How to cozy up a living space

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.

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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.

1. Bedding

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

fairylights

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.

4. Plants!!

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.

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This is the desk area of my first ever uni flat.. How I ever got anything done in that chaos is a mystery to me, but it is still a mix of old friends and new friends and family old and new.

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!

Have a wonderful day,

-Andrea

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Spring Clean

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.

-Andrea

How to (hopefully) crush a reading week

Hello, you!

Now that we’re about a month and a half into the semester, our lecturers have given us a reading week for reading, revising and getting on top of the course. We’ve already handed in 8 assignments and gotten through quite a lot of set material, so this feels like a nice treat, a “go, focus on the parts of the curriculum you want to focus on.”
However, with great freedom comes a completely unstructured week, with what could potentially be just 5 days of off-time. I don’t want this week to slip away like holidays often did when I was a child; one day you’re running home from school with 7 long days of fun ahead of you, and then suddenly you’re back at school feeling like the holiday hadn’t even been a thing in the first place.

But not this time!
This time, I’ve made a plan, split my day up into “classes” and focused on different modules. This time I’ll get what I want done, done.

So, I figured, why not make a blog post about how I’m intending to structure and spend this week, and who knows, maybe it could help someone else too. I’d also like to post updates throughout the week, to see how successful this plan is, and how I have to adapt and change it to fit how the week is actually going.

So, let’s get into it!

  1. Make a plan (and stick to it)

I’ve split my day up into hour-long chunks, from 10am-4pm.
2 and a half hour before a half hour break, with one module in focus before the break and another after it. At the end of every hour, I’ll give myself about 10 minutes if I feel like I need it, to go get some food or make another cup of tea.

This plan looks a bit intense, but everything I’ve put on it is stuff I already know but want to either just get further under my skin or want to better my overall understanding of. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to get into a good workflow and get most of these things done. Tuesday and Wednesday are also study group days, meaning a change of air and work scenario.

2. Find a place to work

It’s important to find somewhere to work that is the right kind of quiet. I work best in areas where there is a little bit of background noise, but nothing actually loud. Home alone is almost too quiet for me, libraries are perfect, coffee shops are a bit too noisy. I find that if there are absolutely no sounds around me, I get distracted. If I’m home alone and the flat above me is (uncharacteristically) quiet, I start tapping my pencil, looking out the window and reaching for my phone. Libraries, however, have all the “good sounds” that keep you focused; tapping on laptop keyboards, chairs shuffling and bumping into the desks, book pages brushing against each other, and pencils scribbling on paper. Also the occasional heavy sigh from that one economy student in the corner poring over yet a larger book every day. However, this is highly individual, and you need to find out how much noise you’re comfortable with and that makes you the most productive.

I’m going to alternate between the study section of the library and my desk in the flat. For the Norwegian module-part of the plan I’ll be at home because I’ve got a lot of work resources in different books, folders and also taped to my walls, and so that would be easier to do at home. Heading to the library to then get started on the module after the break will provide a bit of fresh air on my way down + a change of scenery.

Note to self: Need to properly clean the desk before getting to work, to tidy away the worst distractions.

3. Make sure you’ve got everything you need!

Print powerpoint presentations, make sure your notes are tidy and organised, have all your books and stationery easily within reach. Have everything prepared so that you can just reach out a hand and grab that book you need with that great chapter, when you get into that work-flow it’s so easy to talk about but not as easy to attain. Also, take a lot of notes along the way, as notes are often easier to revise from than your textbooks when exam season comex around. Keep these readily available too.

4. Get enough food and enough sleep!

You can’t get any productive work done if you don’t eat well and get enough sleep. I’m very guilty of going to bed a bit late, but I am making a conscious effort to turn that bad habit around. Not getting enough sleep makes you drowsy and unproductive, and it’s also just bad for you and your health in general. So let’s get in some early nights, people!

5. DRINK TEA

Okay, this one might not be relevant for you, but I firmly believe that no work can be done without tea. Ever. Tea increases productivity by approximately 102% and those are completely and utterly true facts. Or maybe not. Or are they?

