I love my walks to The Daily Princetonian newsroom. The views of Elm Drive during the fall season are beautiful, with historic, stone-clad buildings and multi-colored trees. The paths are lined with orange leaves, chattering students, and whizzing scooters, bringing both a sense of the crisp autumn and collegiate liveliness.
I also enjoy passing the upperclassmen housing and seeing leaden windows and little blue entry doors. But most of all, I enjoy passing by the laundry rooms tucked behind the Gothic architecture. Although I can’t actually see the washing machines spinning loads of clothes, I am struck by the sudden smell of linen and fabric softener as I pass by. The scent of cleanliness wafts into the surrounding air, and a slight heat emanates from the building, which is particularly noticeable during the cool breezes of the fall.
When I first arrived at Princeton, I wouldn’t say that laundry was a top priority. I was in awe of the grandeur of spaces like Nassau Hall and spent my time meeting new people, exploring campus, and telling everyone I knew that I had class in a room where Einstein once taught. In fact, laundry was a blight in my otherwise “perfect” college existence. I didn’t enjoy fighting for the one washing machine in our hall or finally succumbing to fetching my clothes from the dryer at obscene hours of the morning. I had classes, clubs, and new friendships to juggle, and anxiously checking the washing machine to make sure no one would throw my clothes on the floor was an aggravating task.
But as my first few months at Princeton unfurled, I began to find comfort in small domestic tasks. When I realized that I could reliably snag a washing machine on Friday morning, I enjoyed the regularity of folding my clothes while listening to the buzz of Princeton through my window. I also liked the routine of taking the trash to the chute down the hall, powering up my handheld vacuum, and wiping down the surfaces of my dorm room.
The slowness and the normalcy of these simple tasks juxtaposed the constant business of Princeton. The loud, crowded dining halls could become overwhelming, and the pace of my classes felt hectic at times. Although I still enjoyed my walks, even the liveliness of scooters and bikes and pedestrians at places like Elm Drive could overload my sense of peace. The sense of people around me at all times, from the communal dining halls, bathrooms, study spaces, and more, was over-stimulating. I felt myself being dragged into the undercurrents of Princeton. I was thrilled by the idea of always having an event to attend or a friend to spend time with, but I was also overwhelmed by the notion of always having something new to force into my schedule. I began to recognize the negative effects of having almost no time for reflection and calm silence.
When the brimming dining hall and crowded study rooms of Firestone Library emphasize that Princeton is a hectic institution, daily tasks like laundry and refilling my water pitcher remind me that Princeton is also my new home. There will always be hundreds of activities to participate in as a student, friend, and club member, but there is also value in finding time to simply exist as a person. For me, putting on my favorite music and taking the time to put my personal space in order provides me with the chance to slow down and just be. I can have the time to think and reflect without feeling the pressure to be doing something, completing an assignment, or filling every last gap on my calendar.
Recently, I have noticed the idea of home lurking throughout Princeton’s campus, and I can find instances of comfort and quiet beyond my room. My walks to the ‘Prince’ newsroom, despite the pedestrian business of Elm Drive, have become one of those moments. The faint scent of laundry lingering on the sidewalk is more than just a reminder to throw my clothes in the washing machine. It reminds me that Princeton is a home, where even the busiest people can take a few moments to embrace the calmness of quotidian tasks and domestic life.
Isabella Dail is a member of the Class of 2026 and a contributing writer for The Prospect at the ‘Prince.’ She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Self essays at The Prospect give our writers and guest contributors the opportunity to share their perspectives. This essay reflects the views and lived experiences of the author. If you would like to submit a Self essay, contact us at email@example.com.