Consult young adults before deciding on new uses for their old bedrooms
Tracey Marks sat in her son’s room for hours, touching his high school yearbooks and report cards with one hand and clutching a wad of tissues with the other. Her son, Justin Garraux, 18 and a freshman at the College of Charleston, had moved from his home on the Isle of Palms to live on campus, and she was sad.
Marks soon pulled herself together, removed his futon from the room and replaced it with the queen-size bed from the pass-through room. That room, used as office and storage space, is where visiting relatives slept each month.
Then, she picked up the yearbooks and report cards, along with his video games, collected shells and other small treasures, boxed them and put them out of sight.
“Basically, I did exactly what the college recommends you don’t do,” says Marks, who explained it was among pieces of advice college officials gave parents during orientation. “They said don’t change a thing or he will be traumatized when he comes home.”
Her friends all thought it was a good idea, she says.
Marks and husband Ben Marks live in a 900-square-foot house and desperately needed more room, she says.
Like many parents whose children move out for college, the military or another reason, including those with bigger homes, they considered whether using the available space differently could improve their lives.
Last month, the Las Vegas furniture market said it expected a continued rise in the sale of sleeper sofas from parents creating their dream spaces in the bedrooms of children who spend most of their time at college.
Some decide to use the space for a home office, crafts studio, big closet or to meet some other need, experts say. Still, parents should be considerate because a bedroom’s former occupant may identify strongly with the space.
Risk of alienation
It could be tough for a student to see the space he grew up in converted to another use while making the emotional transition from home to college, says Amanda Muirhead, a junior at the College of Charleston.
“I would feel more like a visitor than part of the household,” Muirhead says. “All of the memories would change, and it would no longer be my safe spot.”
At this point in her college career, Muirhead says she would be fine with changes.
“But right off the bat, that would feel really uncomfortable. I would wonder what happened to my stuff, if I’d find it again, like journals, which are pretty personal.”
Robbie Weatherford, a Charleston Southern University freshman whose home is near Florence, says his family plans to convert his bedroom into a place where they can practice music.
“I come from a musical family, and my brothers say they are going to put all of the musical instruments in there. It’s kind of cool because I am going to be spending my time here in Charleston, and I think it’s doubtful I will ever go back home.”
Where will he sleep when he visits?
“I will probably just sleep on a drum head or something,” Weatherford jokes. “I will find some cozy little space. I have everything I need here with me.”
Before leaving home, Weatherford told his mother which items in the old room should be given to Good- will.
He also told her which ones should not be touched and assigned a space in the room’s closet that is off limits.
Having a say
It was Allie McDaniel’s freshman year at the College of Charleston and her mother wanted to give her old bedroom to her younger sister. She reminded McDaniel, now a recent graduate, that she’s had the bigger room for 17 years and no longer was using it.
The fact that McDaniel’s mother asked her to help redecorate the room, and was planning to surprise her sister with the change when she returned from a weekend trip, allowed her to agree with the plan.
“I had some control over the move, so I wasn’t angry or anything,” McDaniel says. “I liked my room. If my mother had turned it into a hobby room, if she had simply created another living area, I probably would not have liked it as much.
“When I go back, I still want to stay in the bigger bedroom because I still view it as my room,” McDaniel says.
“I probably would like the idea of being able to return to my old room if I were going to move home for lack of a job. I think I would just deal with it, but ideally I would like to go back to my old one.”
Family defines ‘home’
Ambar Mendez’s three brothers shared a room before she left home, the College of Charleston senior says. They took the space minutes after she left home, she adds.
The 13- and 16-year-olds were particularly excited about her leaving, she says.
“The room has been boyafied with posters and Xboxes says Mendez, who is from Rock Hill. “That’s where they hang out.
“I did not have an attachment to the room,” she says. “I was not so emotionally invested in the room. When I go home, it’s still my home. My room did not define home for me, my family did.”
As a caring parent, Marks says she reassured Justin that he still has a home and will show him pictures of the new, more mature-looking room, which still has his surfboard and trophies in it, before he sees it.
Marks is counting on his level of maturity and independence to ensure he continues to feel OK about the change, she says.
And, Marks says, leaving some of his possessions in the room also helps her to cope with this period of transition.
Reach Wevonneda Minis at 937-5705.