Op-Ed by Richard Hartmann

It was the spring of 2011— the flowers were blossoming, New Paltz was doing renovations so incoming freshman don’t immediately think the school is ugly and I was on commute. Even though I live about two and a half hours away from school by train, I didn’t let that be a deterrent to living as comfortably and luxuriously as I could at a fraction of the price.

However, I didn’t accomplish this by couch surfing at all my friends’ places before they kicked me out.

There  is a storage facility called A Space Place Storage that is a bike ride away from campus. At the time I wasn’t sure how many miles it was away from campus: maybe four or five. But I was sure it’s a bike ride’s distance because that’s how I got there (Google maps now tells me it’s about six miles away).

What inspired me to use the facility was an article I had read when I was younger about an NYU student living in the library for a few years before being kicked out. Now, I’m no drifter, but the idea of living without limits and beating the system has always been appealing to me.

Once I passed by the storage facility on a bike ride, ideas starting flashing through my head and I couldn’t resist stopping in and asking some questions at the front desk. After a friendly negotiation, I got a chance to look at a 5×5 storage unit…I mean a 5×5 chill place.

At first, I was a little shy about using the space for what I truly wanted because as much as I think being a drifter is cool, I didn’t want locals to think I was a vagabond. So I left some stuff like a Nintendo 64, some crates of clothes, just some conservative stuff. Once I started getting more comfortable with the space, I started thinking bigger.

Entrenched in my newly-found, grandiose property, I started leaving bottles of water and packs of snacks. In a way, I turned a storage unit into a halfway house. On one exhausting bike ride, I had to make a pit stop for a bike pump and a Gatorade because I got a flat tire. Then, I started not bringing my book bag home, leaving some books in storage and some at home.

My back thanked me, and whenever I dropped my books off at the facility, a snack or two became my habitual pleasure. It was really everything you have at home – clothes, food and comfort, minus the bed. I’ve never heard of a house you can’t sleep in, so I wouldn’t call it that. It was more like a hybrid between a locker and a home.

Now, I can see how this would not appeal to everyone and might not even qualify as a positive experience. However, the point is that you can get inspired enthusiasm and apparent convenience out of anything. All it takes is a little creativity.

At any school in this economy, if you aren’t getting scholarships, we know exactly how costly it can be. So don’t stress – try to cut a few corners and make your own niche. You don’t have to do it as cool as I do, but pick and choose the way you want to customize your living experience.

If you find that the spray-on tans, excessive amounts of diners, the lovely ghost town of a campus that is New Paltz on the weekends and New York accents too overbearing, stay at home even if you live more than an hour away.

If you live in one of New Paltz’s cramped dorms, you can still find great use in a facility like the one I found. And it helps so much more if you don’t want to carry stuff in between home and school. Come on, who needs to take that college fridge all the way back every semester?

*Note: don’t try to sleep in a storage unit. A lot of units are airtight. I also don’t recommend anyone to actively live in a unit either.