Living alone in a house for the first time - will it always suck?
June 5, 2010 8:29 PM   Subscribe

I just bought a house and am living alone without any family or roommates for the first time ever. I hate living alone alone so far. Did you have this issue and did you eventually enjoy living alone?

I love my house, but it is big for one person. It is in a relatively rural area in a mid-sized city where I don't know anyone, but my mom actually lives nearby. I've always had roommates until now and while everyone has their little fights and annoyances with roommates, I enjoyed the noise of another person and the knowledge that there was someone else around. I also think a big house feels different from living in an apartment complex or dorm where you know there are other people right near you.
I just moved into a big house last week and I dreaded coming home to a dark, silent house, especially since the windows have no blinds/curtains. I have installed some security measures and feel better on the safety angle. But I still feel too alone. If you had this problem, how did you make it better?
posted by KimikoPi to Home & Garden (32 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I can't imagine how lonely I would've felt living alone in my apartment if I hadn't had a dog. Pets are the best!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:32 PM on June 5, 2010 [4 favorites]

Seconding the dog. When my husband was working nights the two things that kept me sane were my German Shepherd and my alarm system.

I think right now you're seeing all the bad things about being alone because you're not used to it. Once you acclimate you might like it.
posted by TooFewShoes at 8:39 PM on June 5, 2010

I went through the same thing when I first lived on my own, and I eventually came to love having my own space, but I also did miss the camaraderie of having a roommate. Since it sounds like you have more than enough space, would you consider renting out a room? This way, you'd have company AND help with your mortgage (bonus!).

WRT the curtains I too waited so long to put on window treatments that my parents eventually came over with a pile of old sheets and tacked them over the windows. I felt a lot safer after that.
posted by choochoo at 8:40 PM on June 5, 2010

I felt the same way when I moved in to my place. Blinds or curtains go a long way. A little bit of decorating helped me settle in - especially having shelves of my favorite books around.

And you could always get kitties - not that you need them, just 'cause they're awesome.
posted by ladypants at 8:41 PM on June 5, 2010

I once felt lonely, but now I appreciate having space that's my own, full of peace and quiet or the noise of my friends, my cleanliness or my clutter, and privacy. I once read "everyone should live alone at least once," and that quote got me through my transition stage to the point where I heartily agree.
posted by salvia at 8:42 PM on June 5, 2010

Nthing dogs--well, or cats. My Sammy Katz kept me from going nuts when I was living alone. Only drawback is that I became a bit of a crazy cat lady.

Television and music in the background are also a big help.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:43 PM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

I did not live alone until I was in my late 20s. At first it was quite unsettling. I had assumed part of that was that my apartment was kind of dank and dark - in a basement. Eventually I didn't mind it all that much but I never really liked living alone in THAT apartment. At my next place? Loved it. And have ever since.

13 years later I still have days where I wish I had someone, or some animal to keep me company, but that's fleeting.
posted by FlamingBore at 8:49 PM on June 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

I've lived on my own for years, but definitely having pets makes it a lot less lonely. Something that actually cares about your presence in the house is a huge thing, I've found. Plus, you don't feel like a tool for talking to yourself when you can talk to your animal. Even something like a hamster can work if a dog/cat doesn't suit your lifestyle.

Also - talk radio in the background. Conversational stuff works really well for me; it's almost like they're in the house with me, just chatting.

And I can't imagine living without blinds/curtains! Get those done ASAP, You'll feel much better. Your house is your cave -- allow yourself to shut yourself in it. And don't be afraid to leave a light on when you're going out to avoid coming home to a dark house. The tiny dent in your electricity bill is worth the extra piece of mind.
posted by cgg at 8:54 PM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

I recommend leaving all of your lights on when you go out and getting at least two kittens. Just think now you can do naked yoga in front of the tv, listen to your music and movies as loud as you want, and decorate to your heart's content.
Give it at least 6 months and if you're still uncomfortable, you have the luxury of taking your time looking for a great roommate.
posted by amethysts at 8:58 PM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Meet your neighbors, get a pet, put art on the walls, magnets on the fridge- all make it home for me.

My first no-roomate place was a dream - what happened in the refridgerator, stayed in the refridgerator. But I had a cat, and that definitely helped. And I always turned on the TV when I got home, just so I wasn't stuck with my own thoughts reverberating about .

To answer your question- no. I didn't hate it, but I know it can be tough to come home and not have someone to discuss your day with. You do get used to it, and learning to live with yourself is a huge step to learning to live with someone else, IMO. Enjoy, congrats, and good luck.
posted by Stellaboots at 9:04 PM on June 5, 2010

Living alone has a lot of perks, but a lot of drawbacks too. I think the most important thing I learned when I got my own apartment is that it is exceedingly important to have something which makes you go out and be social every day. Whether its your job, or friends, or a club, or just a cafe that you like to go to read a book. I find that if I don't have a reason to go outside, I don't bother, and then I end up spending days at a time in my apartment feeling progressively more isolated.

