The atmospheres we surround ourselves in are important. So when you’re stuck in a space that doesn’t feel like yours, everything can feel a little off-kilter.
Whether you’ve been unceremoniously thrown into your parents’ house, temporary housing, or you’re just stuck in a room that doesn’t feel like yours, making a space that’s just for yourself can improve your mood ten-fold. Because when your home feels like your home, everything is a little bit more comfortable! Here’s how to make a space for yourself, no matter where you are.
Pick a spot
Find a private spot that you can make your own. To keep from getting overwhelmed, select a small area, like a desk, the top of a dresser, or even an empty picture frame you can hang up. If you’re back in your childhood bedroom, you might clear out a small section of the room and turn it into a spot that feels more like the “you” of today, rather than a younger “you.”
If you don’t have access to a completely private spot, make sure to speak with everyone in the space and make sure it’s OK to take a part of it for yourself. If that still doesn’t fly, don’t worry! You don’t even need a full space to create something in your habitat that exists just for you.
Think about turning a small box, like a shoebox or packing box, into a mini meditation space that’s always there to open when you need a moment to yourself. This type of “space” is extra great because you can take it with you, no matter where you go.
Find what makes you feel safe
Once you’ve picked your spot, sit down with a pen and paper, close your eyes, and think about all the things that make you feel truly happy and comfortable. Consider the people, animals, and places you’ve fallen in love with, and the colors, objects, and pastimes that resonate the most with you. Think about your dreams for the future, and the activities you’ve adored in the past.
Write them all down as they come. Don’t worry about making choices or picking the best ones; Just start by creating a huge list of everything you love.
Then, distill that list into actual objects. The easiest way to do this is to add photos to your space, but sometimes it’s more fun and satisfying to dig a little deeper into why you love those things.
Maybe you have awesome memories from a road trip with friends. The best part wasn’t necessarily the idea of “a road trip,” right? Maybe it was the sun rising over the horizon every morning, the flowers growing alongside the road, the weird hotels you stayed in, the freedom you felt on your drive. Think about how you could incorporate those aspects into your space. Maybe you could paint the whole space the same color as those roadside flowers, then decorate it with sunlight-reflecting crystals and a hotel matchbook from your trip.
Adding items from your regular life will help you feel more centered, too: Think Instax photos, tiny gifts from friends, notes you’ve kept, or lucky charms you carry with you. Then add collages, souvenirs, trinkets, favorite colors or dried flowers… anything that brings you that feeling of comfort.
There’s no right or wrong way to make this space your own. You don’t have to be an artist, and it doesn’t have to be anything fancy—it just has to feel right with you.
Use the space
Whenever you feel anxious, overwhelmed, out-of-place, or just a little “off,” your newly-decorated personal space is there for you. Try scheduling a time every day to sit and center yourself, or just get your work done in or near your space. Take time to journal, draw, create, listen to music, text your therapist, call your friends or do anything that feels right and helps you feel like yourself. Use the space to remind yourself of who you are and where you’re going.
Creating a space for yourself can help keep mental illness in check or just keep yourself centered, whether you're in a bad living situation, in a temporary dorm space, or back at your parents’ house. I hope this little guide helps you remember who you are, no matter where you are.