Molly Parker

On personalizing your personal space

March 28, 2023

When I was nine, my family moved to a new house, and I got to decide what colors my room would be painted.

It was a difficult task. Blue and green were always appealing possibilities. Maybe even purple if I was feeling elegant and cool. In the end, however, the winner became clear: black and white walls and a yellow ceiling with teal accents, of course.

As an adult, this combination definitely wouldn’t be my first choice, but that was my first time decorating my own space—and for a long time, that room was home.

Decorating your space, whether it’s a bedroom, office or part of a dorm room, is essential for getting the most comfort and connection from the places you spend your time.

My definition of hell is a beige cubicle in an office with harsh white, fluorescent lighting. So when I arrived at UVM and my dorm mimicked the sad, washed-out spaces I despise, I knew I’d need to add some color to survive my stay.

First came the lights. Our dorms are equipped with overhead lighting that is far too harsh. I, and many students I know, dreaded turning that light on in the morning. 

Improper lighting can lead to headaches, eye strain and even a lack of motivation, according to a Sept. 15, 2019 Cleverism article. Proper lighting, on the other hand, can increase creativity and improve mood, according to a July 1, 2020 Building Simulation study.

So, with fairy lights, a warm desktop lamp and frequent use of the natural light from the window, my dorm was brought back from the brink of corporate office-esque dread and immediately felt more inviting and relaxing—just what you want after a long school day.

Next, I tackled the walls. The colors in a space can have significant impacts on a person’s mood, according to a Sept. 9, 2022 MasterClass article. While students usually can’t repaint their dorms, they can still choose to fill their space with colors that make them feel comfortable.

I wanted my dorm to be a relaxing, comforting area, so my walls were filled with art prints, posters, and maps with blue and green colors. Such colors are calming and earthy, according to the MasterClass article. 

Still, my decisions were not all based on psychology. The blues and greens were nice, but I love when things are even more colorful, and I wanted reminders of the things that were important to me. 

So, in came the photos of my favorite moments, plastered all over the walls and the backboard of my desk. In came the rainbow index cards with quotes I love scribbled across them. In came canvas reproductions of my favorite paintings.

The benefits of decorating aren’t reserved for the end result, either. 

The act of decorating itself can be a form of self-care, allowing people to reduce clutter, solve challenges and focus their energy towards something that will improve their life, according to a May 22, 2019 Cocoweb article.

As I decorated, slowly but surely, the concrete walls and vinyl floors of University Heights became home. I was able to spend time in my space and see my values, interests and memories reflected all around me.

I was lucky that my roommate and I were very close, so my room was a sanctuary that provided safe harbor after a bad test or a stressful day of class. It helped that we decorated similarly too, filling our space with good vibes and one atrocious but sentimental rug.

This concept doesn’t just apply to dorms, either. There will always be jobs in little beige cubicles, filing papers and watching the boring clock count down to 5 p.m.

But even then, a desk can bring joy. Add a plant or two, or a photo of a dog or partner. Maybe even one of those tiny Newton’s cradles for those really boring moments.

Alternatively, a car might serve as a cozy little space, with a comfy blanket in the backseat, bumper stickers and a scented air freshener that smells like a summer by the shore.

If you spend time in a place, it’s worth making it somewhere you want to be, even in little ways. I promise you’ll find—or maybe rediscover—your new favorite spot.

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