The years you spend at university are some of the best of your life. Not only are you working towards a degree that will help you get your foot on the first rung of the career ladder, you are making new friends, experiencing living on your own, exploring a different city and making memories that will last long after you graduate.
However, these days are also some of the most stressful. This stress is not only caused by essays and exams, it comes from living in a small space with flatmates you might not have chosen and who may not be as tidy, clean and organised as you are.
|Top Tip: Don’t forget to check what is included with both your halls and any accommodation that you have. Likewise, if you can, ask your flatmates what they will be bringing with them. You don’t want to end up with five toastie makers when, of course, one will do.|
Apart from making sure you don’t leave it to the last minute, there isn’t much you can do about those essays, they aren’t going to write themselves – no matter how much you wish they would.
But, there is something you can do about the space.
Between lectures, seminars, study sessions in the library and, of course, nights out, you might not spend a huge amount of time in your accommodation. However, it is still important to bear in mind that your bedroom, which you must both sleep and study in, is only likely to consist of:
- a bed
- a desk and chair
- a wardrobe
- very little floor space
As well as finding space in your small room you will also have a bathroom, kitchen and living area all of which are communal. These need to be organised to ensure you make the most of the space and don’t fall out because, for example, someone is using your cupboard.
Clutter and mess is detrimental to your motivation and productivity and this is the last thing you need when you are working towards a degree – particularly if you aren’t causing the mess. There are enough distractions already, particularly when your housemates try to tempt you out for another bar crawl when you know you should be studying.
|Advice from the University of Chester
A spokesman for the University of Chester said: “The best advice about what to bring comes from students themselves. Here are some of their suggestions:
What should you take with you?
Stationery and books – you don’t need to spend a lot of money on this but you will need pens, notepads, highlighters and course material.
Important documents – you don’t need your birth certificate but you might need your driving licence.
Electricals – you will need a laptop but forget the printer – you can use the one on campus.
Clothes – don’t take every item you own as it won’t fit in the small wardrobe but make sure you have a good selection to choose from.
Toiletries – these are essential and don’t forget any healthcare products you might require and a basic first aid kit.
Kitchenware – you should be provided with a kettle and toaster but you will need cutlery, saucepans and crockery.
Items for storage – folders for paperwork, boxes, pencil pots and so on – anything that will help you to stay organised and remain tidy.
|Ben, Sheffield Hallam: “I’d say the most important thing I took was a slow cooker. It was really convenient as I could chuck frozen food in there with frozen veg and let it cook whilst I was out at lectures and seminars. You don’t have to worry about burning and it makes things taste great! It was relatively small to carry to and from uni, and took up hardly any space in the kitchen. Although I’d recommend cleaning it straight after use, it can be a pain soaking it.
“Under bed boxes worked a treat for things like spare bedding, towels, cleaning products, shoes etc. Having well organised drawers and shelving helps too. What I’d highly recommend is this: It was really useful and saved loads of wardrobe space. It meant I didn’t have to have a chest of drawers for small clothing – underwear, socks, t-shirts, gym gear and shoes.
Top tip to stay tidy: have a regular clear out
Firstly, you don’t need to take everything you own with you – you want to keep some belongings in your bedroom at your parents house, so it still feels like home when you are back there during Christmas and the summer holidays.
Of course, if your parents see you leaving for university as their opportunity to pack their bags and emigrate to a warmer climate, you might not have the luxury of two bedrooms. If this is the case you could always invest in a storage unit, to give you the space you simply don’t have and provide somewhere for your belongings when, come the end of the year, you are between accommodation.
What do former university students wish they had left at home?
Here’s what former students told us they regretted taking to university:
- Guitar and other instruments
- Box Sets
- Books (unrelated to course)
- Seasonal clothing
Heading off to university is actually the perfect time to have a clear out but so too is each new year because you will accumulate a lot you really don’t need. Let’s face it, you know that St Patrick’s Day inflatable top hat will just sit in the back of your wardrobe. This alone might not be too much of an issue but add a new novelty memento from each night out and your wardrobe will quickly become full of items you really don’t need and will probably never take out again. This space is valuable and could be put to much better use.
If you find there is too much in your university room and you don’t want to get rid of it but don’t need it – pack it up and take it home when you are back during the holidays. If you aren’t going to miss it, it will still be there waiting for you when you get back. Chances are you will forget all about it anyway!
|Abbey, Coventry University: “I had a shopping trolley that was a life saver! Could get a full weekly shop in and walk home with it!”|
Something to consider: storage hacks
You might have a designated draw for your fancy dress costumes and this is all well and good… as long as you have somewhere for your books and lecture notes.
To ensure you make the most of such a small space you might want to think of how storage hacks can help you particularly in the kitchen and bathroom where the space must be shared.
Look up: instead of taking up valuable floor space think of ways that you can make use of the wasted wall space. Shoe organisers and hooks are perfect for this – and can be used on the door to your room as well as cupboard and wardrobe doors.
|Top Tip: Use command strips to stick storage solutions to the wall – they are strong and sturdy – large strips can hold up to 7.2kg! Plus, they won’t leave marks so no one will ever know they were up there.
Vacuum pack bags: these are perfect for spare bedding, extra towels and even clothing. They reduce the space required, are easy to use and can be tucked away on top of wardrobes or under beds while keeping the items clean and fresh.
Utilise old jars: clean these out and they are perfect for the bathroom to hold all kinds of toiletries. If you don’t want anyone using yours, just put your name on the outside.
Separate draw space: toilet roll tubes and old cereal or shoe boxes are ideal to separate the space in your draws to ensure you make the most of it while keeping it organised.
Give everything a home: if everything in your flat has a ‘home’ it will help to keep the space tidy and you will always know where it is.
|Mark, De Montfort University: “I took my guitar, which I very rarely played. It mainly just gathered dust in the corner but I thought it would at least look cool|
Finally, set ground rules
Setting ground rules will ensure you and your new flatmates are all on the same page which should hopefully mean you remain friends and avoid any arguments.
You don’t want to be Lois from Flat 24 who received this text from her flatmate and had to ask ‘How do I request new flatmates’ on Twitter. But you also don’t want to become Finn, who sent it…
“Guys I don’t mean to sound like I’m nagging but I’ve noticed that the swivel stools are all at different heights sometimes and I just think if you’ve used a stool you should return it to its full height before leaving the kitchen! I don’t want to come in from a long day of lectures to see all the stools are different heights…”
Likewise, not eating your flatmate’s leftover Dominos that they were planning to have cold for breakfast the next morning is a given. It may be tempting when you come in at 3am after a few tequilas. but it won’t make you any friends.
|Ashleigh, Nottingham Trent University: “The most important thing I took with me was photos to put all over my wall – it brought home with me without taking up any room!
“Our ground rules were basically that if you had food you didn’t want to share (or be stolen) keep it in your room! And also, at the end of the week, any washing up that hadn’t been done would get put on the table to be claimed for one day. If it wasn’t then in the bin it went!”
Remember: You aren’t moving to the moon! You might be in a different city but you are only a train ride from your family home (or a walk away from a storage unit). It is tempting to keep hold of everything you own for fear of forgetting something important but your room will be very small, it will clutter it up and lower your productivity levels. If you do realise you have forgotten something you can’t live without, it will be quite easy to get hold of it.