A catalogue of things

Jan. 26, 2018, 12:00 p.m.

There was a psych study in which people tried to assess the personality of someone they didn’t know through an analysis of their rooms. (If you’re interested, here is the link.) It makes me wonder how someone would perceive me if they took a look around my Stanford dorm, with a specific selection of items I’ve attained in my three and a half years here.

It starts with the basics: a lofted bed, a slightly-dusty desktop, the bookshelf next to it, the exposed closet. It then expands to matters of necessity: the bedding, textbooks, clothing (and the laundry basket where they reside for far too long), first aid kits and backpack. Next are the items of luxury: the rarely stocked mini-fridge, the unused skateboard, the self-assembled shoe rack. Finally, the personal touches: the illegal British literature-themed candles and the twinkle lights, the Cole Sprouse-related gag gifts and the series of polaroids, the strange postcards from around the world.

These are all items that I felt were either necessary or a reflection of myself. It’s a self-constructed image. But what am I communicating with these things? And is that message clear to those who know me? Or those who don’t?

To someone who doesn’t know me, my room may communicate that I’m another Urban Outfitters fangirl who has spent a lot of time trying to carve a personal space. It’s clean and organized, which suggests that I have my life together enough. From the series of polaroids, I look like I have an active social life. The multiple cameras, the posters of artwork, the journals and the black, red and white theme of the room may suggest that I’m a moody artsy type. The novels in my bookshelf and the candles communicate that I’m likely to be an English major.

The truth of my room is that I was too lazy to de-loft my bed, and because of that I bought a 10-foot-long iPhone charger so that I could scroll on my phone for hours into the late night. The shoe rack was because I have too many shoes to fit in the closet and clutter really stresses me out, so I bought one and assembled it myself, proudly showing off that I was adulting as I did so. The remote-controlled twinkle lights are because I’m too lazy to get out of bed to turn off my light at night, so now I can turn off the lights from my bed. The wooden alarm clock facing my bed is because time runs my life, and every half-hour of the work week is scheduled in my Google calendar. I’m always sick so I maintain a fully stocked first aid kit that has come in handy for most of my friends at some point. The journals are half-finished with incomplete ideas and personal essays. Various objects around the room are gifts from friends rooted in their efforts to help me out with my anxiety – the pink salt lamp, the guitar that I don’t know how to play, the adult coloring book, fun pillows for my depressed days in bed.

But even that may not be the real truth of my room and my collection of objects. Maybe both are equally as accurate in assessing my personality. The truth of identity could lie somewhere between the too-harsh truth of the alarm clock and the romantic notions of the journals. It is possible that this catalogue of items in my Narnia two-room double reveals more objective truths of who I am than any other measure of personality assessment. So let me ask you this: What does your collection of things say about you?


Contact Arianna Lombard at ariannal ‘at’ stanford.edu.

Login or create an account