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The truth of living alone as a graduate

As a young adult venturing out into the 'real' world post University, I didn't anticipate to find myself living alone only 9 months later. Choosing to live alone seems like an almost taboo subject, particularly with those of a similar age to myself. The concept, understandably, comes with a lot of concerns around loneliness, safety, cost and social isolation. In essence, living alone is not for everyone. But, it can also be a great option, no matter your age or circumstance.

Who you are as a person in many areas of your life has a vital role to play when deciding on the living situation that best suits you. Sometimes, we don't have a great deal of choice in the matter and find our situation based upon convenience rather than personal preference. However I do feel that even some who may love the idea of living alone, are worried about taking the plunge.

Now my personal situation will not reflect everyone else's but I hope it can provide some insight and advice to somebody who may be contemplating the decision. At University, I always lived with others. The number of others did dwindle as the years went on, with my first year being 7 of us and my final being four. Regardless, I was used to the continual social interactions, limited me time and energetic atmosphere that brought with it.

Now, I loved University. Never did I have second thoughts about leaving home to move into a flat with 6 other people - the thought only filled me with excitement. In all honesty, I'm not sure where I would fall on the introvert/extrovert scale. Looking back, as I've gotten older I think I have moved slightly more towards the introvert side than I perhaps used to lie. Being in my own company does not bother me, in fact I often feel frustrated when I go too long without time to myself. Having said that, I thrive off of social situations and love being surrounded by my friends or out doing enjoyable things with others. Often I used to find my weekends continually pre-booked up with social plans, but I wouldn't have had it any other way. One thing that irritated me most during the pandemic was the inability to get to know my new colleagues in a more social environment. So, I know I am also quite extroverted in these ways.

Given this quite evident divide in my personality - I had always been quite conflicted on whether living alone would suit me. Would I get lonely? Would I get bored? Would I feel uneasy?

During University, the biggest bugbear of mine was that the space was not my own. Admittedly I am quite particular about how tidy I like my space to be, so living with others who had different perceptions could often grate on that. Generally, I was very lucky. Some student flats, and definitely the stereotype created, are quite honestly gross. My friends and I had a clean and tidy flat in comparison, which we ensured to keep up the whole four years. Looking at my flat now as I sit typing away on my laptop, our student abode was still not always quite how I'd have liked - but that is the nature of living at University, something I would never have traded for the world.

To me, the idea of having my own space that I could not only entirely decide on the cleanliness and tidiness of but also the decor highly appealed to me. So much so that this outweighed any of the social worries for me. Which is why I have ended up in the living situation I'm in - renting my own flat.

Let me share the key things I have learnt so far in living alone as a recent graduate;

It's more expensive

Now this probably goes without saying. Paying rent and all the bills that come with a household on your own is much more expensive that splitting with others or paying just to rent a room in a shared house. It isn't until you look into living alone that you always even realise all of the expenses that are actually involved. Particularly if you are fresh out of University halls, the joys of council tax and water bills are unknown territory. (Although, fun fact, you get a 25% reduction on your council tax bill if you live alone - a nice perk.) Considering the amount that your overall monthly outgoings are going to add up to is a big factor influencing your decision, as you want to be able to live comfortably alone and not struggle financially to do so.

Another obvious expense is if you take a place that is unfurnished - as I did. There are ways to do this on the cheaper side, utilising places like IKEA and continually scouring the likes of Gumtree and Facebook Marketplace to find some second hand gems. When looking at pre-loved furniture, I always find it helps to imagine it with a lick of paint or some sticky back vinyl. Sometimes you can make the piece fit your aesthetic much cheaper than searching for a piece that already does so. Having said that, it's also good to let yourself buy some 'treat' pieces. Even if you are trying to do something with a limited budget, certain items are better bought quality. Buying something once and it lasting a considerable length of time is better than it breaking or you throwing it out in a year or so because it was never to your taste.

Obviously the excitement of having your own place also often equals a lot of extra cash going on cute home décor pieces to help pull it all together. But, in my opinion, this is one of the highlights.

If you're comfortable in your own company, you will love it.

It's been a rare occurrence, so far, that I've found myself sat on my sofa in an evening feeling bored or lonely.

