I’m building a home on Tuesday’s laundry and broken light bulbs.
I’ve spent so long balancing on top of the return to sender-confidence that I toppled over and hit my head, but I’ll clean the place up before you come over – I swear.
Do you want to stay the night? I can make a bed for you! Oh, just remember to beat out yesterday’s daydreams, they like to keep people awake, you see.
And if you want a cup of tea, I make an okay ginger and lemon. But please excuse me for a second; ambitions keep dusting up the bottom of my mugs.
If you do come around, I’ll welcome you with a marching band’s drumroll, to my fort of dirty dishes and expired parking tickets. Just don’t expect too much from me, when you arrive with your shirt fresh off the ironing board and your briefcase full of documents and signatures.
I’m still trying to divide my socks from my spoons from my groceries, And I’m doing my best.
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!
I’ve gone to sleep in a new bed tonight. I’ve moved houses again; another student flat, another shoebox room. There is something mindful about the process of moving from one space to another – about taking all of your books off of your shelf and putting them into boxes, holding onto some you may not have looked at since you read them and receiving gentle reminders of future reads you may have forgotten about. Folding every item from your closet, and carefully lifting all the pictures down from your walls. Taking a second to really look at all the things you surround yourself with every day, and properly contemplate on what elements are gonna be allowed to come with you to this new home. That is, until you feel like you’ve done nothing but pack for the last week, and just chuck everything in a big box labelled “unsorted” to finally be able to move on with your life.
I was excited about this move. Tomorrow marks the first day of semester two on this “new” BA, (I’ve got to stop referring to it as new at some point, but today is not that day), and I’ve moved back into student accommodation. It’s nice to be closer to campus, and in a weird way, it feels right to be out of my little house, to be living in just one room again. I absolutely loved living there, but this feels more student-y, more like a cosy little space that’s 100% mine, and suddenly all the things I longed to get away from about student accommodation a year ago, feels oddly comforting.
But this little flat has a lot of new sounds in it, just like all new living spaces do. There is creaking in the walls, and a sort of drone coming from somewhere in the ceiling that I’ve yet to identify. There are new people walking outside, new voices and thoughts, and different winds whipping. Also, I’m back to having a flatmate again, and though the soft sounds of someone moving around in the next room are comforting, it’s also something you need to get used to again, every time you’ve been living without it for a while.
This semester is gonna be good, and living in this flat is gonna be great. My flatmate seems lovely, and in contrast to my last flats that I’ve shared with 9 other people, it’s just me and one other student this time. I also really like how my little room looks and feels, and it’s a nice space to make cosy and homely, but the first night in any new place is always weird.
So for tonight, I’ll put on a playlist with songs that sound like a Tuesday evening at home, get some fresh pyjamas out of a soon-to-be unpacked suitcase, curl up in familiar bedsheets and let myself feel a little bit small for just a moment. It’s not a bad feeling, not like being scared or unsure or really homesick, it’s just the feeling of things changing around you. Nothing marks change like new living spaces; a new degree or a new job, a new city, maybe even a new country. But I’ve made many a flat feel like home before, and this one won’t be an exception.