Plus, another danger about living alone is reduced personal standards. If you don't keep your place clean and keep yourself healthy and well fed, you'll find that getting into a depressing rut is a whole lot easier than you think.
posted by sarastro at 9:11 PM on June 5, 2010 [9 favorites]

nthing getting a pet (or two, or three!) and doing whatever projects signify "home" to you -- baking, gardening, decorating, knitting, etc. And definitely put up some blinds and/or nice curtains! Plus consider putting at a few lights on a timer so that whenever you come home after dark, the house won't be dark.
posted by scody at 9:13 PM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

When I lived alone, I lived for podcasts and NPR. I love listening to music and all, but there's something very specifically comforting about hearing a human voice talk conversationally in the background that kept me from feeling alone. I might not have had a roommate or live in lover, but I did have Dan Savage and Ira Glass.
posted by Juliet Banana at 9:17 PM on June 5, 2010 [3 favorites]

when my roommate moved out of my condo, I had a really uneasy feeling for a long time, after having spent the previous 8 years living with roommates. First I moved to a one bedroom apartment in a kind of dark, old building but in a lively part of town. I had boyfriend, so that helped with the loneliness, however I didn't love him, and eventually I broke it off with him. I then found a two bedroom condo in a wonderful neighborhood full of gardens style apartments and townhouses. I bought the condo, with the intention of renting out the second bedroom. Which I did for a year. However the roommate was pretty intense, really drained a lot of energy from me - we had met on craigslist, but she was definitely wanting to be close friends and had a lot of drama in her life. when she moved out, I was so exhausted and drained from dealing with her dramas on a daily basis that I put off finding another roommate forever. It took a looooot of getting used to. I missed my roommate, even though she was a bit overwhelming, she was also awesome to watch tv with, she'd share her homemade indian food with me, she was sweet and kind, and interesting. But like all past roommates, its easier to be friends than roommates. So the longer I prolonged finding a new one, the more peace and tranquility I found in my life. I have no conflict or annoyance at home whatsoever, just the usual meow from my cat demanding that I feed her. My place is my palace, I have decorated it to feel warm inside with lanterns, candles, plants, sound system. Everything here is my creation, and I love it. I love it so much I would never give up this time in my life. I do hope to be married and have a family in the near future - so I will give this up, but I will always look back at this time in my life with very very warm memories of climbing in bed with my kitty cat and laptop and watching late night comedy. The other advantage of living alone is that you can bring home anyone you choose and noone has to know, noone will judge. Just your kitty cat.
posted by dmbfan93 at 9:27 PM on June 5, 2010 [5 favorites]

You might want to try leaving a radio or TV on when you leave the house, along with a few lights. Coming home, at night, to a completely dark and silent house is significantly different from coming home, at night, to a light home with the friendly sound of music or human voices (in TV).

It's not a long term solution, no, but it's one small suggestion to help the transition to living alone.
posted by meese at 9:43 PM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Also, you know, you could just get some housemates. I go too crazy living alone; I need someone to balance me out a little bit (hell, just to get me out of the house sometimes!). It's cool, horses for courses and all that. I think if you're super-social, it's less of a challenge.
posted by smoke at 9:48 PM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

I was a bit nervous about living alone at first, but holy hell in a handmade handbasket, I love it.
I do have pets, though, so that helps, but I think I'd like it even if I didn't
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 9:52 PM on June 5, 2010

Living alone, when I started residency, was really unnerving at first, after four years of having a roommate or two. But you get used to it, and then you get to love the freedom. Try some limited decorating. NPR helps a lot. Having a dog helped from the standpoint that it made me get out of the house. If you choose to get a roommate, so be it, but there is something to be said for learning to enjoy being alone. As you are seeing here, there is a universality to it that would suggest you will likely be fine.
posted by docpops at 10:11 PM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

My place is my palace, I have decorated it to feel warm inside with lanterns, candles, plants, sound system. Everything here is my creation, and I love it.

Dittoing this!

One thing I really love about living alone is that I have surrounded myself with beautiful, functional furniture, art, etc and everything is just the way that I like it.

I have laminated pictures of the ocean all over the bathroom, which really lifts my mood,

and laminated pictures of period dresses on my built in wardrobe,

beautiful lamps,

and framed art on the walls...

Also, if I am too tired to wash the dishes/take out the recycling, that's okay, no one will get upset about it!

