Whether you’re sick of mom telling you to clean your room or done with roommates (there are only so many passive-aggressive Post-It notes in the kitchen one person can handle), you’ve finally made the decision to fly solo—congrats! Living alone for the first time is an exciting—and yes, slightly nerve-wracking—experience. How will you make delicious meals for just one person? Who’s going to get rid of that spider lurking under your bed? What should you do if the shower breaks? Find the answers to all these questions and more below. You’ve got this.
10 Seriously Useful Tips for Living Alone for the First Time
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1. Make a budget
Even if you’re used to managing your own finances, costs can pile up when you’re living on your own. This goes for one-time purchases (like a new couch for your new living room) as well as recurring ones (no more splitting the utilities with your roomies). Sit down and come up with a realistic budget for all your expenses that includes a cushion for surprise costs (like the boiler breaking down). Alarmed by the numbers? Don’t freak out—see if there are any areas that you can trim, like borrowing your brother’s Netflix password or buying second-hand furniture. (Psst: Check out this first apartment checklist to get you started.)
2. Keep a list of emergency numbers handy
Just as you’re about to snuggle into bed with the latest must-watch series and a glass of Pinot (hey, it’s one of the perks of living alone), the internet stops working. Instead of spending hours Googling what to do (something that, um, is significantly harder to do when your Wi-Fi is gone), keep a list of numbers saved on your phone or taped to a wall for all kinds of emergencies. This should include: Your superintendent’s number and/or the building owner’s number, the nearest hospital and/or pharmacy, your water company, your power company, a locksmith and—if you’re living with Fido, a local veterinary hotline. If possible, get the number for one of your neighbors, too. Which brings us to our next point...
3. Be nice to your neighbors
You don’t need to be best friends with the guy next door, but it definitely pays off to learn your neighbors’ names and exchange pleasantries with them on occasion. At the very least, this will ensure that they pick up your Amazon package when it’s left out in the rain. But hopefully, you can (eventually—no need to rush this relationship) rely on your neighbor to look after your plants when you’re away or help you if you get locked out—and you can do the same for them.
4. Decorate with things that make you happy
You’ve always wanted a chaise lounge. Except your last roommate wasn’t thrilled about the idea. Well guess what? Now you can do exactly whatever you want. But before you go crazy at Pottery Barn, do some research to ensure the pieces you get for your new pad will actually fit the space (and your budget). You don’t want to splurge on a fancy piece of furniture only to realize that it takes up the entire living room (and totally clashes with the walls). Our advice? Read up on a couple of feng shui tips and then decorate to your heart’s content.
5. Keep things clean
Without anyone else to remind you to put your clothes away or take a sneak peek into your messy bedroom, it’s easy to let things descend into chaos. But a clean space is a happy space, so resist the temptation to leave those dishes until tomorrow or that pile of laundry until the weekend. We’re not saying you need to do a deep clean every day, but a little effort goes a long way. Before going to bed each night, speech five minutes putting things away and giving the kitchen counters a quick wipe down. And here’s another tip: A vacuum with an extending wand won’t just suck crumbs off the floor but it can also be used to swiftly get rid of creepy crawlies under the bed.
6. Be safe
Living alone is awesome. But if you’ve never done it before, it’s OK to feel a little uneasy about the whole thing. To quell any fears, set your new pad up with security devices that will make you feel safe and secure. These can be high tech (like a security system) or low-key (like a bell on the door so that you no matter what you “think” you heard, you’ll know if someone has actually opened it). And here’s another tip: Change the locks when you move in (ask your landlord or do it yourself) so that you can be certain that strangers don’t have a key to your place.
7. Stock up on essentials
The last time you had the flu, your mom/roommate rushed to the pharmacy to pick up tissues, electrolytes and medicine. But now that you’re living solo, it’s all up to you (unless your mom is super sweet and feels like driving over). Keep a supply of pain killers and other medicines on hand, plus tissues, a thermometer and disinfectant sprays. Ditto for nonperishable foods (like canned chicken soup and dried pasta). Same goes for matches, flashlights and anything else that might come in handy in the unlikely case of an emergency.
8. Master the art of cooking for one
Note: Just because you’re cooking for one doesn’t mean you have to purchase one sad little chicken breast every time you go to the store. The key here is to plan (that cilantro you bought for tomorrow’s guacamole would also be divine in a broccoli soup) and also utilize your freezer. You can store leftovers for much longer if you freeze them or make a big batch of food on the weekend and freeze for later enjoyment. Here are 45 freezer meals that couldn’t be easier to get you started.
9. Make an effort to see other people
To be honest, you might find that you love living alone so much that you forget to spend time with other people. And that’s great that you enjoy your own company so much, but it’s important to see other humans, too. Schedule in a weekly facetime chat with your bestie across town, join a class or group or make a point to eat out with friends a couple of times a month (social distancing guidelines permitting). Whatever it is, make a regular appointment with others and stick to it—your social skills will thank you.
10. Enjoy it
For all you know, you may never live by yourself again. So enjoy it while it lasts! Here are some ideas to get you started: Dance around your living room like no one’s watching (because nobody is), throw a movie festival in your bedroom featuring all the movies you love (but can’t convince your crew to sit through) and eat pasta for breakfast because who’s going to judge? You do you.