6 Truths About Living Alone
Living on your own is something that most of us will do at some point in our lives. For some, it will come when they go to university, for others it might be moving to a new city for work, or perhaps it will come just because you feel it’s your time for it. Whatever the reason for striking out on your own, I can assure you that there will be some things that you’ll wish you had been warned about.
I’ve been living on my own for a while now and, as a young man in his early 20’s, I thought I’d share with you a few nuggets of wisdom (not sure I'm old enough to be wise) that might help you with your own journey into the wonders and woes of solitary living.
1. The world is quieter than you thought
When living with other people, it’s easy to become used to the day-to-day patter of company. Even when everyone is quiet, or possibly even asleep, a house full of people is a noisy place to be. Footsteps, heavy breathing, snuffling, sniffling — the general sounds of life.
These noises usually go unnoticed, fading into the background of normality. It makes sense, really. If every tiny human sound drew our attention, life would stop dead in its tracks. Nobody would ever get anything done.
Things are different when you live on your own, though. Suddenly, the world falls silent. Every creak, whistle, and groan becomes attention-grabbing and oh-so loud. Not scary, as such, just noticeable. It turns out that there is an awful lot of stuff in the world that makes noise, not just us humans.
The quiet takes some getting used to, but it has its perks. No interruptions, no distractions (other than, you know, the internet), and no one to answer to. You can work and play and live in silence, your world invaded by noise only when you let it, which you will likely start to do. You’ll probably find that you listen to more music, or have the TV on in the background more often. Or perhaps you’ll just enjoy the quiet.
2. There’s Housework for one
I despise housework. I always have. I can never shake the feeling that I could be doing something more useful. Washing up may genuinely be my least favourite pastime in the world. Some horrors, however, are impossible to escape, especially when you live alone.
You will never truly appreciate the work that flatmates, partners, or parents do around the house until they’re gone and you’re left to do it all on your lonesome. From hoovering to laundry to taking out the bins, I guarantee that there will never be a point where all possible chores are completely done. Sorry to tell you, but it's true.
My advice? Don't try to get it all done.
No, I’m not saying you should just let the dishes pile up and filth take over your life. You’re still going to have to do stuff to make your life livable and hygienic. But if you don't expect everything to get done all at once, you take some of the stress and pressure out of your life. Sometimes, leaving the washing up till morning is ok, as long as it's not a morning sometime next week.
3. Routine Matters
This was a pretty big one for me when I started living alone. To begin with, I took full advantage of being able to do what I wanted, when I wanted, with no one around to tell me otherwise. I ate crap that I wanted to eat, went to bed and woke up and ridiculous times, and walked around in some of the most catastrophically sloppy outfits that have ever been conceived of by a human mind.
It was fun for a while, but the novelty wears off pretty damn quick. It turns out that complete freedom is actually a little bit overwhelming.
Obviously, if you’re working or studying then there is a certain amount of routine that is put in place for you, but I, for one, found that after a few weeks I started to implement routines in my free time too.
Do so provided structure to my life and allowed me to feel that I was using my time efficiently, which is an important aspect of mental health for many people. As much as ‘wasting’ time can be fun, after a while it starts to do more harm than good, and if there's no one around to tell you that, you’ll have to figure it out for yourself.
4. The Loneliness is Real
I love living on my own. Let me just make that clear before we go any further. However, it’s an inescapable fact that solitary living situations do lend themselves to loneliness. Pretty obvious, right?
Especially if you’re used to living with other people, this can be something that’s actually quite hard to get used to. Not having anyone to talk to or tag along with in the house can be rough, but there are ways to get around the worst of it.
Friends and family will start to become so much more important to you when you live on your own, even if they were already your everything beforehand. Nothing brings the value of human connection into sharper focus than being deprived of it for even the shortest while. Personally, I actually think that this lesson is one that everyone needs to learn at some point, and living alone is a great way to do it.
After living alone, I began to put much more effort into seeing loved ones to stave off that loneliness. This, in turn, actually helped to strengthen some of my relationships because I wasn't taking them for granted anymore. If nothing else, living in solitude, with all its problems and perks, does make you appreciate friends and family more.
5. Money Come and Money Go
This a bit of a weird one that might seem contradictory at first, but bear with me.
Living on your own can be both more expensive and less expensive at the same time. More expensive because things like bills, rent, and food are now all on you, that's pretty obvious, but less expensive because you have much more control over what gets bought, when, and from where.
When you live with other people, everyone who pays into the house gets a say in all of the main decisions, right? This can mean that you communally end up doing your shopping in slightly more expensive shops, or buying stuff as a group that you would never buy on your own.
Once you live alone, you are the only one who has to make those decisions, so you can decide exactly what does and does not need money spent on it without anyone interfering. Add into the equation the fact that you're only buying food and paying bills for one person instead of 3 or 4, and your savings could increase.
Don't forget where this point started. If you don't make any changes to your buying and spending habits when you start living alone, there is a very real possibility that your monthly outgoings will increase, possibly quite significantly.
Basically, solitary living means total financial control. Whether or not that means you start spending more or less is kind up to you and your situation. There will be a change either way, so be prepared for that and keep an eye on the ol’ bank account.
6. Security is Suddenly Important
Humans are naturally drawn to being together which is why we tend to feel safe when we are around other people. Personally, I have always been quite a security-conscious person, but even I found that my concerns lessened when I was living with other people. The natural feeling of being in a ‘pack’ made it feel like we would naturally be safer because there were more of us.
The transition to living alone was a little bit tricky in this regard. Suddenly, I found myself all alone with just a front door and a wooden spoon as a potential weapon to fight off any would-be intruders. My odds, in my mind, plummeted.
Now, there are two solutions to this sudden-onset security paranoia. You can put new locks in places, get a security system, and maybe upgrade your wooden spoon to a no-nonsense spatula OR you can just wait for the fear to go away.
Here’s the thing, I originally went for the first option, decking my home out with all sorts of things that made me feel safer. It worked, which is good, and I don't regret any of it for that reason, but it might not all have been necessary.
Now, having lived alone for a while, I realise that the longer you go living alone without an incident to scare you, the more comfortable you become with the security that you already have. If you think that you can manage any fear that you have early on, then you might be able to save some money on security equipment by just waiting for the paranoia to settle.
Then again, that might not work for you and you might want to turn your home into Fort Knox so that you can go to sleep at night knowing you are safe and sound. That's totally ok too. The main thing is that you feel comfortable in your home.
Just like anything else in life, living on your own has its pros and cons and it might not be everyone's cup of tea. That’s totally fine. I loved living with other people for many years, but now I am also really enjoying living on my own.
The main thing is always that you feel happy in your living situation, whatever it might be. Home is a vital part of a person’s life. It’s where we’re supposed to go to eat, sleep, and relax our minds and bodies. It’s a space for healing and wellbeing, or at least it should be.
Whether you are living on your own now or are about to take the plunge, these 6 things are worth keeping in mind if you're going to make the most out of your solitary living adventure.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go and do the washing up…