Monday, October 27, 2014

Set the Tea for One: Living on your own

[caption id="attachment_392" align="alignright" width="300"]tea and tea pot for me Tea and tea pot with cookies and honey on a black kitchen tableLiving on your own[/caption]

I think some people find it really intimidating to live on their own. Personally, I looked forward to every inch of independence I've gotten.

  • I was glad that no one would chastise me for refusing to make my bed in the dorm.

  • I was glad to have fewer people (and to some degree fewer messes) when I was sharing a flat.

  • Living on my own, I am glad for every moment and choice I can make on my own terms in my own apartment.

I want to share some thoughts about living on my own. Certainly, I'm enjoying it. I recognize that there are pros and cons to living on your own. I hope that my sharing my perspective and view of the benefits and costs can help others have a better view of what they are getting into.


When you first start living on your own, all of a sudden you have space - time and silence - to yourself. The first week or two I both reveled and dreaded sitting down to eat alone. Even if you love peace and solitude, too much time to yourself can be a strain. A friend of mine who had also moved off campus called me and asked, "Do you get lonely? Being alone?"

Part of this is what you are immediately comparing your new situation to. Living with just you (or even a single roommate) is not like living with 10 other people on a floor. You may be disappointed to find that your friends don't come over as often. Remember that you are comparing the amount of time you spent together when you lived together without much choice VS someone coming over to where you live on your invitation. 

Also, if you were the sort of person who always needed to be talking to someone, swapping clothes between your roommate's closet, being comforted by a friend - you may not like living alone. Maybe you come from a big family and have never really been alone. Or maybe you love the sense of community. You may need someone to be there with you; there's no shame in realizing that you want to live with other people.

But don't forget how irritated you got when someone was using the shower when you wanted it!


There is so much less mess. I just can't. I can't even list all the less. There are fewer dirty dishes, fewer times to empty the trash, less unwanted noise. Less competition to use the TV. Less of all the little irritants.

You know what's yours. If you leave something out, you know you did it. If you want to have Bravo playing all day long, you can listen to bickering over NYC housing all day long. If your bathroom is gross, it's because you didn't clean it; if you want to leave your stuff out because it's just faster in the morning, you won't be bothering anyone else. If there are take out left overs, you know you can help yourself. If you want to keep all your stuff a certain way, you can because it's your stuff in your place.

The quiet is also good because, at least for me, it pressures me to do what I need to do. In the dorm, there was always someone to talk to, someone's mess to clean, something to do that wasn't really mine. There were an infinite number of ways to feel productive without doing my work. Living alone there is just my work to be done and the silent pressure of my own guilt to get going on what I need to do.

Useful Tip

  • Set out a tea for yourself once in a while. Do the whole thing: tea pot, snacks, favorite mug, the 'good' honey. And then just enjoy your own company for a little while. Change the context of being alone to being restfully appreciative of yourself.

  • Talk to the staff in the building. I can't emphasize this enough - get to know the landlord, concierge, cleaner, whoever you're going to see every morning. Say 'hello' and 'goodnight.' Say 'thanks' and if you feel comfortable talk to them about their weekend. Baseline: be nice and don't ask for more than your fair share. Bonus: be nice and get to know them. Suddenly everything seems friendlier and homely when you know someone else who you really do rely on so much.

  • Invite people over before you feel lonely. Let people know that they can drop by and make them feel welcome when they do. Sit on your couch with a friend and just silently read. Struggle with your friends over game controllers and the last slice of pizza.