Create your very own escape from the city
Guest post by Holly Ashby from London’s Beeja Meditation Centre
Living in the capital, it can sometimes feel as if peace and quiet comes at a premium. London is defined by the hustle and bustle, and while this is often exhilarating, it’s easy to get a little fed up with it on occasion. It’s in these moments that having a place we can escape to becomes really important.
If you are broke in London, the likelihood is all the living space you have to call your own is a room in a houseshare. Despite this, it is more than possible to turn this space into a little haven from the rest of the world – a place where you can unwind, decompress and feel ready to face the city again.
When your budget is tight and having lots of space to yourself is simply too expensive, it’s important to create an atmosphere of calm and relaxation without breaking the bank. But luckily, even if you live in the most hectic houseshare imaginable, there are ways to carve out a little peace and quiet.
Self care has become a big part of our cultural conversation in recent years, which is a great development. Looking after yourself is extremely important, especially in a world where mental health has become such a pressing issue.
Unfortunately, in some contexts, self care has started to look very aspirational, making it seem as if you’d need approximately a million pounds and the Prefects’ bathroom from Harry Potter to be able to achieve it. But nothing could be further from the truth.
Self care is about the simple things, and by prioritising your personal space, you can keep stress and anxiety at bay, enjoying a relaxing retreat when the world feels a little overwhelming.
Tip #1 | Keep the clutter at bay
One of the issues with only having one room is that it often becomes all-purpose. For example, if you don’t fancy eating dinner with your housemates, you eat in your room – and the same can apply to watching what you want on TV, doing your work, and a whole bunch of daily activities.
This is often an especially true when you only have a small space in which to store all your worldly possessions. It’s really difficult to unwind in a messy or disorganised space, and when a room is multipurpose, it can be hard to switch into relaxation mode.
This is why good storage can be helpful. Budget friendly shops like Wilkos and the Range have lots of drawer sets and containers which mean that any detritus from work, hobbies or general clutter can be put away – making your space clear, tidy and calm.
Putting everything away also helps you to enforce mental boundaries, turning your room from a working/living space into a place where you get some rest. Decluttering is also great for feeling calmer and happier in a room. It’s actively annoying to have loads of stuff hanging about that just gets in your way, so clearing out anything you no longer want/need will clear a lot of stress too.
Tip #2 | Make sure your room has been set up for a good night’s sleep
Not sleeping well is something that affects many of us, and living in London can have quite a negative impact on this front. If your room is street-facing, there’s a good chance that it’s illuminated by street lights, and noise from housemates, traffic and neighbours can be a problem.
To counteract this, there’s a few things you can do. Blackout blinds (which can be bought second hand or from discount online retailers) are a great way to tell your body that it is time to sleep. Plenty of daylight during the day and darkness at night helps us work with our natural circadian rhythms – soothing us into a restful and full nights’ sleep.
Hanging fairy lights, lighting candles or having lamps can be helpful too, creating a beautiful glow in the evenings rather than a harsh overhead glare. You can also create some aromatic relaxation too through oil burners and diffusers – lavender oil is said to be pretty soporific, and it smells nice too.
Reducing annoying sound levels is a little more challenging, but still achievable. Heavy fabrics can help to absorb sound, while also making your room super cosy – you could even consider hanging a thick curtain over your door. Another option is too play soothing audios (like white noise, or rain sounds) at night to drown out the more disruptive noises.
Tip #3 | Work with a colour scheme
The thing about not having much money and renting your living space is that you don’t often get much say about how it looks. The furniture is usually as low-priced as possible or a hand-me-down, and decorating options are limited when a landlord waves the threat of a lost deposit over your head.
However, all is not lost. You can still work to create a calming colour scheme in your room – and while you can simply choose the colours you like most, soft blues and greys are thought to be the most soothing. This will go a long way in allowing you to fully enjoy and appreciate your space, because it will look more attractive and homely to you.
Getting frames and prints that feature your preferred colour is one budget-friendly option, (and hanging postcards up is another even cheaper one!) while sanding down and painting any worn-looking furniture you have is another.
Paper washi tape is a cheap and versatile material which is great for adding splashes of colour, and you can swap out any door, wardrobe or drawer knobs with something prettier at a very low cost.
Tip #4 | Let some nature in
London doesn’t have a great reputation for air pollution, but you can make your living space more calming and healthy with the addition of pot plants. Plants help to purify the air and also make a room seem far more appealing. There’s something very mindful and pleasant about sharing your space with something so quietly alive.
A few potted herbs (commonly used herbs like parsley, basil and chives can be found very cheapy in supermarkets) will make your room pleasingly scented and liven up your cooking. Furthermore, if you have a few empty vases, bunches of tulips, daffodils and baby’s breath are usually very affordable, and look beautiful.
Holly works for Beeja meditation, who provide beginner’s meditation courses in London and help people manage their stress and anxiety.