Twelve tips for those home alone

So, you’re living alone, like more Australians than ever before. Perhaps you’ve had a breakup, or moved to a new town? Perhaps, like Richard Roxburgh’s character in Rake, you’ve systematically alienated everyone who ever cared about you and have ended up alone in a dingy bedsit? Or perhaps you’re just weird.

I’ve been living by myself for 18 months, because when you’re in your mid-30s, life without flatmates is easier and simpler for everything except playing SingStar. But it can be tough adjusting to a solo existence, which is why I’ve prepared this invaluable guide.

Do whatever you want, when you want. The greatest thing about living alone is that it excuses you from the conventional rules of human interaction. Finally, you can do the things you used to avoid so the people you lived with wouldn’t doubt your mental stability, like recreating the Battle of Osgiliath from The Lord of the Rings using hand-painted orcs. Or you might spend an entire weekend watching The Wire with only brief meal and bathroom breaks, like I did. Living alone means that nobody cares what you do day to day. Those who find this prospect depressing rather than liberating shouldn’t try it.

Be vigilant about not seeming weird. The caveat to your new-found domestic freedom is being careful not to reveal the bizarre things you do with all your free time. This is especially challenging because when you live alone, you inevitably start to forget social norms. Be prepared to lie about spending an entire weekend reorganising your CD library or your colleagues may begin to suspect you’re some kind of freaky serial killer. Of course, if you are a freaky serial killer, it’s all the more important to lie about your weekend.

Live in the inner city. I know some people live by themselves in the suburbs or even in the country, but, frankly, the prospect of that level of isolation scares me. In the city, there’s an abundance of pleasant solo activities such as shopping, browsing in galleries and watching movies. And there are people everywhere, which is reassuring. Some say the city can be unfriendly, but sometimes even yelling at the junkie who has passed out on your doorstep is welcome human contact.

Budget carefully. Living costs are always going to be higher when you can’t split bills. Electricity, gas and water cost me about $1200 a year. Then again, no one will notice if you do eccentric things to save money, like drinking hot water instead of tea.

Get cable. And a lot of books. And a PlayStation. And the internet. And anything else that kills time. When you start living alone, you’ll be amazed by how many hours there are in the day. Sometimes I forget to schedule any social activities for a weekend day – a trap for young players – and end up having to fill 16 straight leisure hours with random mucking around. It’s harder than it sounds. Note, though, that it simply isn’t worth trying to explain this difficulty to friends with newborn babies. They’ll still hate you for your apparently idyllic life of liberty.

Live near good, cheap takeaway food outlets. Some people who live by themselves manage to cook every meal, but I can’t be bothered when the end point is setting a table only to sit at it by myself. Plus, it’s very hard to cook dinner for one for less than the 10 bucks you’ll pay at your local food court or Asian takeaway. Besides, getting takeaway or eating out encourages you not only tp leave the house, but talk to somebody, albeit briefly.

Use Twitter. You know how it’s nice to watch interesting TV shows, sporting events or breaking news with other people? Well, now you can’t. But Twitter allows loners to come together to hurl 140-character abuse at Q&A participants, biased footy referees and Ben Elton. Sometimes it feels almost like watching with genuine friends.

Have people over. Entertaining is all the more lovely when you have your own place. Not only will all the credit for the meal be yours, but it creates a reason to tidy up your hovel so your visitors don’t think you’re “not coping”. Sure, you’ll have a few pangs when they leave, but at least you will have proved you can still function socially.

Walk around naked. You’ve never felt so free! Because who cares, right? Pro tip: consider whether, given the layout of your house, the answer to this question might be “the neighbours”, “random passers-by” or “the police across the street”.

Avoid being morbid. Questions such as “If I slip in the shower and crack open my skull, who will call an ambulance?” or “If I die in my sleep, how many days before the neighbours notice the smell?” are not your friends.

Don’t talk to yourself. Because talking to yourself is bad; it makes you seem crazy. Only that’s not really a problem when there’s no one else to hear you, is it, Dom? Oh, good point, Dom!

Stay positive. I hope I haven’t given you the wrong impression about living alone – honestly, it can be wonderful. In fact, it’s so great that if I succeed with my constant pleas for somebody, anybody, to move in, I’ll probably miss it occasionally.

This article was published in Sunday Life on 10 July 2011.

4 Responses to Twelve tips for those home alone

  1. The Mummy Hat 18 July 2011 at 7:41 pm #

    You are so right, as the mother of a baby I am envious of your 16 hours of freedom on a weekend day. I don’t get that in a month!

  2. Bron 19 July 2011 at 6:24 pm #

    First time I lived alone was in the inner city, until it got too expensive (they put the rent up by $80 p.w. in one fell swoop!) then I moved to a suburb near Hurstville. Oh how I hated suburbia. I started talking to myself, spent most of my time “talking” to people online, spent entire weekends watching TV shows from beginning to end, and constantly ate Indian takeaway and relishing that small contact with the outside world. Just as you suggest, Dom.

    Friends couldn’t find this suburb, despite it being on the trainline (I had to find new friends) so the rare entertaining I did, I was all over them like a rash. Figuratively speaking, of course.

    I tried walking around my apartment naked, but it was always risky as the balcony was a communal one, with people putting their washing on the clothes hoist outside my lounge room window, and my bedrooms were opposite the fire station (the upside was I got to watch the hot firemen, even though they were fully dressed).

    Ahh, the good old days.

    And now I’m looking for a new home, as it happens. Are you sure you really want to share with just *anybody*?

  3. Erryn 19 July 2011 at 6:44 pm #

    Hahaha I love this article! “Maybe you’re just weird”. I live with two of my best friends & I can’t wait to be able to afford my own place!!! But yeah, I am kind of weird.

  4. Helsta 31 July 2011 at 7:27 pm #

    Really enjoyed the article (although parts of it were a little too close to home, pun intended!)

    Whilst retaining one’s sanity can be a bit more of a struggle when living alone, there’s definitely a number of plusses. Such as not having to queue for the bathroom when your flatmate takes up residence in there. And not having to listen to the sounds of said flatmate “entertaining” in the neighbouring room (although perhaps I just had a bad flatmate).

    Looking forward to reading your next article (and well done for using the phrase “young players”- I thought I was the only one who used it!)

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