Living On Your Own: A Survival Guide

Your first apartment away from your parents has become a rite of passage for many young folks. In my experience, I was a few years older than the average young adult. A few years shy of my 30th birthday, I achieved this milestone.

In the year leading up to my first solo apartment, I was living with 3 other 20-somethings in an apartment that had been converted from a working convent. We were all a part of a one year Voluntary Service term in a diverse community in the southern part of the US. We received a living stipend in exchange for volunteering with organizations in the city.

Living in a small space with 3 other people from diverse backgrounds can be fun. It can also have its trials. Despite the trials, I was grateful to delay living alone. As you’ll recall, I had anxiety about the thought of living alone. This more than likely was due to my disability and the fear of what to do if someone were to break in. As the year drew closer to being finished, I had moments of panic, but one day, a funny thing happened. I woke up and, as if a switch had been flipped, I felt more than ready to live on my own.

The experience of living in my first apartment alone taught me a few things I’d like to pass on to those about to make the switch. I hope you find these 3 tips helpful:

1. Know your neighbors. Sometimes it’s hard to live in a new place, surrounded by strange people. Getting to know those folks is helpful though. Especially if you get yourself into trouble. I remember one morning I woke up to get ready for work, but couldn’t find my keys. I searched all over. Then I opened my front door–there they were, still in the key hole. Of course panic ensued, but one of my neighbors came over to explain I had nothing to worry about because he had seen my keys in the door, and because of this kept watch over my apartment ALL NIGHT to make sure no one broke in. He didn’t knock on my door when he first saw them because it was late and he didn’t want to scare me. Through this experience I also learned that if I do something stupid and it scares me enough, I make sure it never happens again, which leads me to….

2. To prevent yourself from leaving your keys in the door, make a habit of unlocking the door, then immediately taking your keys out of said door, and putting them back in your purse or pocket (or murse– Come on, you know you have one 😉 )

3. Research how much utilities usually run in your area for the size of apartment you’ll be in. Funny story-I learned this the hard way. My apartment was newly constructed–in fact the first time I walked through it was not finished. So, several months later, after I moved in and got my first month’s electric bill, I didn’t realize it was maybe a bit too high. I paid it anyway, no questions asked. After this I turned off the AC and opened the windows, thinking I’d save money. The next month my bill was even higher than the month before. In fact the bill was $270.53. Did I mention my apartment was only one bedroom? I didn’t pay right away, but called the utility company and was told the bill was correct. In tears and panic, I wrote a check and thought to myself, “well, this living on my own thing really does suck.” Fortunately I talked to my landlord’s office a few days later, and they agreed to come out and check my utility box to make sure everything was wired properly. They discovered that the wiring from my apartment was installed BACKWARDS (at the utility box) and was actually installed to control the laundry room and the lights on the outside perimeter of the complex. The lights on the perimeter came on when the sun went down, but the laundry room lights could NEVER be turned off!! Needless to say, a short phone call to the utility company and I was set straight, my account was credited and I was able to go without an electric bill for about 6 months. If I had done my research ahead of time, this could have been prevented.

If you are facing the reality of living in your first apartment alone, it can be scary. Understand you are not alone! I found prayer to also be a helpful tool when I was scared.

I hope you found these tips helpful. Please pass this list on to anyone you think would find them useful. I’ll see you again tomorrow.


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