Moving home is classed as a key life moment but, if you’re doing it by yourself, it can feel overwhelming. There’s a lot to consider and all the responsibility is on your shoulders.
Whether you’re living alone because you’re choosing to or because you have no other option, you have the potential to make it a positive, life-defining experience. By seizing control and managing your situation, you can discover a new sense of independence and freedom which you may not have felt before.
If you’re looking for advice on living alone for the first time or how to get used to living alone, here are a few key tips:
Managing your finances is one of the biggest challenges you’ll face when you first start living alone so it’s important to take control early. Make a list of all your fixed monthly expenses including:
- rent or mortgage payments
- utility bills such as electricity, gas and water
- council tax
- communications such as broadband, TV, phone and mobile
- travel including car payments, car tax, MOT, petrol and commuting
- groceries covering food, drink and household products
- clothing and personal items
- spending money for socialising, clubs and hobbies, eating out, gifts and treats
- savings – what can you save each month for a rainy day or for big ticket items?
Allocate an estimated but realistic budget for each category. Track your spending each month by keeping receipts or via banking apps. Review this monthly to see if you’re within budget and adjust accordingly – spreadsheets are your friend here! If your total spend exceeds your income, look at where you can cut back. Can you make savings by switching utility or comms suppliers, shopping around in supermarkets or buying ambient items in bulk? Only dip into any savings if this is a last resort or if you’re only doing so for a fixed time. If you need help, financial assistance could be available depending on your circumstances. Visit Turn2Us for information on grants, benefits or schemes which may be available to you.
Managing the household
First up, get at least one spare key cut – just in case. Give one to someone you trust such as a family member, friend or a neighbour. That way, if you ever get locked out or have any issues, you’ve got a backup.
Next, find out who you’d need to contact in the event of an emergency. This includes a plumber, electrician, local police, doctor surgery and locksmith.
For minor repairs, equip yourself to be able to handle these yourself where you can. This could be something as simple as stocking up on lightbulbs and batteries for your smoke alarm but it’s also worth buying a small tool kit. There are some great basic DIY guides and YouTube videos you can use as a reference. Trying to learn how to do small things by yourself is a huge step in self-reliance whether it’s a household repair or cooking for yourself. However, if all else fails, get a recommendation for a local, reliable handyman who can help you out when needed.
When it comes to jobs, write a list of everything that needs doing and when. This makes the tasks feel more manageable and can include everything from paying bills, household maintenance and upkeep as well as cleaning jobs. Prioritise which are urgent or essential and schedule time to get these done. Put reminders on your calendar or on your phone for time-sensitive items such as bill payment dates and deadlines.
Make it feel like home:
One of the most liberating feelings of living on your own can come from making your home your own without having to consult anyone on what colour to paint your walls or what lives where. Develop your own style with the colours and interiors you love and make you feel cosy, calm and happy spending time at home. This is your space; you can do with it what you want. And when it comes to furnishing your home, it doesn’t have to be expensive. Check out your local charity shops, Freecycle and GumTree and look out for any community re-use groups on Facebook where you can find pre-loved items at affordable prices or, in some cases, for free. Add your own stamp by upcycling it with a lick of paint, stencils or transfers.
Explore your local area
One of the positive things to come from lockdown was how many of us got to know our neighbourhoods and locality more. Whether you’re in a new place or somewhere familiar, take the time to get to know it better. This can include introducing yourself to your neighbours so you can look out for each other in times of need, shopping in local businesses, exploring walking routes and making the most of local amenities from leisure centres to libraries. You’ll not only discover hidden gems, you’ll also make new friends, become part of the community and be making a contribution to those who live and work in your neighbourhood.
There’s a difference between living alone and loneliness, although there are times when you may feel lonely when you live alone. If you allow yourself to be cut off, you’ll stop engaging with others which can leave you feeling isolated. As humans, we naturally crave interaction and, without it, we can start to feel lonely. To combat this, find opportunities to socialise regularly. Schedule meet ups with family and friends both in person and over the phone.
If you’re new in a town or don’t have an established network of friends, seek out activities where you’ll meet new people. If there’s a hobby you’ve always loved doing but haven’t had a chance to do it in years, this could be the time to rekindle it. Or take up a new sport or hobby such as tennis, dancing, hiking, gym or an exercise class as well as art groups, book clubs, church or volunteering. Visit your local library and community centre to see what they’ve got going on. You can also try a friend-finding social app which introduces like-minded people living locally. If you’re a little bit older, Age UK runs a befriending service.
Even if you’re not leaving the house, get up and have breakfast, wash and get dressed. It will help you start the day on a positive mindset and make you feel better. Try and plan something in your schedule each day, no matter how big or small so you’ve always got something to either look forward to or focus on which will break up long days. And take a step back to savour the solitude and take time for you. Practice mindfulness, get to know yourself and enjoy your own company and think about your life goals and how you’re going to achieve them. Turn feelings of loneliness into independence and freedom.
If you need help
If you’re living alone for the first time, it can take time to adjust. And even people who have lived alone for years can find it challenging at times.
Loneliness is nothing to be ashamed of and it is important to seek support in times of need. If you’re struggling, reach out to a family member or friend and tell them how you feel. They will want to help you and sometimes it’s the little things that make the difference whether it’s meeting for a cup of tea each week or a catch-up phone call or message checking in that everything is okay. If you’re not sure who to talk to, there are a huge range of people out there waiting to hear from you. Here are some organisations which can help: