Did you know that more than 50 percent of American adults are single, and 31 million (approximately one out of every seven adults) lives alone? In sociologist Eric Klinenberg’s recent book Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone, he hones in on a cultural shift that is occurring not only in America, but in most industrialized countries around the globe.
For those of you who are living alone and loving it, you probably aren’t surprised by these numbers, but if you are someone who is currently living with someone and contemplating making the move to live on your own, or maybe you’re someone who is living alone and just isn’t able to be at peace with your new living arrangement yet, I’d like to share the benefits I have found having lived alone for the past eleven years (by choice).
Let me begin by saying, the first few months I had the opportunity to live alone was when I was a sophomore in college when my roommate had moved back home for the summer as I stayed to work. Without the knowledge that someone was around was daunting and threw my sense of balance off a bit, but what I came to discover was that once I approached it with the appropriate mindset and realized how much freedom I had to design my own life, I was giddy about the lack of constraints.
Needless to say, my roommate returned, and the rest of my undergrad experience went quite well sharing my apartment with someone, but I had had a taste of a way of living, and I was bitten.
It all began in grad school, and I haven’t looked back since. Here are ten benefits of living alone, and why at least at some point in your adult life, you should give it a try.
1. Become more in tune with who you are
When you have the safety of four walls to do as you please without being judged, you are most likely to gravitate toward interests, activities, behaviors and reading material that you genuinely are drawn to without editing. Between the music you find most soothing and restorative, to the monthly and weekly magazines you subscribe to or the food that you prefer to eat, when you know you aren’t being observed, you relax and your true self eventually emerges.
Choosing to live on your own forces you to think about how you will design the life you want. Whether you love to cook, so you plan a festive dinner party, or if you love wine, you map out wineries and invite friends to join you for a weekend of wine-tasting, you have to look to yourself to find sources of entertainment and pleasure, and you can no longer rely on your roommate or spouse’s world to provide these aspects.
Creativity also comes into play with how you decorate. I have had more fun seeking out treasures at consignment shops and yard sales to decorate my home just as I had envisioned it, because when it all comes together, there is an enormous sense of satisfaction.
By choosing to live alone, you are saying to yourself, I can do this. I have learned more about taking care of my pipes, how to handle and properly work with an old radiator system for my heat, how to decrease my electricity and water bill to stay within my budget, and so much more. It’s kind of like knowing how to change a tire. When you know you can take care of yourself, you stamp out some fear that may have existed and your confidence gets a boost.
4. Fiscal Responsibility
Choosing to live alone in today’s modern society is a sign of financial independence. In fact, the majority of elderly men and women would prefer to live on their own and not with their children if they could financially afford it. Why is that? Well, you have more control to design a life that is conducive to your needs and desires.
Not only is it a sign of financial independence, but living alone also teaches responsibility as you are the only one tending to your bills – making sure they are paid on time and tending to the up keep of your home. However, when you do step up and take on these responsibilities, you also reap the rewards which include all the points I am discussing here today.
5. True Relaxation
One of my favorite things to do after a long day at work, or after coming home after a few days or weeks from home, is to fill my claw foot tub with soothing Verbena bubble bath, turn on soft French music and melt. When you live alone, there is a peace of mind in knowing that your schedule within your own home is your own. You don’t have to wait for someone to get out of the bathroom, you don’t have to shut out the noise from the blare of the television, and you can rest assured that if the bathroom was clean when you left, it will be clean when you return.
6. Ability to Focus
Whether it’s your workout routine that you adhere to each morning, the diet you are ascribing too or the work you are trying to get done in your home office, living alone allows you the flexibility and solitude to be uninterrupted, reduce temptations and erase the majority of distractions so that what you are trying to achieve will be accomplished.
7. Strengthens Social Life
What Klinenberg discovered about people who lived alone versus those who lived with a family, partner or roommate what that the former actually had stronger social lives. Why? Living alone prompts you to step outside to seek entertainment, seek activities outside the home; thereby, creating the opportunity to meet more and different people. Also, with the popular-use of social media, we are now better able to stay in contact with friends and family without having to live with them.
8. Strengthens Emotional Well-Being
Living alone does not equate to being lonely. Any one of us could be in a room with a sea of people and still feel lonely. Ultimately, we control our thoughts and our attitudes, and that is what dictates whether we feel alone or at peace with our own company.
9. Create a Serene Sanctuary
Everyone needs a safe and welcoming place to go to when it seems nothing is going right, or when you need a place to just shut out the noise, the gossip, and the demands of the world, family and friends. While it is possible to have a sanctuary while living with others, it can sometimes be more difficult. So when you live alone, at the end of a week of presentations, over-planning and lengthy to-do lists, knowing you can come home to a place that will ask nothing of you except making sure you’ve paid the rent/mortgage is quite comforting.
10. A Healthy Way to Set Boundaries
The decision to live alone comes with more responsibility (financially, etc), but socially and emotionally it makes it much easier to set boundaries. Whether it is your family, your friends or even the person you are dating, having your own home sets a very clear line in the sand. At this point it is up to the homeowner/renter to dictate who is welcome and for how long.
Recently, Kate Bolick’s contributed an article to Elle (US) magazine that explores the idea of living separately from you spouse in order to cultivate a stronger relationship “Divide and Conquer: Married but Separate”. While I doubt that this is the domestic structure I would want if I choose to get married, I did find her article to contain some interesting concepts as to why so many couples (those without children) are choosing what initially seems to be an odd approach, might actually, depending upon the couple, be quite beneficial and attractive.
Choosing to live alone is an exhilarating experience that I highly recommend. While some may still try to stigmatize those that choose to live alone or simply not be able to understand why, it takes strength to want to get to know yourself. It takes respect for yourself to desire to know what it is that truly makes you giddy and rejuvenated. Living alone will give you the opportunity to answer each of these questions.
Whether you choose to live alone for a year or thirty years, do it for the adventure and see what you discover. You might just come to find that there is a part of you that is simply waiting to shine.