July 18, 2019 | 74° F

There's no place like home, how to live stylishly off-campus


The dawn of midterms is approaching, the sun sets a little later each evening and hushed murmurs of a fabled, promised break could mean only one thing: winter is on her way out, and spring is on her way in.

For those returning to the University next fall, the months of February and March are celebratory times to pop champagne and find just the right emojii to express your excitement over your new "place." The decision to move from an on campus residence hall to an off-campus spot is nothing less than a ceremonial right of passage as you transition up the ranks as a Rutgers student.

Once the initial glitter of renting your own place fades and settles to dust, and you realize you are actually responsible for dealing with a landlord, utilities and preserving some level of cleanliness on a daily basis, it is easy to feel overwhelmed with all of the new responsibilities that come with being an owner of an off-campus apartment or house. 

Though the chapter of vintage movie star posters, micro-fridges and floor meetings is nearing a close, another story of tea lights, cork boards and house dinners is just about to begin.

You do not need to break the bank to blaze a trail — the secret is to trust your instincts as well as your budget and to also take your time. By following a few golden rules, your crash pad will feel like a castle in no time.

Talk to your Roommates

Whether you will be spending the 2015-2016 school year cozied up with old friends, new pals or a blend of the two, clear communication from the start is the most effective way to ensure a blissful living experience. 

Before you go ahead and make arrangements to paint the living room scarlet or order a $3,000 leather couch, check in with everyone to see what the decorating game plan will be in terms of common areas. 

It is never too early to create a Facebook group or call great Aunt Mabel to see if she has any old furniture you could use.

Clean out House

Lucky you, this is the perfect time to start over. You’ve got the rest of the year (or even just the very end of it) to sort through any old junk you don’t want to bring along for the move. 

Sorting out the treasure from the trash leaves all the more room for the new — in addition to skimming down on clutter before it can take root in a new location. 

Pare down your possessions. Less is always more. You’ll be amazed at what you won't miss.

As your lease likely begins at the end of May or June, pencil in a clean up day with your roommates to scrub and sweep before officially settling in. Throw in the bonus factor of easy bonding time, and the whole place will be sparkling before you know it.

Color is your New Best Friend

Maybe your landlord couldn’t care less if you bring your Picasso inspired A-game to the walls, or maybe you aren’t allowed to even approach them with a paintbrush in hand. 

Regardless of which road you walk, keep the faith and don’t give up on your creativity. No room ever looks bad in a fresh coat of sunny yellow paint, while tapestries make for a wonderful and quick splash of color.

If your color cannot be permanent, tack up some sticker decals, invest in a huge chalkboard for guests to doodle on, and know that one can never go wrong with strands of white Christmas lights – the more the merrier.

Look in Unexpected Places

Believe it or not, it is totally possible to design on a dime so precisely that your bank account won’t even notice that you’ve upgraded cribs.

Thrift stores, eBay and yard sales are all fair hunting grounds for everything from bed frames to door knobs, so let the chase begin as your midterms wind down. 

The web is also loaded with design ideas to suit any style on Pinterest, Tumblr and Craigslist to boot.

Befriend the Neighbors

The best thing about a home is the people you share it with. That community often extends to the whole neighborhood, especially in New Brunswick. 

When you move to an unfamiliar area, getting to know your neighbors is one of the smartest and safest things that you can do, whether they live next door, downstairs or down the hall. 

Having trustworthy people around you who can hold a spare key, water the pet plant or lend you an egg are worth their weight in gold, so do not delay in getting to know them.

Once you are all settled in, take the plunge and invite them over for a housewarming party — you’ll be so glad you did.

Janine Puhak

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