By Amanda Brown
Living on your own for the first time is an eye opener.
It’s your initiation into adult land, the world that seemed bazillions of years away when you were living at home. This is a new territory–an experience that unleashes a fresh world marked by independence, freedom and new responsibilities. Stepping out on your own can feel both liberating and overwhelming at the same time.
You make your own decisions, but you are also fully responsible for the repercussions of each decision you make. A few of the major changes that occur when you move out on your own for the first time involve possibly adjusting to living with a roommate, all of the little things you were never aware of but are now responsible for, learning how to budget your money, keeping up with cleaning, and learning to be a considerate neighbor.
If you are sharing your first place with a roommate, it’s an adjustment learning how to live with someone who you’ve never lived with before. When you’re living at home with your parents, it’s different, because you’ve lived with them all of your life. When you move in with a roommate for the first time, you need to learn how to communicate with each other, establish boundaries, and respect each other.
While you may not have given a second thought to polishing off mom’s Oreos sitting in the cupboard at home, out of respect for your roommate it’s better to hold back and buy your own (or at least ask first). Showing respect for each other is key to keeping everyone happy. Little things like giving your roommate a heads up before you invite people over, pulling your weight when it comes to cleaning, pitching in on buying house supplies, and keeping the noise down when your roommates sleeping all go a long way.
One other important thing to know: Just because you’re great friends doesn’t mean you’ll be great roommates. Pick your roommates carefully–you’ll have to spend a lot of time in the same areas and it can be easy to get on each other’s nerves if you have very different lifestyles.
Now you’re in charge of paying rent, utilities, and stocking your fridge. Your whole approach to spending money changes to adapt to your new responsibilities. You shift from simply spending money to actually managing the money you spend to make sure you have enough to cover your bills for the month and put food on the table. You can’t just spend until there’s nothing left. You have to actually plan.
It may take several encounters of hangry trips to the grocery store where you plow through the isles loading your cart down with chips, pints of Ben & Jerry’s, and chocolate croissants and seeing how far those grocery hauls get you through the weeks. After experience, you’re more likely to load up on goods that are lasting and necessary. In short, having your own place makes you think twice before you buy on impulse and figure out how to stretch a dollar.
Your parents are no longer around to nag you to clean up after yourself. Now, cleaning isn’t something that you’re being told to do, it’s part of your responsibility of caring for your domain. It’s easy to put off cleaning for later, so it takes some discipline to keep your crib looking spiffy. When you live on your own, you begin to realize why you’re cleaning in the first place. You want to keep your house looking nice and have friends over without hiding the heaping pile of crusty dishes under the sink and jamming all your dirty laundry in your closet 5 minutes before your guests arrive.
It just takes one embarrassing encounter to remind you why it’s much nicer to keep your place clean than have to worry about your friend stumbling upon your dirty underwear when they go to the bathroom.
It may be your own place but you still have people living next to you, above you, below you, or all three. If you go from living in a house to an apartment, it’s easy to underestimate how loud you can be to everyone around you. Being able to have anyone over without having your parents around can be one of the best parts of living on your own. However, you still need to be considerate of your neighbors. Nothing squashes newfound independence like getting evicted within the first month of living on your own–explain that one to mom and dad.
Apartment dwelling doesn’t mean that you’re condemned to games of silent charades whenever you have friends over. Just be aware of how loud you are and keep the noise down at night. If you want to throw a party, talk to your neighbors beforehand and get their approval. Communication really is the key.
Many of the differences between living at home and living on your own for the first time lie in the little things.
You know the minuscule tasks that were always taken care of when you weren’t watching by some majestic house fairy? The trash would seem to magically empty itself, rolls of toilet paper would appear out of nowhere, dinner would somehow make its way onto your plate, the cable installation guy just knew when you needed cable and happened to be there at your doorstep ready to do his thing. It isn’t until you move out that you begin to uncover the secrets behind these mysteries and that in fact, it’s not all that magical.
You take out the trash, you buy the toilet paper, you cook dinner (or put in our order for takeout), you call the cable guy and wait for him to show up, you schedule your doctor and dentist appointments. Cooking is a big one. Not everyone had parents that cooked dinner all the time while they were at home, but for those of you who did, I hope you acquired some cooking skills in the process. A diet of top ramen and gas station nachos is only sustainable for so long. You will eventually need to learn how to cook meals for yourself.
All in all, living on your own for the first time is a valuable learning experience. It gives you a newfound taste of independence, responsibility and shapes the way you think. You learn how to be considerate of others, stop taking the little things for granted, manage your money, and make decisions for yourself.