Except for the two years I shared a flat with a friend, I have been living on my own for about 13 years already.
It’s definitely not a usual thing in the Philippines, where most people live with their parents until they get married, but I’m lucky enough to have parents that preached responsibility and independence that I didn’t have any problems when I said I wanted live on my own.
People tell you a lot of things when you say that you want to move out of your parents’ home – some of them good – most of them are meant to scare you to be careful. Are they helpful? Sometimes. But there are some important things they don’t tell you.
So, what I’m going to do now is to share with you some things I’ve figured out as a single woman living on her own.
The bills will always surprise you
Doesn’t matter if you’ve prepared for it, the bills will always be a shock. Because sometimes electricity have different charges depending on the zoning of your new place. Sometimes that nice shiny appliance you had to get takes up so much power when being used.
Sometimes, there is a hidden leak that’s causing your water bill to shoot up. Or maybe you just didn’t expect everything to cost that much.
It will surprise you and it will frustrate you in the beginning, because now it’s your money that you’re using to pay for these bills.
But give it a couple of months and you will be able to figure out what your bills should look like based on your regular consumption, and a couple more to adjust it based on your budget.
I’ve learned to really be mindful of my bills, cutting down on things that I can cut down. For example, do I really need that much internet data allowance on my phone if I’m getting a separate fiber internet line? Which is more energy efficient: an electric kettle or a stovetop one?
(This is assuming, of course, that you’ll be paying for everything on your own.)
Tip: Study your bills when they arrive so you get an idea of what your activities cost in relation to your utilities.
“Yeah, but how am I going to clean that” will feature more in your thought process when shopping
Of course you’ll be excited to style your space the way you want it, getting inspiration from online posts and magazines and all that shit.
But the moment you realise that having your space means you get to organise and clean it yourself as well, you’re going to start thinking along the lines of convenience.
This is not a bad thing. Generally, it makes you more mindful of the things you purchase, and has the added perk of you discovering where your inclinations space style-wise lie.
For me, I will never collect figurines or table top displays. I will not be the type to style my dining table with centre pieces or flowers. I think it’s mainly because I grew up in a home with a loooot of these and of course we had to clean them. So, I tend to stay away from those.
But I do have paintings and drawings purchased from my travels and from artist friends, and I have a lot of books. These are the things I enjoy caring for.
Tip: Think about what physical things you think are worth the trouble of maintaining. And do regular decluttering.
You will learn to McGyver the shit out of most anything
If you don’t know who McGyver is, I am so sorry for you.
There are some things that you just have to do yourself. When something is not working properly, you’re going to learn to figure out what went wrong. You’re going to try many things to fix it.
Sure, you can pay someone to do it but if it’s a small thing? And this small thing may cause a lot of money and it coincided with your bills? You’re going to start thinking “okay, I can do this.”
And you can! Google is your friend.
I learned how to create an extension cord that’s connected directly to a wall outlet from an old power strip, a 10 metre cord, searching on Google, and a 10-minute call to my dad, all in under 2 hours.
In hindsight, that could have been dangerous. But while I am a cheapskate, I am not a dumb one. I had the proper tools and I checked and rechecked everything.
And that is the key. Apart from the confidence that you can do it, you have to make sure you’re armed with the most accurate information and the proper tools.
Tip: Always keep in handy a set of screwdrivers, a hammer, pliers, duct tape, and scissors.
You get smarter about your safety. You have no choice on this.
While my parents were supportive, they were worried in the beginning of course. My dad insisted on visiting the apartment I wanted to rent to take a look around. My mom kept sending me reminders to lock my doors or turn off my stove, etc on a daily basis (at least for the first month).
They asked that I message them whenever I get home, no matter how late it is.
Because while we wish it were different, the fact remains that the world is a much more dangerous place for a woman living on her own.
So, I made sure to be careful.
The first thing I check whenever I’m looking for a new place is the availability of more than one useable exit.
I’ve mentally assigned designated “wait it out” public places (a cafe or a store) I can step into and wait out men following me home. I’ve had to use these an uncomfortable number of times the past few years.
I’ve learned to angle my body when opening the door to my place so that I can always see whenever someone is coming and I am never blindsided.
I don’t immediately put my guard down when I get home. I’ve formed the habit of first checking all rooms before I even set my bag down when I get home at night.
I check my locks at least 3 times before I sleep.
These things have become a habit, and I’d like to think they serve me well even until now.
Tip: Always, always be observant. Never walk or commute with earphones and music or audiobooks blasting. It can get boring, yes. But it helps keep you alert about what’s going on around you.
And then there are other forms of safety. You get smarter about that, too
What do I mean by this?
Well, I stopped drinking boba through a straw when I am alone at home. Because who the fuck is gonna do the Heimlich on me if I choke on the pearls?
It’s funny at first, but really think about it.
Because when you’re living alone, you do things on your own. That includes treating injuries, taking care of yourself when you are sick, and keeping your head together to manage emergencies, which can be hard to do when you’re the one having the emergency.
Your best bet is prevention.
This is also why I’ve learned how to eat slowly, really chew my food. And also why I always carry around my phone when I didn’t use to. Because what if I need to make an emergency call?
It’s why I am very particular about water spills – even if they’re just a drop. Why I’m sensitive about smells.
And why I don’t use straws.
Tip: Seriously, don’t use straws if you can help it.
You’re gonna end up either loving it or hating it. Either way, you learn things about yourself and the people around you.
I always knew that I liked being by myself but I never knew how much until I lived on my own.
Not everyone feels that way. One of my friends just ended up staying out a lot because he didn’t like being alone.
The opposite happened to me. In the first few months (year?) that I started living alone, I often declined invitations to go out. I preferred quiet evenings reading at home, thanks.
That’s when I also started traveling alone. Watching movies alone. Eating out alone. Going to museums alone. Basically doing most things alone because I realised that I really preferred my own company than most of the people I knew that time.
It also had the unintended benefit of me figuring out who the people in my life I wanted to keep and wanted to keep me. Yep, decluttering even with people.
Okay, that sounded somewhat harsh. But that’s what really happened. Once you start really enjoying your own company, you start figuring out which of the people in your life you would willingly welcome and allow to intrude. And why.
Tip: I got nothing on this.
I think six things should be helpful for anyone reading this who may want to start living independently or is at the beginnings of it already.
Hmm…maybe next time I’ll post something about traveling on my own.