What I've Learned From Living Alone

A day after I moved into my studio – as I whimpered on the floor amongst boxes, piles of clothes and what seemed like 6,000 clothes hangers – I had a momentary vision of myself in ten years: I was dressed in some sort of black smock… there was a collection of porcelain dolls organized neatly by the window… the sink was filled with empty tuna fish cans…  Shawn Colvin’s “Sunny Came Home” was playing on loop. I shuddered and then stood to examine what looked like a bug on the wall but was really just some sort of mysterious spot. Living without a roommate in New York City for the first time felt somewhat terrifying.

Now, some months later, I finally feel like I’ve started to adjust to solo living. And these are some of the things I’ve learned along the way:

1) Living alone makes you feel completely adult. I was concerned beforehand that my life might quickly resemble that of “Katherine Heigl in the first third of a romantic comedy” – eating cookies alone in my bathtub while crying blubbery tears, watching Hoarders reruns in a bathrobe surrounded by a family of squirrels, etc. But, as it’s turned out, living alone has generally made me feel like I’m one of those New York adults I envisioned when I was younger (who I always imagined from the thighs down, Nanny from “Muppet Babies”-style) who works hard and comes home at night and drops the mail on the countertop and pours a glass of wine before kicking off their shoes.

Similarly, I feel this whole different sense of ownership about my space and belongings now. Whereas before it would be like “What is the cheapest/ ugliest bathroom trash can I can find, considering there are four of us living in this 16-square foot apartment?” now it’s “This bathroom trash can is going to reflect my own tastes, and my own tastes alone, so I better find something so hip that Donald Glover would take pictures of it for his Tumblr were he ever in my bathroom.”

2) Living alone makes you feel completely childlike. The flip side of the previous bullet (which was really like seven bullets combined into one, now that I’m re-reading it) is that, with no roommates around to pester/ judge/ talk to you, you can do whatever you want and feel no shame or insecurity about it whatsoever. I’ll get up in the middle of the night and eat peanut butter with a spoon. I’ll say things like “a can opener for your troubles” out loud to myself (in a British accent, in that particular case). I’ll spend a morning wearing a bed sheet as a shirt. Sometimes I feel like a giant living in a playpen, which not only fulfills some sort of weird childhood Tommy Pickles fantasy but also serves as a wonderful contrast to the sobering “bills/ responsibilities/ loneliness” aspects of living by oneself.

3) Living alone makes you paranoid. Now, I think I was probably predisposed for this one considering my stage 76 neuroticism, but one thing I was anxious about before living by myself was that if something awful happened (falling in the shower, fainting during Pretty Little Liars, accidentally cutting off a finger while cooking, etc.), there might not be anyone there to respond appropriately; no roommate who would know that something was probably up if I hadn’t returned from dinner by like 1 a.m. So now I’ve taken to informing a friend or family member of basically everything I do, which is why in just the past few days I’ve sent my mom a blank e-mail with the subject line “hi mom about to take the subway home from brooklyn” and started strategically working all my plans for the rest of the afternoon into my Gchats with friends (“So i think i’m going to head to Duane Reade in a few, then Food Emporium?”) just so they would be ON THE RECORD.

I was on the phone with my brother the other day and my iPhone battery died. I Gchatted him to tell him what had happened but he wasn’t by his computer, so he kept calling my phone, which obviously wasn’t ringing. When he finally saw the Gchat, he wrote me, “lolol I’ve been freaking out / you stopped mid-story, went ‘ewww’ and then got cut off and weren’t picking up / i thought like you saw blood and passed out or something!” “yeah, that isn’t what happened,” I wrote back, “but I like the way you think.”

4) Living alone brings out your inner Martha Stewart. Living by myself has brought my latent obsessive-compulsiveness to the forefront in a major way. Whereas in the past I could write off anything gross/ weird (a sink full of dishes, unknown lavender substance on bathroom mirror, errant sock in crevice of couch) to roommates (whether or not I was the one behind it or not), now there is literally no one else I can blame! This shift has impelled me to clean like a maniac every morning (I purchased five different kinds of cleaning products, one of which is literally only meant for cleaning the front of my refrigerator), to take out the trash like twice a day, and to generally live like my studio is made of thousands of bubbles that could pop at any moment. I have a feeling this mentality will slowly dissipate but, for now, I’m really enjoying doing my best Gwyneth and saying things like “Oh, it’s so messy, I haven’t had a moment to tidy things up” when friends arrive, only to have them respond, “Are you joking? It’s so clean” when they enter. “Oh, it is?” I’ll say with a smirk, “Can I pour you a glass of wine?” TC mark

image – Olivia Guswiler


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  • Anonymous

    Oh my God, this is absolutely true. Especially the Martha Stewart part. I live in a studio, too and I’ll just find myself scrubbing the sink at 2 in the morning. Lulz

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1363230138 Michael Koh

    I enjoy the idea of living alone

  • A.

