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June 24, 2024

6 Things I’ve Learned after Living Alone for the First Time.

 

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On 20 December 2023, I packed up my life and moved into my own apartment to fly solo for the first time.

I had always lived with my parents and, with the exception of a trip alone to Malta in my 20s, I’d never really been entirely on my own. Granted, as a 36-year-old, my exit was well overdue (an understatement), but that was how my life played out.

Fast-forward 6 months

As the move drew closer, I’d be lying if I said my anxiety and stress levels weren’t high (another understatement). My to-do list overwhelmed me, and I intended not to muck up anything important. The rising cost of living and what my finances would look like once living solo also loitered in the depths of my mind. While I am introverted and enjoy solitude, I had no way of knowing with certainty if I was blowing up my life.

I am happy to report the move went smoothly and that I am settled into my new home. While the last six months have certainly stretched me mentally and emotionally, the move is one of the most transformative experiences of my life. Hands down.

Normalising solo living

When I look around, generally speaking, I am an anomaly living alone at 36 and single. While I consider my position a real luxury, most of my family and friends are married or partnered, and some have families or are at least starting the journey. I’ve engaged in several discussions with people who fear solo living for several reasons, including the potential for loneliness, the financial implications, and anxiety about who will look after them as they grow older.

If I look into my Magic 8 Ball and fast-forward 10 or more years, I genuinely believe solo living will become more common. We’re already seeing this in more mature cohorts. The reality is there is no “right” or “wrong” way to live, but with those identifying as women typically having more options than ever before, I suspect more people will opt to live alone.

If you are contemplating solo living, regardless of your unique circumstances, here are six of my biggest takeaways about living alone for the first time so far.

1. I’ve never felt more confident in my ability to handle (almost) any situation that arises.

While I certainly don’t seek to tempt the Universe, something is empowering about knowing there’s no one handy to provide immediate help when needed. I’m all I’ve got, and I can assure you that my problem-solving skills have been given a solid workout. I’ve also learned nothing “magically” fixes itself the hard way, thanks to the bathroom semi-flooding one morning until I had the guts to unblock the shower drain. (I’ll spare you the gory details of what was lodged down there.) When you manage all aspects of your environment, you quickly foster self-trust because there’s no one to bounce decisions off.

2. I have more mental space than ever.

As I noted, I’m an introvert, which means energy management is crucial. To function in the world, I must block out time to recharge after work and on weekends. The sheer mental space I have now to think and feel deeply has significantly impacted my well-being for the better. I’ve always been a deep thinker, and I can be intense.

I’ve removed anything from my environment that detracts from my inner peace. I enjoy sitting in the quiet and hearing the hustle and bustle of life in the background (I live relatively close to a main street and shopping precinct). Turning off the television and avoiding the news (within reason) has significantly reduced my anxiety levels. These days, I only turn on the television to watch sports (Australian rules football is massive where I live). Without all of the constant background noise, I have a better grasp on my internal world and what I’m thinking and feeling without all of the external chatter.

3. I have to be more dialled in than ever with my finances.

I understand talking about money makes some people uncomfortable. However, we live in a physical world. Without money, most things in life aren’t possible. Money is neutral; we give it meaning. I’ve always wondered why basic money management isn’t taught in school (at least, it wasn’t taught in my time at school). If you can’t bear to even read about money and are squirming at the very mention of it, think of this: the more money you have, the more you can help others.

Finances are potentially the one drawback of living alone because our systems and society are built around the notion of people coupling. Obviously, paying for rent or a mortgage would be easier with two incomes. That said, managing a budget solo and prioritising expenses in line with your own goals and values can also be highly beneficial. There is no conflict about money when you live alone or arguments about where cash is and isn’t going. In hindsight, one of the best things that ever happened to me was starting a business in my mid-20s, as it forced me to look at and understand my numbers.

4. I enjoy drumming to my own beat.

Any writer or creative person understands it’s best to follow the flow when inspiration strikes. When you don’t have to consider anyone else’s needs, you can write an article about that idea that popped into your head at 3 a.m. when you can’t sleep. Listening to my body clock and following my natural cues has been nourishing. I’ve enjoyed the uninhibited flow of ideas and reducing the clutter around me, which has boosted my creativity and self-expression.

5. My personal growth and self-care practices have gone to another level.

Contrary to popular belief, time management doesn’t exist. We can’t manage time; we all have 24 hours daily. What we can manage is how we are using those 24 hours. I now have more control over my schedule, leading to massive changes. I was never a morning person. I typically forced myself to wake up early enough to squeeze in a walk before work, but these days, I’m up at 6 a.m. to enjoy my morning routine in peace before work.

I am also less of a people pleaser—I don’t abandon myself so readily to keep others happy. While I still have many commitments I can’t change, my personal time is highly flexible. There’s no such thing as dinner at 6 p.m. or waiting for quiet to meditate, meaning I can better follow my intuition.

6. I’m more open to life unfolding.

Due to how settled I feel in my home, I have more capacity to lean into life’s uncertainties and be more open to opportunities that may surface. I appreciate the small moments, like when I happen to look up from my laptop and see a wonderful rainbow or when I look at the night sky and admire the vibrant full moon (like I am right now as I write). I don’t find myself “pushing” so hard to achieve or be productive. Life feels more like a steady river with its natural ebbs and flows.

Over to you: What is your experience of solo living, or if you don’t currently live alone, are you open to it?

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