I work in a cathedral; I translate and interpret, and function as a guide during the tourist season.
I am not a Christian, but no doubt do I work in someone’s place of worship, and there is something quietly comforting about that. As I wash the pews – soap, water, tools to remove old chewed up gum – maybe left there by bored kids on a Sunday that dragged on – from even older wood, someone is lighting candles for a family they hope to see again soon. While I’m relaying interesting facts to tourists, about the spire that went missing in ’45 and how all Norwegian churches don models of ships, someone is sat quietly in mourning. As I refill the oil lamps in the candles on the altar, I think about how I’m lighting the fire that someone may find their God in today. It is a privilege to work in a place that can bring people peace.
As I find myself in this church for eight hours a day, it is easy to forget the holiness the people that visit will bring to these walls, the wooden domed ceiling, the stained glass windows of old. But for eight hours every day, I get to be a part of people’s journeys. I see them enter through the oak doors, and as the church room reveals itself, I see their reactions; as varied as the people.
Some cross themselves, some take pictures for the annual family holiday album, some just stand. Quietly. Some people enter this room that I put on my uniform and go to work in everyday, and they have to take a second to breathe before they enter.
I’m grateful to be working in this building, with its doors wide open to a bustling city, and centuries of life lived and years passed visible in the wear on the rugged stone steps.Church bells tell me when another day has passed, and on the daily I handle artefacts that have existed more than 200 years longer than I have. Everyday, I work accompanied by organ music, from more than 4000 pipes. This building isn’t just holy because a religion says it is, its holiness lies in its history, in the people who sought refuge in its halls, in the music and the songs that have seeped through the doors and out into the city for generations. It is holy for the children who sees the aisle as too long a straight stretch not to race down, and for the older generations who made these pews their home when they were still so young that their parents braided their hair at night.
This place is holy because of the woman that comes in everyday. The woman who walks quietly in and lights four candles in a little cluster, where others normally just light one. She lights them like a family holding around each other, flickering together.
I’m not a Christian, but no doubt I’m working in a holy place.
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!