As we navigate the holiday season, a lot of us (especially those living away from home) end up feeling homesick and lonely, as photos from parties and get-togethers at home circulate social media.
For those people, this time of year really just highlights that where you are isn’t “home”. So how we do make ourselves feel at home in a new place?
I used to do everything I could in Australia to make my apartment feel like mine, even though I was a renter (and so, technically temporary). However, it’s something I’ve deliberately refrained from here, because accumulating things seemed illogical. And probably, that was a mistake as I’ve moved somewhere where everything is unfamiliar. Not even my bed is my bed, you know?
I tried to think of how I could make it feel like I fit in and like I’m home. So I’ve been doing a little research into nesting (not nesting because I want a baby (gross) but because I want a home), and seeing how I can apply this to being “temporary”. It’s not like we can paint a mural of our family on our living room wall, or rip up the carpet because we like tiles better. But there are things we can do.
A lot of this applies to expats, but also just renters in general – which, let’s be honest, in this economy is most of us.
The general idea I’ve gone for is nesting using (affordable) things that can either travel easily, be left behind without much fuss or be easily replaced at the next destination. This pretty much rules out getting a pet (if you consider Australia’s strict custom laws as well), which is all I really want. But even so, back to the drawing board.
There was a period of time when my boyfriend and I bought so many plants, I thought we may as well become shareholders in the garden centres scattered around west London. So far we’ve only killed 1 of them – another one died but came back to life, and a third is really really struggling with life now that it’s winter. His name is Joseph, please pray for him to get through the cold sunless weather!.
Plants are an easy way to liven up a living space, adding colour and texture to the most neutral of spaces (which rental properties usually are). Plants also cleanse the air (a must in London), reduce stress and encourage feelings of relaxation and belonging. If you don’t have a green thumb, succulents are great (and very on trend) – truth time though, the plant we killed was a succulent that we loved too much. Don’t overwater them or they’ll rot from the inside and drop all their leaves (branches?) and it’ll be very sad.
Plants are easy to move around from place to place if you’re moving between temporary houses, and will promote that sense of familiarity we’re going for here. Can’t take them with you? There’s plenty of forums you can post on in order to give your plants to a loving new home, or even offer them to your neighbours. People love plants, especially free plants. We got one of our plants off another Australian couple who had to move back home!
I recently had some photos printed with Printiki* that I’ve arranged on my wall in my bedroom. Some of these photos are from recent travels and represent my life in London, because it’s good to have that reminder of why I’m here, and why, deep down and despite everything, I know I’ve made the right decision in staying here. But it also has a lot of photos of home, and of my friends and family that have stayed behind. It’s comforting to me to have the smiling faces of people I love looking down on me – and what’s better, photos are very easy to transport, or replace!
If you use this referral code (WGKBU6P3) to get some photos printed with Printiki (which I highly recommend you do – they’re high quality and have an amazingly fast turn around) you’ll get free shipping on your first order. I got the “retro look” ones, which are cool, but some of the photos seem like they’re off-centre. Based on this, I’d probably go with the full square next time, and I’d recommend you do the same.
Pretty much along the same vein as photos, but kind of less personal, is purchasing cheap art prints. I like art prints a lot, because it’s a great way to inject some personality into your blank space. They can be quirky or traditional, whatever you like – what’s important is that looking at it makes you happy! You can buy some cheap frames from Amazon if you like, but I quite like the casual look of leaving the prints in their plastic and propping them up on shelves. This one I got from Dirty Work, who also does great ethical gifts, accessories and stationery. I’m also a big fan of Dorkface if you like life a bit more colourful. And of course, check out local markets and charity shops for some new treasures. Support local, support small business, and buy ethically!
Like with photos, art prints travel easily (especially if you’re like me and you don’t get them framed). Not only that though, but they’re a great keepsake for the future, and a nice reminder of the life you had.
These are the best ones I could come up with, but I’m sure there’s more ideas my fellow expats have come up with! Tell me how you settled in to your new homes in the comments below.
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