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An In-Depth Guide to Living Alone (Plus a Checklist!)

Living alone is fun! It's exciting! It's sometimes lonely, too. Check out our guide to living alone (and grab the free home cleaning checklist!)

Living alone is a fun and exciting thing. It opens up a whole new dimension of independence and is a great opportunity to find out who you are without the constant company of others to influence you. You can decorate however you want (tropical theme, anyone?!), make your own rules, stock the fridge with what you want – the list goes on!

But, with all its glorious goodness, there are some potholes and pitfalls to dodge. So I’m going to do my best to break down The Act of Living Alone for you, and perhaps provide you with some tools and tips to help you get the most out of this liberating experience.

An In-Depth Guide to Living Alone (Plus a Checklist!)

Take Care of Your Home

I’ve posted before about decorating small spaces and there’s a reason for that… the way your apartment or home looks and feels is essential to creating a safe place to return to every night.

Here are some things I’ve found particularly lovely to have around:

1. Plants

Not only do plants provide clean air, they also bring warmth into your home. Go to Lowe’s and check out the greenhouse. There are plenty of plants labeled “resilient” that will do well with minimal water and sunlight. You can also find little green buddies that are labeled “air purifiers” if that’s a concern for you. And if you can find a way to keep flowers alive, go for it!

2. Pillows

I have an obsession with decorative pillows. It’s an easy and comfy way to make my place look more homey. (Then again, my mom hates decorative pillows, so this may not be for you.) Even stores like TJ Maxx carry cute, cheap pillows to throw on that (probably not-so-cute) couch.

3. Candles or Incense

You’re out of the dorms now, and maybe have been for a long time. If you haven’t yet invested in some candles or incense, do so! I light candles during the day and lavender incense at night to keep my apartment smelling good all day (and all night) long!

4. Wall Art

I’m a huge fan of wall art because it doesn’t take up much space, it doesn’t add clutter to the top of drawers and desks… and yet it beautifies a home instantly. And there’s so many options! Look at or Etsy for some cool prints that fit your personality perfectly. Urban Outfitters also has a lot of beautiful artwork.

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Your Cleaning Schedule

But taking care of your home takes a lot more than just pretty decorations and air-purifying plants.

You’re the only one around now, so you’re the only one who can clean! As much as I’ve hated cleaning since childhood, I’ve learned to love it while living alone. There’s something about paying my own rent and being responsible for the condition of my apartment that spurs me to really care about how often I vacuum.

What I try to do is keep my cleaning on a schedule. There are certain things I try (try and sometimes fail) to do every day like hang up my clothes and put my shoes away. Other things, I only do two or three times a week, like wipe down my counters or do laundry. Still others I only do on a weekly basis, like vacuum or clean the bathroom. Setting up a schedule like this really helps me keep my apartment clean all the time.

Cleaning your home is important, but all that jazz can be hard to keep track of. Here’s a free Cleaning Schedule Checklist to help you keep on top of it!



Take Care of Yourself

Living alone gives you so many opportunities to do things to improve your mental, physical and spiritual wellbeing. Self-care is always important, but you’ll never be in a situation again where you can devote so much time to doing so. Here are some of the self-care practices I do at home:

1. Practice Yoga

I’ve written about yoga before, because it’s just that good. It’s a great way to either calm yourself or get energy, depending on what kind of routine you do. And practicing yoga at home means there’s no one around to stare at your butt in downward dog. Hell, I’ve even done yoga naked before, just because I can!

2. Learn to Love Tea

There are few drinks better for you than tea – real tea, that is. A new, loose leaf tea shop just opened next to my apartment complex and it’s glorious. Buying the tea by the ounce to take home is my favorite thing to do. There are teas that help with all sorts of things – sickness, cramps, energy, sleeping. The list is endless. (P.S. Check out our cool infographic guide to tea right here!)

