It’s that time of year when students start to pack up for their return to college and the safe haven of their digs, dorm or halls. After so much time at home, I remember wanting to take my home comforts with me back to my hall of residence in Swansea. Not so easy on a budget though and when funds are tight you need ideas to save the pennies whilst creating a room your mates will happily visit. And maybe not so easy either when your landlord has strict rules about what you can and cannot do to your accommodation.
It doesn’t help, either, when loads of ads appear on your timelines advertising all the fun stuff you can get for your room when you simply don’t have the funds. Think about it, though, you don’t want your room to look like everyone else’s anyway. Now is the time to really express your personality and thankfully, you can do that on a budget with these ideas.
Before you go
I remember heading off to Swansea with every kitchen appliance under the sun and the majority of my wardrobe but you really don’t need to bring everything with you. There will be shops and online shopping!
Pack for the season and then change over your clothes (e.g. your summer things) when you visit home.
Order stuff in advance and pick it up at your new location
So many places offer click and collect these days that you don’t necessarily need to stuff everything in the car. Simply order and collect on your arrival.
Agree the design with your room mate
In my first year I had to share a room with someone I had never met before. (Hello Jo!). Bear in mind that you might need to agree a design scheme with your new room mate first – so it might be an idea not to go mad with buying stuff until you have moved in. You might need to rearrange some furniture but make sure you have permission to do that.
Don’t go crazy with university branded stuff
Whilst you will undoubtedly be proud of your college, buying a heap of branded merchandise may well add up – and, aside from one or two keepsakes at the end of your course, what will you do with your uni pyjamas after 3 years?
Have a separate area for working and sleeping
If you can, try to move your desk away from your bed so that there is a clear division of space for sleeping and working – much more relaxing.
It’s also a good idea, if you can, to move the bed away from the window in case of any road noise for example.
And on the subject of noise, you can get acoustic roller blinds which will absorb some of the noise, or change any lightweight curtains for heavyweight ones with a blackout lining. The extra expense is worth it for a decent night’s kip.
If the windows are not fitted properly, have gaps or don’t open or shut properly then you should raise this with your landlord.
If you have a desk, try to place it facing a wall so you can add shelves to store your supplies and books. You want to use as much vertical space as possible because you’ll quickly run out of floor space in a small room. If you do have a shelving unit on the floor, opt for a tall, skinny one instead of the wider kind that can take up a great deal of floor space.
Make the space your own
Think out of the box
If you have a small space to work with, try to think of function as well as décor. There’s no reason why your bedside table can’t be a decorator piece as well as somewhere for your alarm clock and reading light.
You can save a lot of money and have bragging rights at the same time if you buy someone else’s castoff and make it over yourself. Painting or refinishing a table is relatively easy and it will turn into a conversation piece if it is an antique. Alternatively, you can distress it yourself if you can’t find a reasonably priced antique table.
Double up where you can
Kill two birds with one stone by making your storage attractive – for example buy containers which double up as decorations. Use baskets for storing notebooks and stationery and in the kitchen use them for basic foods. You can even buy an ironing board that hangs over the door and folds down when you need to use it.
No matter how cute it is, don’t choose a bedside table which has no storage. Look for one that has storage drawers or a cabinet beneath. If your table is on legs with floor space underneath it, use a basket to store papers or books underneath the table. You might also consider just using a storage trunk for your bedside table and storing things that you want to have with you but that you don’t need to get at every day. You can shop flea markets for old trunks or buy a newer, trendy one. Either way, this is one of the best options to use in a dorm for a table simply because it offers so much storage space.
Add lights wherever the fancy takes you
I still love fairy lights to this day and you can add atmosphere to a dreary space quickly and cheaply.
Disguise ugly furniture with throws and cushions
Not liking that doctors’ surgery chair? Got a sofa that needs a good clean? Cover it up with cosy throws and blankets.
Try lighter colours like pinks and greys but make sure your soft furnishings are machine washable!
You can pick up decorative pillows cheaply from most major retailers these days. You can even get them with printed covers of your own photos.
Spruce up the walls
Again this is something you might need permission to do so check with any rental agreement you have. A coat of fresh paint will improve any dingy space. Just be sure to choose a light colour (neutrals or white are safest).
You can add a bit of pizazz to wall space with wall stickers which are a great temporary solution and far more interesting than the old faithful student poster.
Choose ones made from high quality vinyl plastic which are easy to apply without creases or bubbles. Wall stickers are easy to remove with no marks, residue or damage left behind to paintwork.
Disguise yucky flooring tiles with a rug
Getting a rug might seem like an obvious thing to do, but it’s an easy way to add a homely touch to a room.
Alternatively, why not add some personality to your space with vinyl rugs which can be personalised with your name or feature a funky print like snakeskin or cowhide. They are long lasting and far easier to clean in the event of coffee or vino related accidents.
Invest in a good mattress
Something I do think is worth investing in if you can, is a decent mattress. You might struggle with balancing studying and your social life if you’re not getting a proper night’s sleep. If you can’t afford that and the bed is a bit ropey, try a mattress topper to add a bit of cushioning and protection from rogue springs.
Other than that, you can pick up good quality cotton bedding quite cheaply. Pick light colours or stick to white and add an accent colour with cushions and throws.
I’d also recommend pillow protectors under your pillowcases to make them last longer.
Get a decent chair for any visitors
Unless they’re happy to sit and eat takeaway on the floor, having a couple of chairs is a good idea if you have room. You can get stackable or fold-up ones that don’t look too bad. At the very least think about a large floor pillow or beanbag.
You could also consider an ottoman which would double up as a seat and a bedside table at a push.
But don’t overdecorate
At some point you’re going to have to pack all this stuff up again and perhaps put it in storage so it’s a good idea not to overdo it – and that’s a more eco-friendly option in any case.
Ultimately, you’re really just trying to make the space feel more like home because you’ll be spending a lot of time there for the next year or longer.
A cluttered room is harder to clean
Now I don’t remember doing much cleaning at uni but if you are a clean freak just remember that the more stuff you cram in, the hard it will be to keep it clean.
I’ve never been able to study with a messy desk and a sink full of dirty dishes drives me nuts.
So while it might be tempting to go for fake flowers, for example, you’d be better off choosing hard to kill houseplants and saving your pennies for the odd bunch of flowers – better for the air quality too.
You could also try a salt lamp or an essential oil diffuser to ward off cooking smells. Just be careful with candles. Our hall had a smoke detector so sensitive it would happily trip at the scent of one piece of burnt toast. Rather embarrassing when the fire brigade turns up.
A laundry hamper is a good idea
You don’t want to share your space with your dirty laundry, do you? Have somewhere to chuck it all so you know where it is on your next visit to the laundrette (or take it home to your mum!). Much nicer.
Shoe bags and Shoe Boxes
Nobody needs as many pairs of shoes as most shoe bags and boxes hold and the pockets make excellent storage options for a variety of other things. If you’re using an over the door pocket style of shoe bag, the pockets can hold scarves, belts, socks, bottles, such as hair styling aids, and anything else that will fit.
With a little planning and some savvy purchases it’s easy to create a unique space all your own which is a comfy and cosy as your room back home.