Moving into halls can be daunting. You are faced with a bare, soulless room to call home for the year. But with a few simple tips, you can make the most basic accommodation a cosy space that works for you.
While bedding is provided, the scratchy plain sheets aren’t the comfiest. It’s a good idea to buy your own set of bedsheets – look at H&M Home for style on a budget and think about bringing your own cosy bedding and you can always use the uni stuff as a spare. Invest in a mattress protector – a thick, good quality one can make even the most worn out mattress like sleeping on a cloud (the spring-loaded beds in halls are not the comfiest) and can be reused for years to come. It will also protect your mattress (and your deposit) from any damage. To protect your bedsheets from your mates’ mucky joggers and add an extra layer of warmth, try a cosy chenille throw or fuzzy fleece blanket to add colour and texture – H&M, Primark and Argos all have great affordable options.
Although most on-campus rooms boast fairly neutral colour schemes – think pale blues and creams – some are rather outlandish (Whitefields is notorious for its yellow walls/ plaid curtains combo) which might be worth taking into consideration when you’re deciding how to decorate your room. A good general rule is to keep things light and neutral so they can also be used in 2nd and 3rd year rooms and keeping things bright and airy generally makes a small space seem larger.
Organisation and storage
In a small space, it is important to stay organised, and if you subscribe to the old adage of ‘tidy desk, tidy mind’, then storage is something to think about. Utilise under-bed storage space by using large flat bags or boxes – a good place to store bulkier items things like spare towels or sheets, sports gear or spare loo roll. Cheap cardboard magazine holders can be customised with wrapping paper for a stylish and easy way to keep loose documents organised. Heavy ornaments can double up as bookends to keep textbooks from slipping over. Boxes can be both attractive and practical – patterned cardboard boxes or metal storage baskets keep random bits and bobs tucked away as well as serving as décor. If you are sharing a bathroom, a little bathroom caddy or basket is an essential.
Although using Blu Tack is generally frowned upon in uni accommodation, each room comes equipped with a large notice board which you are free to decorate. This is a great place to show off your own personality. You could create an entire photo-wall with all your friends and family, put up posters from your favourite TV show, or in true student style, the prayer flag you got in Thailand on your Gap Year. For something more curated, postcards of interesting artworks or meaningful quotes are easy to come by – think watercolours or bold patterns. In order to create your masterpiece, remember to bring some push pins – Paperchase and HEMA have some adorable and stylish designs.
Plants are one of the best ways to bring a bit of life to a drab study bedroom. A few mini cactuses – the student favourite – dotted on shelves always look cute, but lush pot plants or even supermarket herb pots smell nice as well as making any room seem fresh. If caring for yourself as well as a plant seems like too much of an ask, IKEA has a huge variety of inexpensive and realistic fake greenery – FEJKA’s trailing leaves would make any bookshelf look sophisticated for only £6. In my first year I kept a massive plastic beer stein on my windowsill to put Aldi cut flowers in, but empty bottles of Tescos Vodka or Echo Falls work just as well (just remove the labels).
Fairy lights obviously had to have a mention – a simple string pinned across the top of your pin board or draped around the desk shelves instantly makes a room cosy, and can be customised with some wooden pegs (available at any craft store or stationery shop) to double up as a photo string. It is also a good idea to bring a reading lamp as these aren’t always provided. For those worrying about where to do their makeup, try bringing a small vanity mirror so you can find the best lighting in your room.
In the first weeks, probably while in the grips of fresher’s flu, the inevitable pangs of homesickness will kick in, and you’ll find yourself wishing you were home with your mum to do your washing and to make your tea. While there is no way to have your family magically appear, it is nice to feel they are with you somehow. Dig out a family photo and put it in a nice frame to sit on your desk, and bring any ‘Good Luck’ cards too – it will serve as a little reminder that people believe in you! Other sentimental objects can really help make your room a little piece of home. Even though it might feel like going off to uni is the big start to the new chapter of adult life, don’t leave your beloved cuddly toys at home. No one is going to judge you (or care) if Teddy sits on your bed, and you’ll feel much more settled with him there.