Living by yourself for the first time is a milestone for many of us. And even though it's often an exciting time that can feel really ~adult~, living alone for the first time can also be challenging life change.
"If you're living alone for the first time, whether you're moving out of mom and dad's, saying no more to housemates, or getting out of a relationship and having a bed to yourself after all these years, you have to know yourself and see it as a choice, despite the ups and downs," Joanna Townsend, a life coach and a Washington D.C.-based psychotherapist for Blush Online Life Coaching, tells Bustle.
Living alone comes with a lot of responsibility, a lot of choices, and a lot of, well, alone time. But for some people it's not only worth it — it's the dream. While some people love the idea of living with friends or a partner, others can't imagine anything better than being able to walk around naked or take a bath surrounded by a whole lot of quiet.
To get the most out of living alone for the first time, it helps to be aware of all of the hidden challenges — and hidden benefits — that can come with renting or buying your own place. Here are the things that no one tells you about living alone for the first time, according to experts, because you're going to have to start making some big decisions.
It Might Be A Growing Experience
If you're not someone who naturally does well on their own, then living on your own might actually be a great exercise for you — though it's not always easy.
"If you're someone who feels anxious alone and unable to calm your thoughts, then it actually might be a good thing to engage in some self-understanding and introspection in order to get comfortable alone," Townsend says. But expect that there will be growing pains.
You'll Have To Find Your Style
You may have spent years hating your roommate's pink cushions or being so sick of your parents' house, but when you live alone then you may suddenly realize you don't actually know what your style is — but try to go with it. "If you're living alone to finally get your space, then embrace it and make it yours," Townsend says. Experiment with colors, styles, and different vibes to find the one that works for you.
It's Worth Making An Effort
If you're not someone who thought style or design would ever matter to you, it's still worth taking the time to actually make your home a comfortable, warm place to be.
"Our homes play a large role in our self-care," Townsend says. "Wherever you end up, make sure that you are intentional and mindful about how your home feels. The most successful predictor to satisfaction in our home lives, is how we feel in our homes, and how much effort we put into making it a safe, restorative, and comfortable space for us to be authentically ourselves in."
You Might Need To Make More Plans Than You Expect
If you're worried about feeling lonely or being alone with negative thoughts too much, practicing mindfulness is one good coping mechanism — but also make sure you're planning enough social events outside of your home, too. Having a night where your mind is busy and you're with friends or family can be really soothing. "In this way, you will have your night occupied and your focus when you return home will be sleep," behavioral scientist Clarissa Silva tells Bustle. "Not pre-occupation or negative thinking about being alone."
Budgeting Can Be Tricky
Living alone is often expensive. While you might have planned for covering rent and bills as a single person, it's easy to forget all of the other costs you'll be handling on your own: groceries, laundry detergent, even just a new blanket or chair if you need it. It might be the right time to start a budget.
"A great budgeting hack to keep yourself from overspending is to embrace the 'envelope system,'" Jill Caponera, a consumer savings expert for Promocodes.com, tells Bustle. "Once you’ve figured out your monthly budget, set aside a specific amount of money in individual envelopes to cover different categories of your budget and to ensure you don’t overspend. For example, if you’ve budgeted $500 a month for groceries, take that amount out of your bank account at the beginning of the month and put the cash in an envelope labeled 'groceries.' Using the envelope system helps to keep spending in check, and to quickly build up your savings account."
Being Friendly Can Go A Long Way
When you're living alone, it can be nice to feel like you have a relationship with someone nearby. "Introduce yourself to your neighbors as soon as you can," Raphael Fetta, a real estate broker based in NYC, tells Bustle. "I once moved into a house in the middle of winter, and nobody was out. It wasn't until spring that I started meeting most of my neighbors, and it was much more awkward considering I'd already been there for over three months." Many of us don't like talking to our neighbors, but the sooner you do it then the less awkward it feels — and having a door you feel like you can knock on if there's an emergency can be really reassuring.
Living alone is a whole new adventure, especially if you've never done it before. Expect some ups and downs but, hopefully, the growing pains will be so worth it.