Leaving your parent's home to live in another city with roommates is an exciting rite of passage for most young adults. Unfortunately, most of us don't get to jump from our parent's house to a lavish mansion. Quite the opposite, actually. Most of us declare our independence by cramming our essentials into a small, colorless space in a rundown building.
Each time I moved out (yes, I moved out more than once), my first thought — after making a mental note to buy an air freshener — was always, "I left home for this?" I couldn't help but feel a little betrayed when my moving crew drove away, back to their homely comforts, leaving me all alone in my tiny, funky-smelling apartment.
Eventually, I learned how to make my "home away from home" just as warm and inviting as the home I grew up in.
1. Add some color
Most apartments (at least those available to people with tight budgets) are drab and bare. The walls and ceilings are whitewashed the carpet is a neutral brownish-gray color and the appliances blend into the background. So, the first thing you should do whenever you move into a new apartment is add some color. Most major department stores offer colorful (and inexpensive) curtains, table cloths, sheets and towels. Dress up your bathroom with a fun shower curtain and rug. Keep a bowl of fruit on the kitchen table and put some pillows on your couch. Get everyone involved, if possible, and just have some fun with it.
2. Create a "me" space
Even if you get along with your roommates splendidly, there will be times when you just want to shut them out for a while and relax in your own corner of the apartment. If you have roommate issues, it's even more important to have a sanctuary somewhere — no matter how small — where you can escape. Even if you're only allotted half a bedroom, there are things you can do to make that area a haven. First of all, keep it clean. You may need to politely remind your roommate to respect your space, so make sure they understand that. Decorate your walls with pictures, favorite quotes, homemade wall hangings or anything else that makes you smile. This is your area; project your personality and beliefs on it as much as possible.
3. Hold on to a few keepsakes from home
Most people leave a lot of their non-essential items at home until they move into a "real" apartment or house. However, having some of those items around can add another layer of homey-ness to your new home. Space restraints will require that you leave most non-essential items in storage somewhere else, but make some room for old photo albums, yearbooks, stuffed animals or anything else that reminds you of home. You're embarking on a new journey by living away from home, but sometimes it's nice to be reminded of where you came from.
Making and eating meals together isn't any easier for roommates than it is for families, but the principle is the same: those who eat together form bonds. Plan for a couple of scheduled meals per week and take turns preparing the meals. Some people have dinner groups with their neighbors, which can be a great way to meet new people and ensure you're getting at least one square meal every day.
Striking out on your own can overwhelming, especially when you're leaving behind far more than you are gaining, but it can also be liberating and exciting. Any place can be home as long as you're willing to make it home.