3. Start a Wellness Journal

There are so many different ways to do this! My wellness journal is a pink Moleskine journal. The way I write in it changes every few months. Sometimes I’ll spend a lot of time writing affirmations. Other times I’ll journal about what I can do to improve my mental health. Other times, I keep track of my depression or anxiety levels. It’s really up to you and whatever you need in that moment.

4. Get a Pet

I deliberated for a long time on whether or not I should get a dog. I was pretty certain I wanted one, but friends and family wouldn’t stop talking about how much responsibility it is. Finally, I broke down crying to my parents (who weren’t telling me no, but I wanted their approval) and I think they finally understood how I more than wanted a dog. I needed one.

Living alone, despite all its perks, can sometimes feel lonely. If you sit home alone all the time, it doesn’t matter how much you journal or how much tea you drink. You’ll get bit by the loneliness bug. The best remedy to that, in my experience, is my dog. Yes, it’s a lot of responsibility. But she’s helped me cope on the days when living alone just isn’t so awesome.

Find Out Who You Are

I lived in a house with five other girls when I was an undergraduate student. Which was fine. We all have to do that at some point. It’s part of the college experience. But what I realized, when I moved into my own place, was that living with others can make knowing who you are really difficult, especially if you’re a people-pleaser like me. Being a different you around your friends isn’t bad. It’s still you. But there’s something about living alone that allows for so many opportunities to find out who you are, alone.

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What do you spend your spare time doing? Thinking about? How clean are you when it’s just you around? What Netflix shows do you get hooked on when no one is around to watch with you?

While it’s essential to go out and see friends, especially when living alone, you also are gifted with a wonderful amount of alone time with which to fill with all your favorite activities.

Do What You Love

Like I said above, living alone gives you a lot of time to do what you love to do. Living with others takes away some of those opportunities just because of the sheer number of distractions.

Your housemates are making dinner together. You roommate is hammocking in the backyard. Your friends are over for drinks or a Netflix binge. Of course you’re not going to pass up on those opportunities to spend with friends! But now, you don’t have those distractions. You’re all on your own, and you get to spend your free time how you want.

Below is a list of things you probably have wanted to do for a while but never had time. Do them now, while you’re in this wonderful state of aloneness:

1. Read that book (or books) that you’ve been meaning to read since last year.

2. Learn how to cook (or least learn to enjoy it, if you’re like me.)

3. Make a scrapbook of the undergrad years, or of the new friends you’ve met since moving.

4. Learn about wine or beer or cocktails. Pick your favorite and become a sommelier.

5. Plan a solo weekend getaway. It doesn’t have to be expensive. One or two nights in a cheap hotel in the closest big city will work. Explore!

6. Plan a solo road trip. If you’re in grad school like me, make spring break a time to go cross-country to visit friends who live in different states.

7. Clean out your closet! I’ve been doing a regular clean out of mine every few months since I moved and my closet is less stressful and more me.

8. Take a million bubble baths. Especially if you’re lucky enough to live in an all-bills paid apartment community. No water bill!

Make It Great

There are so many good things about living alone. But I won’t deny the fact that it does get lonely sometimes. Even so, it’s a great opportunity to learn how to be alone, and how to enjoy it! Our culture (especially for us millennials!) tells us to go, go, go – all the time! There are always people to see and things to do.

In the midst of all the craziness of our twenties, it’s easy to get swept up into the rush. Living alone provides a unique opportunity to take a step back from all that, relax, enjoy calmness and alone time, and learn more about ourselves. Embrace it while you can!

Don’t forget to download your checklist! Get it here:


About the Author

Maggie Marshall

Maggie is a senior English major at Abilene Christian University. She enjoys creative writing, reading everything she can get her hands on, and learning what it means to be a grown-up. After graduation, she plans to pursue a MFA in creative writing and perhaps a PhD after that, all while working on getting published and finding as many writing opportunities as possible. She would love to continue contributing to sites like GenTwenty and perhaps, after getting her doctorate, become a professor of creative writing at a university.