Sometimes you can find yourself living on your own, whether through your own choice or due to circumstances beyond your control.
Maybe a relationship has ended or your partner has passed away, maybe the kids have left home. There are many reasons why you could find yourself living alone. For some people, living alone feels like a positive choice – a step into independence – while for others, it can be a shock to the system, especially if you’ve always lived with someone. While it’s common to worry about feeling lonely or unsafe, living on your own can also be enjoyable and liberating.
When you live alone, you become responsible for managing your entire household on your own. That can feel overwhelming at first, particularly if there are things like paying the bills or cooking the meals that you’ve never done before.
The challenges involved in learning to live on your own will vary depending on what age and stage you are in life, so we’ve put together some tips to assist.
1. Have friends around
Living solo is the perfect opportunity to have friends around or entertain. It can be a nice change to have a space that is usually quiet, full of people and chatter. Aim to focus on meaningful connections with people who are supportive of your goals and dreams. Who is there for you when you need to pick up the phone and download, or simply chat? Remember, you only get out of friendships what you are willing to put in. Make sure you’re just as available to listen, to hear and be heard, share your feelings and support others as they support you.
2. Stay socially connected
When you first start living alone, there might be times when you struggle more with being by yourself. If you can’t face another Friday night home alone, have a plan and take action. This could be around reaching out to another friend or group to set up a regular catch-up. It could mean changing your routine and staying around for Friday night work drinks.
The key is to get out and about, catch up with friends and family and have regular social contact. Join a group, take up a sport, hobby or volunteer work. If you find the evenings lonely, take up an evening activity like a regular quiz team to get yourself out of the house. If you’re an older person, having someone you can phone to check in with daily or weekly can help you stay connected. If it’s hard for you to get out, you could organise a regular ‘cooking’ night with a friend where you both make the same meal and share/eat it online together.
3. Develop a passion!
When you live alone, you have more time to indulge your creative side or explore the things that bring you joy. You might want to revisit a hobby you’d cast aside, write a book, start a blog or learn a language. You might even want to study for a diploma or degree, to get the skills to propel you towards a whole new career.
4. Make your home your sanctuary
You are the master or mistress of your domain and can do what you like. You can have your house looking the way you like it, you can do what you want when you want, you can watch what you want and you don’t have to deal with other people’s quirky habits.
If you’re used to living a certain way, start small to really make the place your own. Try moving things around to suit the way you live now – eg, swap your bedroom for the sunnier office space or vice versa. Add splashes of personality with photos, pictures and new cushions. Paint a wall (check with your landlord if you’re renting) your favourite colour. Your space should be a place you enjoy coming back to, and where you feel safe and relaxed.
5. Sort out the basics – finances, housework and DIY
It can be easy to let the housework slide when you live alone. Have a set day each week when you clean and tidy even if you think it doesn’t look too bad. While you’re at it, invest in a few ‘beautiful’ things that really make you smile. It might be a scented hand soap, a bunch of flowers for the coffee table, or anything that makes your physical surroundings feel good.
If something breaks or needs fixing, you might find yourself wondering what to do next, especially if you’re used to having someone else sort that for you. It might be worth investing in a beginner's toolkit so you can tighten a screw or hammer a nail in. Before you call a tradesperson, take a look at YouTube or somewhere else online; often it’s possible to teach yourself what to do, and you can learn a new skill at the same time.
The same goes for managing your finances – paying the bills, doing your taxes. There’s often plenty of help available online, or you could ask a friend to help you sort out banking, automatic payments etc.
Another must-have when you’re living solo is a decent first aid kit. If you hurt yourself, there’s nobody there to help, so you need to have a good kit at hand. In fact, having an emergency kit is essential for everyone, regardless of whether you live alone or with others.
6. Freeze meals
When you live alone it can seem like a chore to cook every night and it can be hard to cook something just for one. A good idea is to cook enough for a few meals and then freeze the remainder. That way you have ready-made meals for later on and you’re not wasting food. Food box delivery services also have ‘meal-for-one’ options.
7. Meet your neighbours
If you don't know your neighbours, introduce yourself to them and invite them around for a coffee or drink. Neighbours can help you out if you’re in a pickle, and vice versa. You may want to give your neighbour's phone number to close friends and family who don't live nearby, in case they can't get hold of you. It’s reassuring to know your neighbours are there to pop over or help in some way should you need it.
8. Check your security and have a spare key
It’s common to worry about safety when you live alone. Make sure you check your place is secure. Are the window latches all secure? Are the doors secure? Is there good outside lighting? Check the security alarm works or get one installed if you can afford it.
If you get locked out when you live on your own things can get quite tricky! Without someone else living in the house who has a key to let you in, you need to be extra careful. Have a spare key that is not in the house – perhaps with a neighbour or somewhere well hidden outside. Another option is to fit an electronic lock with a number code.
9. Consider a pet
Many people who live alone have a pet. Some might like a dog for security (and to bark when someone is at the front door!), others love the company. Spending time with animals has some great health benefits – and if you’re walking the dog, it can be a great way to break the ice and start a conversation with a fellow pet lover.
10. Go away for the weekend
If the house feels extra quiet on the weekend, why not pack your bags and go away? Visit friends or family or join a travel group.
Living alone may not be for everyone!
If you find yourself living alone and you don’t like it, you’re not stuck with it. You could rent out a spare room, get a boarder, or move house to live with friends, family or flatmates. If you’re older, it might be time to think about shared community living or a retirement home where there is plenty of company. Ultimately if living alone isn’t a positive choice for you, it might be worth exploring other options.
How to live alone well The Live Alone Project, UK
The 7 greatest freedoms of living alone The Live Alone Project, UK
- How to live alone well The Live Alone Project, UK, 2022