With fifth week blues imminent, a Spartan room can only serve to amplify the crushing emptiness of your own soul. Faulty feng shui is always dispiriting, but in order to prevent going postal, it’s crucial to pass the next seven days in a harmonious environment. There is a fine balance between making your room so pleasantly habitable that you never want to leave it, and offering enough homely comforts that it becomes a social hub. Having invested most of my savings in soft furnishings before arriving, I quickly found that the temptation to spend many hours of the day bath-enrobed amidst my many ornaments was strong. With the faces of my old school friends smiling fixedly down on me from my noticeboard, the need to experience life beyond these four walls seemed to melt away. The heavy fire door and crippling social anxiety between the rest of my peer group and me encouraged the illusion that I was living alone in a hotel. By placing an After-Eight on my own pillow each evening, my room became a luxurious retreat. Obviously it is dangerous to create such comfort that withdrawal from the world is overwhelmingly attractive. However, the self-fulfilling prophecy of a miserable fifth week and the no doubt persistent cough you have now contracted means that now is the time to invest in interior decoration.
Residents of Christ Church and New may have period features to play with, but I set out to prove that with thirty pounds and a degree conducive to charity shop browsing, the post-war turd that is my accommodation block can very much be polished. The key to more a more affable environment is prioritising quantity over quality. Even the world’s bleakest place can seem lively and colourful if filled with enough people or objects: see Park End on a Tuesday night for evidence. Clutter creates a homely feel of creative chaos, and the more useless the better. Empty olive tins are perfect for stationery storage, and glass bottles filled with coloured water are the layman’s lava lamp. This £10 rug from Urban Outfitters was probably a better investment than my education: not only does it absorb a miraculous amount of dust, but it also protects cold feet from the glacial parquet.
In defiance of all anatomical evidence, Greg from Masterchef insists that we eat with our eyes. Well I say we see with our mouths. Food is delicious, but it is also an edible homeware. Never underestimate the ornamental attributes of a well-stocked fruit bowl, and all the aesthetes swear by the classic mason jar of mixed nuts. Not only visually pleasing, the addition of a plant to your room can release some much-needed oxygen into the stale atmosphere.
Don’t hide your books away – they are there for one reason, and that is to give a pop of colour to an otherwise drearily white milieu. Reject faculty endorsed editions for the £2 Bookshop’s prettily printed poetry, and organising your reading material into a rainbow spectrum of spines trumps tedious alphabetisation. In the absence of actual books, wrapping paper can make a cheap alternative to posters: this Penguin print was £1.99 from Blackwell’s. Old film posters are lovely and culturally impressive, but take full advantage of the many flyers on offer in the porters’ lodge. Not only are they essentially free wall art, convincing your fellow freshers of your penchant for clubbing is more socially effective than actually going out. Similarly, prominently displayed ticket stubs from balls, that weekend minibreak you took in London, and even evensong will subliminally endorse the idea that yours is an active existence.
Like a participant in ‘Extreme Makeover: Home Edition’ but with more Northern stoicism, makeover guinea pig Adam was instantly uplifted by the sight of his essentially unchanged but now very feminine room. So don’t drink away the blues: head to Primark, where depression goes to die and the cushions are always cut price. Turn your room from anonymous garret to ‘Cath Kidston: the University Years’, and sixth week joy will roll on faster than you can say Laurence Llewellyn Bowen.
Fairy lights £3, Primark
Pots £1, Poundland
Honey pot £2, Oxfam
Desktop drum kit £5, Primark
Mint plant £1.39, Marks & Spencer
Rug £10, Urban Outfitters
Throw £2.99, Gloucester Green Market
Wrapping Paper £1.99, Blackwell’s
TOTAL = £27.37