Whether you're living in a new space temporarily or moving there permanently, it is easy to feel lost and a bit lonely without the familiarity of your old nest.
After having spent quite a bit of time living abroad, I have become rather familiar with this conundrum. How does a person make a temporary space feel like home when it's simply not a real home? Many home-decorating gurus suggest new curtains or a fresh layer of paint to make the space feel like yours, but a lot of the time redecorating and renovation are just not an option for nomadics like me.
What I've discovered is that the feeling of "being home" doesn't come from filling the space with my things. Getting comfy in a new space is a balance of two things: Ambience & Activity.
Ambience is pretty obvious. You infuse a sense of your personality into the space and make it work comfortably like a real home would. You thoughtfully craft the layout and the appearance to enable you to live the way you feel is right and what feels like "you."
Activity is something else entirely. Being active in your new home means you're making new memories, adapting to new things, and fully living your life according to how you think it should be lived.
As anyone who has ever rented a living space can tell you, you don't have to own a space to make it your home... you simply have to live your life in it to the best of your abilities!
Let's start with Activities:
1. Get it clean: Often moving to a new space means you've got a relatively open, uncluttered area to work with. Before you start unpacking anything, the very first thing you should do is whip out the broom and window cleaner and get to making the place feel bright and fresh. Not only will you be removing traces of the previous tenants you will get familiar with the layout and structural details of your new home.
2. Fix things that don't work: Mending a wobbly chair or repairing a loose door knob has the double benefit of getting you physically active in the space and making the place more functional for your own comfort. And taking care of the things in your life puts you in the mindset of caretaker, someone who invests in preserving things, regardless of how long they'll be around. If you come across something you can't fix, talk to your landlord/superintendent/host. They are there to make sure things work properly.
3. Get synced: Whether you're wired, wireless, or a combination of both, every home has an electronic ecosystem that needs setting up. Once you've got your basic room layout in place, take some time to bring your electric accoutrements to life. Set up your router, speakers, computer, phone charging station, etc. Hide unsightly wires with wire clips or twist ties. Next, sign into online accounts and connect devices that operate using bluetooth or other wireless connection technology. The next time you feel like listening to your favorite album while you bum around the house, you will simply push a few buttons and enjoy.
4. Invite People over: hosting requires that you know how to work the space you're entertaining in. You will be responsible for making guests comfortable, which means that you will have to take time to think about how to make the place welcoming. It will also get you started using items around your new home you might not otherwise (like that fancy decanter or vintage serving tray), which gives them a sense of purpose.
Inviting people over a will open the space up to social energy. You will be making memories and friends at the same time. Don't forget, you don't need to throw a dinner party for twelve. You just moved, so keep it simple. A low-key brunch with a couple of friends or one-on-one aperitifs with your neighbor will get things rolling.
5. Make something: Being creative is not always easy, especially if you're in an environment you don't feel comfortable in. By doing a project (or two, or three) in your new home you will get ideas for supplies you will probably need in future and establish it as a creative space. Once again, it doesn't have to be complicated. You just moved, so stick to projects that make you happy.
(Whether you're baking a cake or welding metal sculptures, don't forget to display your work with pride. Taking time to display your creation in a nice way will give your new home a unique aesthetic and satisfy that visual hunger.)
6. Relax: Home is where you can be yourself. Doing activities that relax you will enable you to associate your new home with safety and comfort. Since you just moved, you probably need to relax a bit anyways! Think about activities that calm you most. Whether you like watching movies in deep-cleansing clay masks or pairing red wine with a good book, revel in your favorite way to unwind and let you be you in comfort. After all, it is your home, even if it's not forever.
The Art of Ambience:
1. Reimagine the Layout: This is your chance to start fresh. Think about what your perfect day-to-day life looks like. Do you want to be inspired to work more on personal projects at home? Set up a nice desk area that matches your artistic personality. Do you see yourself entertaining guests? Make the focal point of the living room the coffee table instead of the television. By understanding what you want to get out of your personal time, you can sculpt the layout of your new space to match your ideal lifestyle.
2. Freshen Up: One thing society is slow to catch on to is the importance of air quality. Whether we realize it or not, the freshness of the air around us has an immense impact on our health. The day you move in, throw those windows open! By doing this, you will avoid choking on cleaning chemicals (yes, you should clean) and it will boost your health and your mood.