Adding some plants in glass bubbles like this might really give your place a warmer, friendlier feel. (I have no association whatsoever with this shop, I just like the aesthetics of their product.)
posted by Year of meteors at 10:16 PM on June 5, 2010

I recommend a dog. I have a Jack Russel Terrier I got as a little puppy. I had her fixed at one year. You can't imagine how smart she is and how much she keeps me company as well as entertained. Now I couldn't imagine living here alone without her. A dog has utility value compared to a cat. If a burglar showed up, my cat would silently, cowardly creep off under the bed, leaving me to the cruel aims of the invader, where my little JRT dog would chew the legs off the invader so that by the time the intruder reached me he would be bouncing along on short little bloody stubs. Seriously, a dog is excellent night watch too. I just can't say enough about my little dog.
posted by nogero at 10:27 PM on June 5, 2010

Last year I lived alone in an apartment I hated. Going back to a dark apartment was unpleasant, so I put my living room lights on a timer. Also, nice curtains made a huge difference.
posted by betweenthebars at 10:57 PM on June 5, 2010

You're living in a house by yourself right now, but its only been a few days, so its not your home yet. You're alone, in a possibly dark, probably sparsely decorated place that you're unfamiliar with; its no wonder you feel icky! I think the most alone I've ever felt was when I moved into my first apartment by myself; just me, an air mattress, nothing to make me feel any connection. But as soon as I got lights up, furniture built, and a routine going, things were great!

It will get better, and pets do help a lot.
posted by dantekgeek at 11:17 PM on June 5, 2010

I moved to US from an Asian country by myself when I was 17. In couple weeks I got a dog, and he kept me occupied for quite long time! I had to train him and take him to the park and everything... I spent minimum four hours a day just taking care of my new puppy. I think that was the best thing I did. And now I've made quite a few friends and doing very well!
posted by dustoff at 12:12 AM on June 6, 2010

Why don't you get a flatmate? Sorry, roommate. You don't have to live alone just because you own your house.
posted by Lucie at 12:56 AM on June 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

My mum puts a lamp on a timer in the house to come on when she gets home from work.
posted by teraspawn at 1:08 AM on June 6, 2010

A humorous answer... Dr Steve Brule has some tips!
posted by kidelo at 5:01 AM on June 6, 2010

Please do not get a dog to solve a problem that you have. If you have always wanted a pet, or have had pets in the past and would like another, knock yourself out. Get two, if you want. But it makes no more sense to get a dog because you are lonely than it makes sense to have a craigslist hookup move in because you are lonely.

I like the idea of having a housemate. They will pay you, and you will have a legal contract with them, and you have previously enjoyed living with other people. This is all good, and very different from what you would have with a pet.

On the other hand, my advice when I first read you question was to give yourself some time. I love living alone and always have.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 12:01 PM on June 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

I second putting a light or two on a timer so they go on 10-15 minutes before you usually get home so there's a light in the window; I sometimes put the stereo on a timer too, so there was music greeting me.

A crockpot can fill the house with yummy smells when you get home, too, and that sucker can sit there all day and cook for you, so bonus, food on demand.

Invite people to come stay for a weekend - you get some concentrated social time at home while you adjust to to change from living with others to living alone.
posted by julen at 12:21 PM on June 6, 2010

When I first moved into my own apartment, it took about three weeks before I got around to putting up blinds (none of the rooms had curtain rails). I had an old dressing screen that I propped in front of the window, which made it feel safer and cozier indoors. Do you have something similar you could prop up in your front window, at least, to block out the world a bit?

I always put the radio on (talk radio, down low) if I knew I would be coming home after dark, and left a light on somewhere. That way I didn't feel too creeped out fumbling to come into a pitch-black flat. (I also often slept with the radio on; it covered up noises that otherwise might have creeped me out, and drowned out the street traffic).
posted by vickyverky at 1:19 PM on June 6, 2010

I'm glad to see I'm not the only one living with Ira Glass as a roommate! (It's pledge time, btw)

Getting to know your neighbours can't hurt. When I moved in my apartment, I used to find the noises in the building really alienating, like they underscored my loneliness somehow. Now that I know the people, I feel connected to my living space in a different way, that creaking in the stairs is not an aggravation anymore, it's 2B walking his dog Scruffy. You mention you're in a relatively isolated place, but just knowing there's a friendly presence in the lights across the street might help you feel a bit more at home.
posted by Freyja at 8:53 PM on June 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Maybe part of the challenge is that you've only recently moved in and your house doesn't feel like a home yet. Although it's a little too flaky for me at times, I have found the book Apartment Therapy: The Eight-Step Home Cure to have some really solid ideas about how to make a living space feel more comfortable and welcoming.
posted by jennyb at 11:19 AM on June 7, 2010

I was surprised how much of a difference curtains or blinds can make.

- They instantly change the way a room looks when you walk into it

- If you picked ones you really like, it makes you happy to look at them

- The big one: Control. They give you the choice of whether to shut the world out or let it in. Crucially, you can shut out the world in a pretty way.

The good news: Curtains are very easy to make. If you don't have access to a sewing machine then it will take a little longer, but you can do handsewing in the evening with a DVD or some good music on. All they are is big rectangles.

One thing I've always wanted to do for cheap thrills is make curtains out of cotton calico (very inexpensive) and paint quotes I like on them using fabric paint.

I live alone and I love it. I hope you will too.
posted by Pallas Athena at 3:34 PM on June 20, 2010

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