Making A Home

In my first year, I lived in residence. A dorm room with communal bathrooms and community lounges. No kitchen or dining rooms or backyard. And don’t get me wrong, it really did have its perks.

I could sleep until 9:25am and still make it to my 9:30am classes on time (I really didn’t know how good I had it at the time). That being said, I spent the year trying to create a home out of a 10ft x 10ft bedroom

A snap captured from my bed in the Elma Sanderson dorm room I lived in.

In my second year, I moved into a large upstairs unit in a house which I shared with 3 other roommates. The house was large, affordable, and in a decent location but it was full of furniture inherited from years and years of previous tenants who were also broke university students.

The walls were a dull brown, the bathrooms were quirky (this means that my shower spouted cold water when the handle was turned to hot and hot water when turned to cold), and the single paned windows meant that from December to February I could see my own breath inside the house

In third year and now in my fourth and final year, I’ve continued to live in the same house with different roommates. As a student trying to live affordably but also comfortably I feel like finally started to get the hang of creating a sense of home in my house. Over the years, I’ve been able to compile a list of little things that gave my living space a homey vibe and as I wrap up my experiences in student housing I want to pass my tips on to you.

Brighten Up Your Space

This could mean hanging up some fairy lights, buying an LED, colour-changing light strip, or maybe just replacing an old light bulb that’s dulled or burnt out.

Creating a bright environment can be the difference between being able to study over taking a nap.

Personal Comforts

For a lot of folks, living in residence or in a student house can be the first experience living away from home. It’s common to feel homesick or isolated and what I found to be really helpful with that is to have personal comforts in my space. For me that meant printing out pictures of my loved ones to decorate my space with, keeping my favourite books easily accessible, and finding comfortable linens for my bed.

Plants and Flowers

I have never been great when it comes to taking care of plants but I really loved the way they elevated my space. In residence I kept fake plants that I didn’t have to worry about, eventually I graduated to easy-to-take-care-of succulents, and now I even have some plants that require a bit more care and attention (consensus is still out on if they’ll survive the winter).

I also really loved bringing flowers home. At first I became fond of buying single flowers (around $2 at a local grocery store) and plopping them into an old wine bottle and even that brought me joy. Later on a roommate of mine brought a beautiful vase home and I frequently brought home cheap bouquets (as cheap as $8 depending on the type of flower) to liven up the living room space.

A fake succulent trio and a small live (not for long) plant that I decorated my windowsill with.

Paint

This might not be an option for a lot of people but if you find yourself renting a space it never hurts to ask your landlord about the kinds of modifications you can make.

When I painted a fresh coat of white over the dull brown I had in my bedroom before, it completely changed my mornings. The room felt brighter and cleaner. And if you decide to paint or make other modifications in shared spaces it might even lead to a fun night of painting, listening to music, sharing stories, and eating pizza with your roomies.

Relationship With Your Space

I think the most important piece of advice I could pass on to others in similar situations would be to create a healthy relationship with your space. In my first year, I felt anxious about making new friends and I kept my dorm room closed all the time.

It became a place where I felt lonely, which led to me becoming less motivated and productive. I wasn’t able to balance the time I spent relaxing, sleeping, and eating with the time I should have spent studying.

Even now, in a house with lots of space outside my bedroom I try to convince myself that if I crawl into bed with my laptop and a reading I can get work done but it just doesn’t work for me. I created a boundary for myself which meant that school work happened in the living room or outside the house which made me feel less guilty about spending my time at home relaxing.

I also created a community in my home. My roommates were friends. They were people I trusted and cared about. They were people I could watch movies with or have meals with and it allowed my space to feel like a family home instead of a set of bedrooms for a bunch of individuals.

Regardless of how beautiful you make your living space or how much money you spend on furniture, if you don’t feel safe and welcome in the space you’ll have a hard time feeling like you’re at home. Take the time to create an environment you love and you feel comfortable living in. School is hard enough and you need a place to go home that will help you recharge not fizzle out.

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