way to go, Mom.


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