I think I built you, formed you and designed you, drew you with green sharpie and the bricks of my pillow fort, sculpted you from cheap coffee and H&M basics, moulded you from a year’s worth of lazy Wednesday mornings, desperate for something to be mine.
Exam season has hit my course (and me) like a freight train, and so April has passed in a daze of study group sessions, terminology revision, and general exam practice. I can’t believe we’re in May already, but May is my favourite month of the bunch, and so I’m excited about spring finally having taken a proper hold. It’s May 1st today, and some friends and I made a day of bussing out to a little water outside of town. It became the day of the first swim of 2019, of water-side food and of trying and failing to befriend a duck. A good day, in other words.
However, April waves goodbye and leaves in its wake:
With changing times, changing living situations often follow – whether for uni or studies, for work or just to get a change of air. Since August 2015 I’ve lived in eight different homes and flats (two of them being family homes my family moved out of and into) and I’ve had to pretty quickly cosy up some very temporary spaces.
This is especially a student problem, isn’t it. You move to a completely new place, you’re assigned your little shoe box room in a shared flat, everything around you is new and scary and exciting, and you need to make your space feel as safe and homely, as quickly as possible! This has to happen on a student budget, of course, and also without knocking any nails into the walls, so you can (hopefully) get your deposit back at the end of the year.
As I’m pondering on past uni experiences, and also trying to figure out what’s lacking in this home of mine to make it as cosy as I want it to be, I figured we could have a little chat about stuff I rely on to make a temporary living space feel like home for however short a period of time you’ll be staying there.
Please excuse the quality of the pictures – some of these are taken on various phones throughout the last 4 years.
Also, this post is mainly focusing on people moving into halls or shared living spaces, who can’t really enjoy the luxury of a sitting room. We cram our studies, dinners and leisure time into our tiny bedrooms like warriors or not at all.
I love bedding and the feeling of fresh sheets. Soft duvet covers, pillow covers that smells of detergent, come on, what’s not to love? Finding some soft bed sheets to put on your bed is one of the most important ways of making a small living space feel homely. I’ve got this set that I really love, which was the first set I ever bought myself when I moved into my first uni flat. It proper transforms any space into Home with a capital H.
Bedding is key.
2. Light sources
Overhead lights in student accommodation or small flats are often very bright and white, and not really helpful when you want that soft, relaxing vibe. To combat this I’ve got the most cliched answer ever; fairy lights.
In all four of my uni flats I’ve filled my room with fairy lights, floor to ceiling, and used this as my only light source. They fit everywhere, around your bed, over the window, by the doors and around your desk, just to name a few places. It creates such a dreamlike atmosphere; you can lay in bed and watch all these “stars” light up your ceiling. Fairy lights are also great background lighting for tea and movie nights with your friends. Just be prepared for the hassle it is taking them down at the end of your tenancy.
Now that I’m living on my own I also light a lot of candles. If you do this too, please let’s all focus on fire safety; never leave candles burning without supervision and never leave anything flammable in close vicinity of your candles. Also, if you’re in student accommodation you’re most likely NOT allowed to light candles (and for good reason). Please adhere to these rules; you do not want to be the reason for that fire alarm evacuation of your entire building, just because you wanted to snuggle up with some candles. Student housing fire alarms are awfully sensitive(because safety), so just be careful.
3. Books and DVDs
I love the feeling a good bookshelf leaves on a room. All the backs of the books shroud the room in this instant feeling of comfort and reminds you to take a deep breath. Or, at least, that’s how bookshelves make me feel. If you want to have a lil nosy around my “home-bookshelf” you can click here. However, you don’t have to have a huge big bookshelf to let the books make your living space feel cosy; you just need your favourites. Moving out or moving to a new place is inevitable gonna leave you feeling a little bit small and a little bit lonely at some point, and having the familiar words of your favourite books to hide in for a little while is always a great comfort, that adds to a temporary home’s homeliness.
I’ve always struggled with keeping plants alive. A friend of mine, however, managed to keep an orchid alive on her window sill for an entire year, and at the end of the year she put it in a tea mug and brought it with her on the plane home. As she managed to fly from Heathrow to Oslo airport with an orchid on her lap, I feel like I need to up my game and keep some cacti alive this year.