6. Take breaks and call it a day

Make sure that you’re working when you’re supposed to work, and that you give yourself a break during break time. Also, evening time where you don’t think about work at all, is also important. I often find that if I don’t have a plan to follow, everything I do end up taking a lot longer than it needs to, as I’m doing a lot of things at the same time, and not really devoting all my attention to one project. Because of this, I can be working on an assignment for an entire day, and then end up with that final “come on, just get this done with”-impulse late in the evening, meaning it has eaten up all my potential evening me-time. This rarely leads to results I’m happy with, and so that’s why this plan starts the day at 10 and ends it at 4 pm. After 4, I won’t even be thinking about uni, if I can get this right.


I’m excited for this week, and to try out this new system. I know this may seem super basic to a lot of people, but as the degree I did before this was a very creative one, I’m used to working whenever creativity hits, which is often at the most inopportune moments, and I may be a bit guilty of carrying that habit over into this new degree. I’m using this week, however, to get myself properly back on track and hopefully start the process of developing some good habits!

Wish me luck, and any tips, anyone?

-Andrea

#iweigh a love of tea and a BA I’m proud of

Sometimes it’s so easy to get stuck in this cycle of not feeling good enough in your own body, especially when you’re constantly bombarded with images of what you’re supposed to look like and how you’re supposed to act.

Daily, multimillion dollar industries play at our insecurities, making us spend more money on their products by showing how happy glossy hair and smooth skin will make us. For many, the number on the scale feels like a punch in the stomach when standing alone in the bathroom, wet hair up in a tattered towel, in nothing but underwear, looking for affirmation in dead numbers. But it’s enough now.

#Iweigh is an initiative on Instagram, and the internet in general. It was started by British actor Jameela Jamil and has been embraced by women all over the world! The goal of the movement is for women to feel empowered by and measure themselves in their accomplishments and what they appreciate and are proud of.

A hashtag isn’t going to fix everything. A hashtag won’t immediately change the fact that 7 out of 10 girls feel like they don’t measure up, but if this movement teaches us anything, it is that we are so much more than our appearance and the number on that bathroom scale. We are worth the world just by existing, and we are worth every single proud moment we have ever achieved. We are worth the big crescendo in our favourite piece of music, coffee dates with our friends and good night messages from our loved ones. We are worth the compliments we give to others and the praise we hesitantly receive.

There were a couple of things I couldn’t fit in the picture, and so I’m adding them here:

#iweigh
-An affinity for experimenting with laundry detergent and washing up liquid
-The way I deal with emergencies
-My library job and everything I’ve learned through it
-All of my earlier jobs, volunteering opportunities and work experiences
-Three years abroad
-That I try to make the days good for the people around me
-That I can make you a really good cup of tea

And so much more!

I chose to use this picture even though I always feel a bit awkward posting selfies. However, this one was taken on my first day back at my new uni after taking a week off to attend the graduation ceremony at my old uni, I was drinking my favourite tea (Dorset Tea’s Strawberry and Cream), jamming out to the Hamilton soundtrack in my head, and the leaves were turning yellow all around me. It was a wonderful moment, one of those where you’re 100% convinced that everything will work out in the end. It’s an image it feels right to use in this situation.

I hope you measure your worth in all the things that make you you, today x

Until next time,
-Andrea

Here’s to the future, to all we are and to all we’ll come to be – UoW Graduation 2018

Goals are a funny thing. Sometimes you set goals because you know you should, sometimes you set goals because it would be fun to try, and sometimes you set goals you’re not all that sure about.

Graduating didn’t really feel like a goal as I went into my first year of a BA in creative writing at the University of Winchester. It was too far away, not really relevant yet, the focus was on getting through day to day. When first-year came around, there were too many forms to fill out, too many notebooks to organise, too many hot chocolates to drink and assignments to write, to even think about the finish line; the handshake at the end of three years. September 12th 2015 saw too many nooks and crannies in the library, too many secret passageways in the main building, too many streets I had yet to wander down, to even have space for the hats and the gowns we would all don to celebrate these achievements of ours.
Then days became weeks, and semesters came and went.
I started to know Winchester as my city. Walking around its streets felt right, and just like that, with the challenges and the experiences uni life brought with it, graduating started to feel like a goal; one I knew I’d work hard to reach.

