Whether you are a recent college grad, are leaving straight from your parent’s place, or have always had a roommate (or two), you find yourself poised on the edge of that ultimate leap into independence: living alone. Are you ready? Here are 10 things everyone should know about living alone:
1. It’s more difficult than you think to find the right apartment. Look carefully at the location (use this guide to finding your first apartment), and be sure you know what to look for – including closet space, signs of pest infestation, and hidden fees (take this apartment-hunting survival guide with you).
2. If you don’t know how, learn to cook. Sure, Ramen noodle packets and Ritz crackers with spray cheese may have worked while you were relaxing in your college dorm, but you can’t live on noodles and spray cheese forever – and the drive-through will get expensive. Take a basic cooking class or ask a friend or relative for some quick lessons. Make sure you know how to prepare a few simple dishes: chicken and rice, a quick casserole, and other fast (inexpensive) meals. You’ll also want to learn how to cook in small amounts. (You wouldn’t think so, but cooking for one is a challenge! Most recipes serve four or more.)
3. Have the right equipment. Your kitchen must have the following: a chef’s knife, kitchen shears, a can opener, a potato peeler, a spatula, a ladle, a slotted spoon, a grater, measuring spoons and measuring cups, salt and pepper shakers, and a strainer. You’ll also need at least a set of four (in case you have company!) dish set, which should include a dinner plate, a salad plate, and a cereal bowl (some even come with a saucer and mug). You’ll also want glasses, silverware, and perhaps a coffee pot.
4. Don’t think you have to buy everything yourself! Soon after moving day, have a housewarming party! People will bring you gifts – and that will shorten your “buy” list considerably. And don’t forget your relatives! They may have items they can give you (take whatever they are willing to give you to start off with – you can replace the things that aren’t your style later).
5. Living alone is much more expensive than you realize! Living on your own will create expenses you never expected – you’ll have to pay for things you may never have considered, such as cable TV, electric, water, and renter’s insurance.
6. Know how to make basic repairs. If the toilet clogs, do you know how to use a plunger? If the air conditioner needs a new filter, do you know how to change it? If you remove a picture and there’s a hole in the wall, do you know how to fill it? Sure, you will learn things as you go, but it’s good to have a basic understanding of how to make simple repairs on your own.
7. Have the tools necessary to make those repairs. Everyone should have a tool kit with a hammer, screwdrivers, nails and screws, a plunger, a flashlight, pliers, a tape measure, and a wrench.
8. Cleaning is important. Dorm rooms are typically a little bit grungy. After all, nobody really expects college students to keep a tidy space. But now, suppose friends drop by your apartment unexpectedly … do you really want to dash around, scooping up laundry and pizza boxes? And it isn’t just keeping things picked up — you’ll need to dust, clean the bathroom, wipe down baseboards, sweep and mop the kitchen, wash the windows, and vacuum your floors. And you need to do this on a regular basis – at least once a week.
9. Laundry is also important. You may have laundry hook-ups in your apartment – if so, go ahead and invest in a washer and dryer. The time you’ll save not having to load everything up and head to the Laundromat is worth it. Be sure you know how to do laundry properly so you don’t turn everything pink – and be sure to read your clothing labels.
10. Know how to grocery shop. Don’t just head to the grocery store and buy whatever looks good or is on sale. Make a list before you head out! Think about what you’ll need for breakfast, lunch (if you take your lunch to work), and dinner for the week. Before going to the store, always check to make sure you have the basics such as eggs, milk, bread, pasta, sugar, tomato sauce, olive oil, salt, pepper, potatoes, and onions.