Change the air filters in the ventilation system to avoid breathing in the previous tenants' dust during your stay. Some people also invest in an air purifier. This is great if you live in a smoggy area where pollution is an issue. In that case, opening the windows won't help you much. It might even make the air quality in your space worse. In that case, Get a purifier!
Pay attention to the comfort of your skin and your breathing during your first week in the new space. If the air is too dry for your eyes, buy an appropriately-sized humidifier. If the air is too damp, bring home a dehumidifier and try and eliminate the source of the dampness. You can always resell these items if you can't take them with you when you leave.
And my favorite way to improve the air quality in an apartment? Cook something delicious! Your apartment will smell amazing in no time.
3. Curate Visuals: Look at it this way, your new space is a gallery of blank walls and shelves waiting to be filled with your art, items, and memories. Take time to select your favorite pieces and design their display. Having a goal in mind makes this more interesting. For example, if you want to express your love of adventure, design a wall of your travel photography interspersed with unique items you brought back from your travels.
And since tiny holes leftover from nails are generally frowned upon by landlords, it is a good idea to visit your local hardware store and inquire about non-damaging wall hangers (adhesive strips with hooks).
As you decorate, imagine you are a museum curator. Try new things that stimulate visual interest by saying something different or adding a pop of color to a white space. Don't worry if you don't have money or space in your suitcase to include "art." Anything can be art if displayed in a smart way. Love shoes? Place a colorful velvet pump on your book shelf. Why not?
Breath some life into your new space by adding living color. Plants and flowers add freshness and visual interest to any room.
My only rule: Avoid creating clutter. (Airy, empty space is a gift that should not be overlooked!)
4. Layer Textures: Textures are very important to create a feeling of natural warmth in a home. We sense textures by touch and also by sight. Being too matchy-matchy will create a sterile feeling to your new space, so try to include items with different kinds of finishes. The best way to do this is to keep different natural elements in mind: wood, stone, metal, light, fiber, fire and earth. Look out for accent pieces like wicker baskets, chunky-knit throws, concrete sculptures, metal dishes, and glass vases.
5. Light Up: Every photographer and painter knows the importance of light in shaping an image. Treat your lighting sources almost like you would accent pieces or color splashes; place them strategically around your space to make the area more interesting to the eye. Humans are very sensitive to different types of light, so don't ignore this important aspect of your ambiance. Avoid harsh unflattering light sources like fluorescent bulbs. Go for softer light sources like incandescent bulbs (tungsten filaments) and halogen (be careful when handling halogen bulbs). Incandescent bulbs often have a warmish color temperature, which makes them quite soothing to be around, while halogen burns whiter (closer to natural daylight) making them fantastic for reading.
Since you may not have much control over the lamps and lighting fixtures in your temporary space, create some control by taking liberties with the appearance. Fitting a stylish lampshade over an ugly or outdated light fixture will quickly breath some life to the room (and is also a good opportunity to add texture and color that suits you). Bare filament bulbs are extremely popular as well and easily found in most town hardware or home design stores. Upgrade your bare bulb for an edgy, antiquated look. (Both of these retrofits are easily reversible, meaning you can reinstall the old bulbs and lampshades the day you move out!)
6. Commit to quality where you can. It is so very tempting to stay on the cheap side of things when you know you will be leaving eventually. It's not your home forever after all, why should you upgrade someone else's place? But dealing with the previous tenants' chintzy plastic hangers or moldy shower curtains on the day-to-day will be a subtle reminder that your space isn't your own. Pick and choose which basic comforts mean the most to you and invest a little time and money in making them a reality. Maybe you can't take it with you, but you can always resell certain items or leave them for future tenants to enjoy.
Wherever you end up, Make the Most of IT!
This is your chance to shape your adventure. So take care of your environment and commit to living life the way it's meant to be lived... well!
L.D. has spent the past two years traveling, writing, and encouraging readers to look at the world with fresh eyes. For anyone who feels like their life has lost its vibrancy, she offers some advice, “Open new doors, challenge yourself, and fall in love with other people's stories.”
For advice and encouragement, her articles are there for you...