On Friday the 19th of October 2018, Winchester Cathedral was filled with the sound of high heels clacking against old stone floors, suit sleeves crinkled by nervous palms and grad gowns that kept falling down jittery shoulders. On Friday 19th of October, I graduated. The cathedral was bursting with excited graduands and uni staff in fancy clothing, with music, speeches and flowers, everything to celebrate three years of hard work. It was wonderful. I reached my goal, I finished my BA.

I have been trying to sit down and properly put into words what I’ve been feeling since then, but I’m struggling with finding the right ones (hence, one of the reasons why this blog has been very quiet for a while).
So for now, I figured I’d show you some pictures – just of us throwing our hats in the air and all in all looking rather fancy in our (too large) gowns. The words need a little more time, the enormity of the fact that my time at uni in Winchester has now officially come to an end hasn’t really hit me yet.
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What a day and what a ceremony.
Here’s to the future, to all we are and to all we’ll come to be. We are all just getting started.

Hope you have a wonderful day,
-Andrea

Swimming at the deep end of an adverbial phrase and the challenges of learning something new

When was the last time you learned something new? Jumped in at the deep end, went in completely blind, arms open, eyes wide, to learn something you had no earlier knowledge or skills in?

I’m doing a new ba now, and I’m struggling. Not to the point of wanting to stop or give up, just to the point where I have to work harder than I have in years. It feels like I’m back in school, learning definitions by heart and practicing phrases and rules again.

This got me thinking about how I haven’t actually learned something completely new in a very long time. My last BA was definitely challenging, and I certainly got to develop new sides of myself and my “craft”. However, those sides were to some extent already there; they just needed honing, practice, to be cared for, seen and worked on. Now I’m studying grammar and politics and intercultural communication. Every day I’m learning new phrases, new words, new concepts and ideas that I’ve never heard of before. That is exciting! It’s difficult and frustrating but also so so interesting.

As kids we learned something new everyday. Even better, when we were kids, we were great at learning. We hadn’t yet gotten into the arms race that are having better marks than everyone else, we had no concept of always needing to be the best, there was so much less fear of failure. A scraped knee from learning to ride a bike only hurt until mum put a plaster on it and kissed it better. A glossary test gone wrong only meant going back over the words and nailing it next time. But as we grow older a lot of us lose the ability to look at learning as a process, we want to be the best at everything the first time we ever try. There is this notion of being a natural, we want to be great without needing practice, because practice is difficult and more so, practice makes you look bad, like you don’t know. This is of course not right at all. Practice doesn’t make you look stupid, it makes you look determined. And no one can know anything, unless they’re taught. If we were only ever supposed to do what we learnt as kids, so we never had to practice and “look stupid” as adults, we’d have a very small array of skills and experiences to pick from in our lives, and that, in turn, wouldn’t make us very well-rounded and happy people, would it.

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Yesterday I spent five hours at my dining table, pencil in hand and notebook in front of me, trying to make sense of in-depth sentence structure again. Subjects, adverbial phrases, demonstrative determiners, I know I’ve got it somewhere in my brain. I know a teacher from maybe eight or so years ago managed to lock it somewhere safe in my head, but it takes so much coaxing to get it out, to get those words back down on paper. Some of what I read was also completely new to me, linguistics on university level isn’t something I’ve got a lot of experience with. It took time, a lot of reciting out loud to myself, and a lot of tea.

But the feeling when I got it right! When I could highlight my answers, recite the rule and reason, and tell myself that I properly understood it; that was such a good feeling.

It’s a feeling I haven’t felt in years before this BA, but that I’ve been experiencing a lot these past couple of weeks. The feeling of being able to swim when you jump in the deep end, of keeping your balance when you go in blind, of seeing all the wonderful things the world throws at your open arms if you only widen them a little bit.
(Yes, I know I’m only talking about grammar right now, but the feeling still applies, haha)

I hope you learn something cool today!

-Andrea

Snapshots of a new home

I’m starting to get to know this city, to feel how it moves and how I should move with it.

-Andrea