(image from Pixabay)
Jokes aside, a bit of green works wonders for keeping your room feel fresh. Also, having some plants to take care of and remember to water (!!) is a great way of making yourself feel responsible for your room and your living space. Plus, plants look really cute and you can get lots of different colours and types!
5. Picture walls
Pictures are important. Pictures, posters, tickets, memories. I’ve always kept a pretty intense picture wall in all my uni flats, with lots of pictures of the people I love and miss from home, alongside the new friends I made while at uni. I plastered the wardrobe doors my last flat with pictures, poems, tickets and art works from some of my favourite books. Displaying stuff you appreciate and pictures of the people you love, is a great way of cosying up a space.
What are your favourite tips for making a small and temporary home feel comfortable and lived in? I’d love to hear what’ve gotten you through student halls and dorm rooms through the years!
Come spring, I want to write. To sweep the cobwebs off of old ideas, place flowers behind my ears and pencils in my pockets. To make up dialogues that have laid dormant and put soul in characters’ eyes. I want to shake winter out of tense shoulders, to pull snow and sleep out of the tips of my fingers, I want to see new places and paint my nails. Every winter it’s like the cold bogs me down, drowns ideas under the frost, lets fog and rain take a hold of all the things I want to do. But come April, the sun starts to peek in through the window, like a shy child hiding behind the clouds. Bit by bit, it becomes more confident, and bit by bit, it dares peek out behind its mum’s skirt. And just like that, I want to write. I want to clean up my space, put on fresh bed sheets, air out my room, air out my thoughts. I want to open all the doors and the windows, put loud music on, move around and clear out my head. I want to create.
On nights like this I press my back up against the wall. I let the edges of my bed indent my skin, the space is too small for my limbs and your nightmares.
If you’d let me, we’d stay up all night, and I’d paint galaxies on the back of your hands to remind you how inferior nightmares are. But I cannot wake you or make the swirls in your breath go away, so I shrink further back, I give you space. There is nothing I can do to make it better.
Instead, I place soft fingers on your back and write bright letters on the dark ceiling, for you to see in a dream. I turn to the moon for spelling and to the stars for punctuation, and wait for morning in silence.
Some days, “exam revision” turns into “the weather’s so lovely today,” and “I should really finish this paper,” becomes “you feeling ice cream?” Long hours hunched over books have to make space for hours sat in silence on the docs, phrase structure grammar admits defeat to sea gulls and the sound of lazy waves, and I can feel myself take a deep breath.
Some days. Some days. Days like today. When hands clutch ice cream cones instead of pencils and “to do” lists are called “today I may” lists, those days I like to stop for a second, lap up some early April sun with closed eyes and a relaxed jaw, and remind myself that life is pretty great.
“We used to come here for Easter sermons as children, but back then the stone building had stood straight-backed like a school teacher, hushing every childish giggle. Now the doors were wide open and the entrance was decorated with draping curtains of pink and yellow.”
Hello! This post is my 100th post on this blog! This page has been up and running since February 5th 2018, so that means a 100 posts in exactly one year and two months. Seeing as this blog began as an assignment for my former Creative Writing degree, I figured today I could show you a piece of writing I handed in as coursework, around the same time I started this blog!
So, the piece is from a module called Travel Writing, and it was written in January 2018. It is about the notion of “holidays at home”, and the ways that your hometown can surprise you when you start really looking at all the places you’re so used to existing in. For me, it was going to a festival my hometown puts on every year, for the first time a couple of years ago. Have a read, and thanks for sticking with me for a hundred posts!
“Maybe I Like Honey After All”
“You don’t have to buy the honey; you just have to taste it.” She grabbed my arm as I walked past her and shoved a spoon dripping with fresh honey into my hands. “Only local bees.” I called her the Bee lady in my head. Her hands were rough; a worker’s hands. Wrinkles followed the lines of her face, the price of a long life well lived, and silver hair was gathered in a braid that hung down her back. She had decorated it with flowers for the occasion, greens and pinks and yellows. “So many people think they don’t like honey at all, but that’s because they’ve only ever tasted the store bought kind.” She shook her head, making the braid dance.
“They don’t know how real honey actually tastes.” She winked at me. I thanked her and was about to leave, but she insisted on another spoonful.