As mentioned previously, I'm someone who enjoys their own company and having that me time. Knowing I can watch whatever I wish on Netflix, cook and eat dinner whenever I please or even do a home workout at any time of the night, really sits well with me. Working a regular 9-5 job, even when from home, means I am having frequent contact with others during the day. I often have weekend plans arranged with friends or family or occasions to be socialising with peers after work and am also part of a local running club who's sessions I would normally be attending at least twice a week. Therefore, never have I found the time in the flat by myself to be a lonely or isolating experience, but rather a relaxing, calming one. Sitting and watching a film alone does not phase me, nor does getting out for a solo lunch time walk, rather they give me time to be present with myself and in my own thoughts.

After living at University and having to always consider others, their plans and their actions, I love having nobody to think about other than myself and how I want to spend my time. It's a much more freeing mindset and serene atmosphere to be in, something I feel essential for your living environment. Sitting and reading a book as I drink my morning coffee on the sofa has never been more enjoyable. Don't get me wrong, I loved living with some of my closest friends for those four years. But in my personal opinion, there became a point in which I felt the move to my own space was a necessary one.

You decide who is in your space

The extra space and privacy that living alone provides is definitely an enjoyable aspect. Everyone wants their home to feel like their safe space, somewhere they can retreat back to after a long day and feel at ease and relaxed. However, when living with others there is always that slight 'fear of the unknown'. Are they going to have friends over tonight? Are they using the kitchen to cook for their family? Personally, I never minded this at University too much but I can say that I now greatly appreciate having full run of my own space without ever feeling like I am having to stay cooped up in a bedroom.

Similarly on the other end of the scale, when you want to invite friends or family over, there is nobody else you have to consider or make aware. This was never a problem for me at University, since we were all happy for others' friends to stay at ours for the weekend. But it is a good feeling to know that nobody else's opinion can cause any conflict in your weekend plans.

You have to do all of the chores - even putting out the bins

Another obvious statement, yet one that may shock some recent graduates. In our student flat we had designated chores we tended to do to ensure there was an even split of effort between us. However - moving in alone, you begin to realise there is no longer a flat mate to take out the overflowing bin bag or stock up your depleting supply of toilet rolls. All of these chores are down to you.

Luckily, I am somebody who enjoys cleaning. I find it therapeutic and love the feeling of a freshly cleaned flat. But with no one else ever wiping down the kitchen sides or bleaching the toilet, I've come to realise how much cleaning is required when living alone. And it's a lot. Keeping your cleaning supplies fully stocked is essential because they run out quicker than you would believe. Although the rewarding sensation experienced after a full solo spring clean is well worth it.

I'm not naïve and I am sure there will be times in the future where I sit wishing I had somebody here to talk to after a long day at work. But as of yet, my own experience of transitioning from living at University to living alone has been a positive one all around. I too was nervous to take the plunge, but when life handed me the opportunity, I thought why not? Deep down, I knew I would enjoy it. Knowing myself and my perspective on time alone, as well as my particularities about my environment, I knew it would suit me.

Yes, I do miss my friends and having them around more frequently. However with University coming to an end, I felt like I had really lived that experience and thoroughly made the most of that time of my life.

Yet, it still in some ways felt like the wrong thing to do in my early twenties. A decision I would come to regret.

You may be in this decision phase and thinking, but I'm still young so why would I want to live alone? Whereas, I think of this time in my life as still being young enough to live alone and enjoy my own space - we have years of likely cohabiting with partners and eventually family ahead of us. Why not steal this time as a young adult to truly embrace living for you?

In reality, it's been one of the best decisions I have made. Since moving in, my mind has felt much clearer day-to-day and I've felt much more at ease in my surroundings. Not to mention that finally having somewhere I can decorate how I want is the D R E A M. (Within reason, as I do still rent and therefore unfortunately have restrictions).

I would love to think that this jumble of words on the page has somewhat helped someone in making their decision, or at least provided some insight into living alone as a graduate or young adult. If you have any questions surrounding this topic, be sure to post them in the comments below and I will do my best to offer some guidance based on my own experience. Additionally, if anybody would be interested in a post on 'single room living' and how I have adapted to life in a studio flat, please let me know in the comments.

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

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