    Tommy Pickles!!!

  • Anonymous

    Haha! Living alone is awesome. I moved into my first ONE BEDROOM solo almost a year ago, and the first time I had friends over for the weekend, I cleaned like mad, lit all my candles and even bought chacuterie, for fear that I had been erring too much on the side of “playpen.”

    It feels very homey, now. The kind of place where people come to meet up before we go out, and we never end up leaving. Makes me a li’l proud *sniff*

    • http://heartandhymn.tumblr.com britt

      isn’t that the best? you’re all geared up to go out and then your friends are like, “let’s just stay here. i’m having too much fun.”

      i definitely do the ‘lighting all the candles’ thing before people come over. it looks like i’m having a seance.

  • http://entropicalia.wordpress.com Alison

    Huh are you secretly me or does everyone living alone start behaving like this? Although I do not own special fridge-cleaner, but wood polish for my kitchen table and oven cleaner are in my stash of products.

  • http://somuchtocome.blogspot.com Aja

    I’m so jealous of people who live alone!

  • Kim Windyka

    finally moving into my own place in two weeks…after 7 roommates, this article will SO be me and i love it.

  • jen

    Maybe i might just live alone

  • douchegirl

    When I lived alone, I took the complete opposite route. “You mean there’s no one else here to see how messy I REALLY am?!!”

  • ASH

    I’ve had 12 roommates in my lifetime, 16 including my family. I really, really don’t want to do roommates anymore.

  • Aurora Cpc

    Haha. I live alone in a studio as well. I make up “what if” situations all the time and am constantly telling people where I am or what I’m doing juuuust in case.

  • http://profiles.google.com/flesheatingsheep Caroline Knowles

    #3 would be me. I’m destined to be a paranoid adult after watching far too many episodes of Rescue 911 as a child. 

    • http://fastfoodies.org Briana

      OH MY GOD. I’m not even kidding you, Rescue 911 inspired all my present-day anxieties. Now, as I’m planning to move and debating solo/roommates, I’m afraid of going it solo lest my life become one of those rare Rescue 911 episodes where the person actually dies and there is a bleak ending.

      • http://twitter.com/bethanie_m Bethanie Marshall

        That show did the same thing to me as a kid. Thankfully I grew out of it, mostly. I’ve also just accepted that I will have roommates for a long, long time.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_FCATSDDPJWT6ODZZNKHMWLLEYY Barry Morton

    I paid $32.67 for a XBOX 360 and my mom got a 17 inch Toshiba laptop for $94.83 being delivered to our house tomorrow by FedEX. I will never again pay expensive retail prices at stores. I even sold a 46 inch HDTV to my boss for $650 and it only cost me $52.78 to get. Here is the website we using to get all this stuff, LiveCent.com

  • fed

    im going to be living alone when school starts and i am afraid

  • Emke

    Speaking as an Avoidant Introvert™, there is nothing quite like the debilitating neurosis that comes with sharing a tiny apartment with 3 other people. Living alone sounds beyond delightful.

  • http://thetangential.com Becky Lang

    i already wanted to live alone and now i really, really do. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=707272007 Alex Thayer

    i need to get my own place when i can afford it


  • Grant Sorenson

    I’ll say things like “a can opener for your troubles” out loud to myself (in a British accent, in that particular case).


  • http://twitter.com/Kelsey_Ellefson Kelsey Ellefson

    I suppose I’m the only one who can judge myself eating sour patch kids for dinner, studio dwellers unite! 

  • Nicholae Cline

    i just sat here and giggled through this entire article

  • Tyler Fox

    I loved moving into my my studio after college and everything written is so accurate. My friends and family were constantly aware where I was the second I left my apartment – “Walking to Green Line…Will be there in 1 hr (praying)” What Up Neurotic?

  • margaret

    so adorable, i always thought when i was younger that living alone would be super depressing and boring. so very wrong!!! you can be the biggest weirdo ever, sing as loud as you like without having to feel embarrassed or guilty! Such freedom is really hard to give up…

  • margaret

    so adorable, i always thought when i was younger that living alone would be super depressing and boring. so very wrong!!! you can be the biggest weirdo ever, sing as loud as you like without having to feel embarrassed or guilty! Such freedom is really hard to give up…

  • http://maxwellchance.wordpress.com Duke Holland of Gishmale

    Loved this. Spot freaking on. Hilarious. And, yeah, I’m right with you regarding random, out loud stuff like “a can opener for your troubles”

  • Anonymous

    I have a one-bedroom. Which means I could theoretically choke on my pillow in my sleep one night and when the rescuers come to check on me days later they might step into my apartment, look around, and say, “Looks fine, let’s go!” All the while, my dog will be eating the remains of my corpse in my back room. How fucking undignified!

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