Having an apartment all to yourself is the best. There are no roommates to contend with, no one telling you what to do, and pants are completely and utterly optional. But if you don't feel secure living alone, this fun experience can quickly turn into one that keeps you up at night.
This is exactly what happened to me when I lived alone. I remember being all gung-ho for my first taste of independence. But any sense of joy went out the window during those first nights by myself. I winced at every noise in the building, and suddenly remembered in vivid detail every horror movie I'd ever seen. It was awful, and started me thinking about all the bad things that could happen.
I admit the horror movie memories were probably a bit much, but unfortunately I wasn't far off in thinking my single self was at a greater risk. "Anyone can be a victim of an accident, violent crime, or property crime but a one-person household is an easier target to criminals and has little in terms of a support system for those household accidents," says safety expert Sarah Brown, from SafeWise.com, in an email to Bustle.
Of course, being afraid and expecting the worst isn't the way to go. But realizing the risks, and taking precautions, is definitely a good idea. Read on for some ways to feel more secure when living alone, so you don't have to lie awake at night.
1. Give Your Apartment A Safety Check
It's a good idea to give your apartment a once over for safety concerns — hopefully before you even move in. "Make sure your door is solid wood or metal, add deadbolts to all of your entrances, check other entry points such as windows, and make sure your walkways are lit," Brown says. Complete this safety checklist from SafeWise to be sure you've got it all covered. And if you see anything that looks shaky, tell your landlord ASAP.
2. Become BFFs With Your Neighbors
If you're introverted like me, then you'd probably rather do anything else but chitchat with neighbors. But do make an effort to be friendly, if only for safety's sake. "In one way or another, your neighbors may be your best asset in times of trouble and [they'll be] more willing to lend a hand to a friend than they are to help out a stranger," Brown says.
3. Let Friends Know When You're Home
Don't be afraid to involve friends and family in this whole safety thing. Give them a call if you feel nervous, or plan to check in once you arrive home. You might also consider downloading some safety apps, like On Watch or React Mobile, which will connect you with help should things ago awry.
4. Don't Fumble With Your Keys
The last thing you want to do is approach your front door and then spend five minutes fumbling for your keys. This is especially true if your town isn't the safest, or if you live on a poorly lit street. Have your keys ready as you walk up, and get thyself inside smoothly and swiftly.
5. Always Be Throwing Parties
Burglars are less likely to target busy homes. So yes, this your excuse to throw a party. "Having people over can make your home seem like there are more people living in it," Brown says. It'll also show would-be intruders that lot of friends have got your back.
6. Have An Emergency Exit Plan
Create an exist strategy for worst case scenarios, such as fires or break ins. "Know where to escape, whose house you can stay safe at, and call the police," Brown says. Having this plan tucked away will give you peace of mind, and make handling such scary situations all the easier.
7. Don't Let Workers In When You're Alone
Let's say you're getting the internet installed, or are expecting a plumber to fix a leaky sink. "If your house is being worked on ... invite some friends over to keep you company," Brown suggests. It may sound paranoid, but it's much safer to have that stranger think you live with roommates than to give away the fact you live alone. It'll make you less of a target for the future, and keep you safer while they're there.
8. Report Any Strange Goings On
Did you hear a weird noise at 3 a.m.? Or maybe some yelling on the street? If so, don't be afraid to call the cops (or their non-emergency line) so they can come check things out. "It's OK to call the police and report suspicious activity," said safety expert Elli Bishop on SheKnows.com. "Living by yourself means you have to be more aware of your surroundings and trust your gut." In other words, there's no harm in playing it safe.
9. Be Smart About Spare Keys
Burglars and other nefarious types know exactly where to check for spare keys. So don't think you're being clever by hiding them in the mailbox, or underneath a rock. Instead, Brown tells me you're better off leaving with with a friend or trusted neighbor.
10. Always, Always Lock The Door
"Lock your doors, every single time," Bishop said. Even if you're just popping out to the garbage dumpster, or only stepping inside to grab something you forgot. It may seem like overkill — especially if you live in a relatively quiet town. But it only takes that one moment for someone to sneak in.
11. Check That Peephole
Don't get in the habit of swinging the door open for everyone and anyone. "If someone should knock on your door, don't open it without looking through your peephole first," said Courtney Ronan on Move.com. "If you don't have one, ask for ID from your visitor." And don't feel bad about telling them to go away, if you feel unsafe.
12. Think Twice Before Posting Online
It sure is tempting to announce to the world that you're going on vacation, but think twice before sharing such info online. "Don't give out clues that you're out of town, that you live alone, or that you're going out for the night," Bishop said. You never know who's going to see it.
13. Close Those Curtains
If you're going out for the day, close your curtains and blinds, according to Sharon H. Bolling on Livestrong.com. You don't want anyone peeking in to see what's worth stealing, or noticing the fact that no one is home. And be sure to close them at night, too. If your lights are on and the street is dark, people will be able to see right in. Not good.
14. Consider Your Mailbox
Try to intercept your landlord before he or she can slap your full name on a mailbox. Instead, ask that they only put your initials, or just your last name. As Ronan said, "Don't post your first and last name; that immediately identifies you as a single woman living alone." Nobody needs to know that.
15. Take That Last Safety Step
OK, so your windows are secure, and you're being smart about creepy noises and locking the door. But unfortunately, you still feel unsafe. If that's the case, it may be time to take your security to the next level. "If you are a person who wants a little extra security you can also invest in a dog, a security system, or different home automation products that will alert you when something bad is happening to or in your home," Brown says.
It may be just the peace of mind you need to actually (finally) enjoy living alone.
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