It relentlessly grim up here in the world of a lifetime of rented housing. Things are worse than ever before - really bad. People still face eviction under the bedroom tax, and there’s not enough one bedroom flats in the private or public sectors, and the benefit cap, rising homelessness coupled with pointless cruel benefit sanctions. It's horrible.
Now you might know that in my 'other' job, I write for a living. Part of that involes outlining proposed articles to harassed, overworked section editors. One of my pitches, you will be unsurprised to hear, concerned how to furnish and decorate a rented home, given the restrictions of nasty furniture supplied, landlords who insist on the dread magnolia, the 'Accursed Short-Term Travesty' and lack of money.
I was commissioned - hooray! But then a following email apologised - another writer was already commissioned, with the article to run within days. Damn. The article which eventually ran was a challenge; I read with amazement. It was written by an interior designer/decorator who seemed not to rent, who recommended turning books into a 'focal point (I'm banging my head on the desk as I write this...) by stacking them in a single pile so high that removing one book from this vertiginous stack would cause certain death.
She also suggested, if memory serves: 'Why not cheers walls up with a bright colour?'
Why not indeed?
Because the owner/letting agents won't effin' let me paint that's why!
Now I read the papers with some distress, seeing no news of rent controls, and Labour promising to end the bedroom tax as if we should be grateful, not appalled they took so long…but here are my tips:
1 You can paint the walls - as long as they are restored to their former colour and condition before you move on. It's best to ask, because during the dreaded, pointless 'inspection' (where especially in London, agents stormtroop their way around looking for any excuse to give notice and raise rents) your creativity will be noted and you could be given notice – no reason is required.
2 If you have any money buy a new mattress and...a four poster bed. You heard me: a four poster bed. They're available online, and will keep out draughts in unheated bedrooms.
3 Buy plants. They're bright, they're alive they're cheap and you can take them with you.
4 Novelty shelving - if you have money - 'lifts a room' and you can take it with you.
5 Rugs and mats. Make the place seem your own.
6 Cover shabby sofas and unsprung chairs with blankets, if the landlord won't replace or remove them.
I think we'd all be better off if property was by let as unfurnished by default. It would be expensive to begin with, but you'd collect furniture etc as you moved around. And you wouldn't need to put your mattress on wooden pallets, because you were certain your next home (and there will be a next home) has a rickety base the landlord won't replace.
I know it's not much, but it's the best I can do. This is so depressing.