Those of you who know me best will know that 2017 has been a little bit of a shitshow for me in terms of life-being-turned-upside-down-ness (so Fresh Prince rn). I’ve learned many things since I’ve turned 25 – not least about myself – and none of them came about from being sent to live with my Auntie in Bel Air. Most of all, I’ve learned that, for all the happy times that led up to this point, to be happy moving forwards I needed to remove myself from that life and be on my own. Nothing can ever really prepare you for making that decision and saying goodbye to the life, and the person, who helped you build it.
Anyway, skimming over the actual dear diary shit that does not belong on the internet: long story short, I now live on my own and have done for five months. I’d always had my suspicions that I’d fucking love it and, turns out, I do. But it’s been a steep learning curve in a number of areas.
Here are ten things – some valuable, some absolutely sans-value – I’ve learned this year about what to expect when you live on your own.
1) The quickest and most efficient way to change a double duvet cover when you’re five foot four is to turn it inside out, get inside it, grab the actual duvet and then jump up and down with vigour, waving it above your head as high as you can reach until it kind of fits.
2) Love Island is on at 9pm every day EXCEPT Saturday. Do not fall prey to the trap of thinking it is a seven-day-a-week show because, alas, it is not and, if you were planning a quiet evening in with Kem and Co this Saturday night, prepare to be disappointed and wish you’d made plans. Srsly tho: Why isn’t it on on a Saturday night? Is it because you’re meant to have better things to do? Asking for a friend.
3) Ministry of Sound Reggae Anthems is 100% THE album to put on when you’re feeling hyper before bed. It won’t calm you down or soothe you like a lavender pillow mist but you’ll use your awake time very wisely and (possibly) learn that you actually could twerk really well all along, you just never gave yourself a proper chance.
3b) When you want to use your new-found twerking skills to the max, it’s hard to go wrong with tracks by Eve. I personally recommend Tambourine, but I’m not preachy; you can choose.
4) Embody the ethos of Toadfish and co and make the most of your neighbours, because everyone can benefit from a couple of good ones. I am incredibly lucky to have an absolute legend living above me who I can now say I count as a friend. (Hey Sonja, if you’re reading). It can be quite freaky living alone. Things seem to go bump in the night that much more loudly, and making sure no one’s following me home to an empty house suddenly feels quite real and important. Sometimes, I get up in the middle of the night filled with a sudden unquashable paranoia that the front door isn’t locked. And this is coming from someone who’s so laid-back most of the time I’m basically horizontal. Then, of course, there’s always the risk that one can die and end up being eaten by Alsatians before anyone finds them. But I feel like Sonja would just know. She’d know.
5) Never mind padlocks on the doors and windows. I need to install heavy-duty padlocks on my fucking cupboards because, with no one there to witness me as I eat my third bowlful of ‘light-800-calorie-snacks’ of an evening, it turns out I am a bloody feral animal with an insatiable desire for toast and Nutella, huge bowls of ice-cream and sometimes a second dinner past 8pm.
6) Even the best of us lock ourselves out sometimes (ahem). Hide a spare house key somewhere nearby and no one need know when it happens to you. Otherwise your Dad will never let you hear the end of the time you rung him up absolutely gazeboed and he had to drive to let you into your own home. The pretending-to-be-sober-so-elaborately-you-actually-end-up-seeming-even-more-drunk thing didn’t work when you were 18 and, turns out, it still doesn’t work now, either.
7) On a slightly more serious note: budget. It’s an obvious one, and anyone who has to pay bills knows it’s crucial to understand where your money’s going. But I had not banked on just how costly it is to be the only one paying the mortgage. Although it’s outwardly glamorous to be embodying the entire lyrics of Destiny’s Child, Independent Woman, let me tell you: behind the scenes it’s not running quite so smoothly and with far less sassy hand movements and hair flicks. Most days, I feel far more Michelle when she falls over on stage than Beyoncé being all strutty with great thighs, let’s put it that way.
I’m not alone in the fact that I’m in my twenties and have no money. We’re all in the same never-ending dance of waiting desperately every month for payday, then feeling piss-poor again a day later when all the bills have gone out. But now that everything is resting on me alone, being completely serious about budgeting isn’t an option, it’s a necessity. That’s why I started keeping a money diary a few months ago, so I could track exactly where my spare cash was going (and why I was burning through it so fast). It was eye opening to say the least. I thought I’d been really well behaved with my coffee habit: one here and there on the way in to work, one at the weekend for a treat, one to pass the time waiting for yet another missed train (shout out to Great Western Railway – I hate you). Turns out, I’d been about as frugal with my coffees as Katie Price has been with her ten tit jobs. Even in a deliberately ‘good’ month, my chronic latte habit cost me nearly £40. Forty big fat ones. And do you know what’s really bad? I have a coffee machine at work AND AT HOME.
8) Don’t be tempted to fill your life with pointless people just to block out the noise. I did for a while – and I had some fun, they had some fun – but it was pretty futile and just added up to distraction I didn’t actually need. Embrace an evening or weekend of no plans and you’ll be surprised what actually happens. I’ve had so many in the calendar lately which have suddenly become really busy with spontaneous invites left, right and centre (I know right, just so damn popular). But seriously, regardless of whether plans materialise, spending time alone is something you should aim to do, not run from. I can personally vouch for the fact that I find my company far more entertaining than anyone in my phone contacts does. And I always laugh at my jokes, so that’s a plus.
9) Chores are dull. Everyone knows this. But when it’s utterly down to you, my God they are never ending. Don’t leave dishes unwashed in the sink for more than three days because you will hate yourself for it when your house starts to smell of mildew and the breakfast you ate last weekend. Similarly, there is no time limit on when it is acceptable to do laundry. Heavy weekend? Perhaps you’ve not woken up in the bed/town/city/continent you planned to this morning? No worries. My new favourite time for laundry to be laundered is 5am on a weekday morning. It all gets done while I’m still asleep and then beeps to wake me up so I can hang it out before work. Clever eh? Thank the lord for timer settings on washing machines.
10)Also. Bins are so shit. They’re smelly and seem to need constant changing; they are the babies of my household and I view them with about the same level of disdain as I do real-life babies (sorry, not sorry). Bins are the only thing that can make a relationship seem appealing to me because I will never be okay with having to wash my foot after the mouldy bit at the bottom of the binbag drips on it when I’m taking it outside.