I was already into my mid-twenties when I finally decided that it was time to move out and live on my own. Having studied journalism and ventured both onto that career path and an obscure one away from it, I never really made enough money to do so which was the main reason for the delay. There is a lot of safety in staying in your parent’s home. I gave my mom money monthly and I would do chores and cook and clean as my rent there but there wasn't a worry when I resigned my job and was without work for a few months because there was still going to be a roof over my head, even if I couldn’t pay for it.
Eventually I saved up enough and decided to take the plunge, having been online looking for places most days. The search had been lengthy but luckily I only had to view four places before I found the right one. It was perfect for me, close to everything. a little garden cottage with a big bedroom and an amazing bathroom.
Having never rented before, I quickly saw and felt a bit of waste as I paid monthly rent but I was happy in my own space. It only took one car load to move my belongings because I had very little. No bed, no couch, no TV. Only a mattress on the floor, loads of books and all of my clothes which filled the cupboards. Slowly I built up what I needed. I purchased couch and coffee table at a second hand store. My boyfriend was kind enough to make a TV stand which also had space enough to hold the rest of my book collection.
The largest splurge for me was my mattress- brand new memory foam. It was delivered in plastic and remained in plastic, propped up against a wall until my boyfriend had completed the bed base he also offered to make.
Additional furniture I obtained over the duration of my stay included two more bookshelves – another made by my boyfriend and an incredible writing desk, made by – you guessed it, my boyfriend.
All of this was over a two year period and now that period has come to an end as I am looking for something new.
It was a really big deal to me to live alone. I wanted the independence and freedom (and stress) to know that I could say that I had done it all on my own. It empowered me and gave me a greater freedom and sense of ‘adulting’ than I anticipated.
I am a pretty good tenant I like to think. I don’t really have friends or people over. Don’t party with loud music (I do that at other people’s houses) I don’t come home super late or make a lot of noise. I have never been late with my rent and never broken anything. I think my worst transgressions where the two times I left the gate open by accident and the one time I let the dog out who was then picked up and taken to a vet. It’s been a great journey and I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. I learnt many lessons the hard way and feel that I would like to share that knowledge!
Here are a few things that I learned:
ALWAYS make sure that you have enough toilet paper. It’s a pretty crappy feeling (pun intended) having to scrounge around the kitchen for spare serviettes. I have also had to drive to a garage in the middle of the night because I had run out and had no other choice.
Pay your rent on time. It’s what will keep you memorable as a good tenant so that if you do move, there will be no bad recommendations. Also obviously you have to!
However messy you are, that’s how messy your place will stay. I usually clean my place once a week with a full sweep and floor washing. I tell my friends jokingly that the maid is coming because it is me. I couldn’t afford a domestic helper and for a place as little as mine it would actually be insulting really. HOWEVER, if you live in a larger place or with a partner who has messy tendencies, then set aside money every month for someone to help clean. This, along with a dishwasher, saves relationships.
Make your bed every morning. I am not the neatest person. I mean my house isn’t a terrible mess. It isn’t dirty but a little unorganised let’s call it. Living at home I would hear my sister justifying our unmade beds and even attempting to coerce my mom into leaving hers unmade by describing how satisfying it was to climb into the rumpled duvet and sheets. I believed her until I started making me bed every day and climbed into a nicely made bed every night. Simone, you are wrong!
Your fridge isn’t going to magically restock itself unfortunately. I spend weekends away from my place and would only get home after work late enough that all the grocery stores near me would already be closed so I would have to make a compromise and shop at this weird little Pick n Pay which made me severely unhappy but it was way better than dry crackers and popcorn for dinner which I had to resort to on numerous occasions.
Don’t underestimate the beauty of a real stove if you love to cook. Places that offer those little two plate oven thingys (like the one I have) really limit you in your culinary delights. It is not easy not being able to cook lovely meals or bake. I have a piece of boerewors and a chicken breast that have been in my freezer for over a year now as I have just had no desire to cook them and at this point I think it may be too late.
Cooking for one is BORING and difficult. For the most part my dinners, when I am home alone tend to be an oven baked crumbed chicken fillet or potato fish wedges with salad and couscous or pasta. And if I am feeling particularly lazy then just tomatoes, cucumber, cheese and crackers. This is a stark contrast compared to the goulash, cakes, chicken a la king, pork chops, cookies and dumplings I make at my boyfriend’s place as he has a very sexy oven with gas stove top.
Living on your own can get lonely. I enjoy my own company by nature and have never really had many friends. So I spend most evenings on my own with the occasional night with friends. My partner on the other hand, has many friends and is often out with them in the week which leaves me feeling a bit cross but I know it is only by my doing. I have many books and a hard drive full of shows to keep me company though. And in the times I do feel particularly lonely, there isn’t much a big glass of wine, chocolate and a bubble bath can’t fix.
Peeing with the door open and walking around naked are super fun things to do. I couldn’t do that when I was staying with my family. It wasn’t possible to sleep naked or walk from the bathroom to the bedroom where my clothes were. Granted, living in a garden cottage does mean that the owners are here often so I am wary but I don’t think that they really look into my place. And if they do, then unfortunately they have seen a lot of pale butt.
Make your place your own. Decorate and express who you are. I am not an interior decorater by a long shot but I like to think I have taste in my eclectic pieces and styles. Part of the reason that I would like to move is that I was never really able to make this place my own. I loved it here no doubt but it was also once a garage so it is long with a lounge that is very dark unfortunately. When you move in with your partner, there are going to be a lot of compromises. If you love pink frills and Hello Kitty as I do, then it is better to express that before moving in together so that you don’t feel resentment when the idea of pink curtains and animated covers are vetoed.
It’s an amazing feeling to entertain in your space. Your rules, your crockery, your meals. You call all the shots and it feels wonderful catering for those you love.
Every noise you hear at night is not a serial killer. Surprisingly. This may just be my own unfounded fears as I do have a tendency for paranoia and read scary books which don’t really help the cause. Obviously as a lady living alone you always need to be wary. Check no one is around when you open the gate if you are coming home at night and make sure it is all the way shut before you get out. Let people know where you are going. I have pepper spray that I keep with me in case I feel a little worried (which is a far better option than the scissors I once had). A garden cottage is also ideal for me because I travel and even though I still have to pay rent for the unoccupied space, at least I know that someone is going to be around there, even when I am not.
Living alone is an experience that I would recommend you give a bash if you haven’t already and are thinking about it. Having your own space, a place to call your own (as well as us Millennials can that is) is the feeling of accomplishment that can only be outshone by owning your own house but that may not be on the cards until I am a published author bringing in the big bucks so for now I am happy with a garden cottage.