After a long road trip, my fiancé and I dragged ourselves into our apartment late last night. We were so tired from driving all day that we didn’t bother unpacking beyond the bare minimum. But even in my state of fatigue, I felt comforted by our apartment and excited about settling in after a long night’s rest. This surprised me a bit; I hadn’t expected our too-small, not-yet-fully-unpacked-apartment to feel like home!
I’ve been fortunate to live in five different cities in the past five years, but all of that hopping around (mainly for graduate school and jobs) has meant that I’ve lived in several different apartments! This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but with each year, my nesting, domestic urges grow stronger. It’s hard to give yourself permission to nest when you know you’ll be moving in nine months! Fortunately for my sanity, I’ve been able to adapt my nesting urges to my impermanent homes and make them special places. I know that I won’t live in my current apartment for longer than a year, but the time I’ve invested in making it (sort of) ours has been worth it.
Here our my tips for making your apartment feel more like home:
Respect your space, especially if it’s small. During my college years, I lived in one-room dorms that were, of course, pretty small, but an article on living in small spaces inspired me to make the experience enjoyable—and even a touch luxurious (despite the ancient red-orange carpet in my dorm!). The article explained that we must “respect small spaces,” meaning that we need to keep them tidy and well organized. For me, this meant picking up after myself before I went to bed each night. It’s a pretty simple idea, but respecting your space in this way makes a huge difference. Whether it’s your desk or your bathroom, a tidy space is just easier to breathe in!
Create happy/pretty/stylish and useful nooks. I love looking at design schemes on Pinterest, but I am far from having the money or space to recreate and unify the décor for my entire apartment. At present, we’re using a couch my fiancé inherited from an old apartment, a comforter I bought last spring, sheets we’ve had for a few years, two brown desks, and a tall, black dining room set—among other mix-and-match pieces. Neither of us is quite ready to invest in truly special pieces, but that’s okay! I get my décor fix by creating functional nooks around the house, including a little reading nook by the sofa with my prettiest magazines and books on display and a feminine vanity area in the bedroom. And then there’s my tiny desk, neatly packed with more books, magazines, journals, nice pens, and candles. Why not create nooks around your favorite activities? Other options include: yoga/meditation corner, “café”/breakfast nook, “library” reading area beside a bookshelf…
Get personal. Even if you don’t feel especially attached to your current apartment or your mélange of furniture, a few personal touches will make the place feel more like yours. Photos are a great way to do this. Stroll through Pier 1 or TJ Maxx for a few pretty photo frames, and go to town. I also love creating inspiration boards. The cork-board above my desk is one giant collage of magazine clipping, post cards, strips of lace, and perfume samples.
Find love in daily tasks. Remember the bit about respecting small spaces and looking after them? Even for a neat freak like me, this can feel like a chore sometimes. Jennifer Scott, one on my favorite lifestyle authors, encourages us to approach daily tasks like this with a sense of joy rather than annoyance or misery. Picking up the day’s clothes or washing dishes can in fact inspire happiness—in your apartment and beyond: “if you can change your attitude about making the pasta sauce, choosing your clothes for the day, folding the laundry […] you can completely change your life.” Reminding yourself that no task is beneath you can help you get past the “chore” mentality. Or think of it this way: when you better your living environment (which may include seemingly unpleasant tasks like unclogging your drains and changing the kitty’s litter), you’re practicing self-care. Self-care is productive and nourishing, so go ahead and indulge in a little vacuuming.
Take on moderately involved tasks. These kinds of tasks are a step above your normal dishwashing and toilet bowl scrubbing: things like reorganizing your pantry, cleaning out your fridge, or weeding your closet. They may take an hour or a whole morning, but doing something like this about once a month makes apartment living feel less itinerant than it may be in reality. When you move from apartment to apartment, it’s easy to fall into the “placeholder life” mentality, according to lifestyle guru Daphne Oz. This is the dangerous belief that your life will really begin once you move into a nicer house, get that promotion, lose ten pounds—or whatever is on your list of hopes and dreams—but your life is now!
In our last apartment, I was getting bothered by how messy our spice cabinet had become—how did oregano become glued to the shelf with agave nectar? (First world problems, I know.) The thought of cleaning the cabinet when I knew we were only going to be there for another three months felt a bit silly, but I did it anyways. The project was actually useful and not silly at all! (And when it came time to move, it was one less thing I needed to do.) Investing time in your space with simple projects like these makes the space feel more like home.
More home decorating tips: How to Make Your Small Apartment Feel Bigger
Photos: Mary Hood