“Living alone . . . affords an unparalleled opportunity to know yourself, to be yourself, and to develop yourself as a unique and interesting individual.” -Phyllis Hobe
The Simple Sophisticate, episode #33
In Stockholm, Sweden, sixty percent of all dwellings are occupied by a single individual. 60%.
Eric Klinenberg reports in his 2013 best-selling book Going Solo that the rise of single occupant homes has increasingly been on the rise as we forge into the twenty-first century. It’s interesting to point out that the United States while touting a strong number, 28%, is well behind Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark or each sport 40-45 percent single occupancy with even Japan at 30%.
Living alone whether single, divorced or widowed is certainly something to be reveled in rather than feared. While admittedly, depending upon our personalities, some of us are more adept to prefer living alone than others, each of us can benefit from living alone at some point in our lives. Why? While I will go into 16 specific ways in today’s post, a crucial component to living a simply luxurious life is discovering who we are, what makes us tick, what makes us shine, what nurtures us to be our best selves.
Speaking from my own experience of living alone by choice for the past 13 years, it was by living alone that I discovered my introversion, my passion for writing and so many other interests that my younger, less secure self would have never dared to pursue if I was trying to please a roommate or significant other. Now, could I, do I want to, live with another? To answer the first question, I am confident that I am better equipped to live very well with another individual as I am now capable of knowing what I need and realizing what I can compromise on. I am also able to advocate for myself so that I can balance relationships with my passions and not allow them to be pushed aside to please. And to answer the second question, it depends on the person. I must admit, it’s pretty amazing.
In 2012 I shared on the blog 10 benefits of living alone of which many I will include in today’s post, but I will now go a little deeper, and on this week’s episode of the podcast, share my own experiences as well.
The intriguing fact when it comes to living alone is that many assume that it shouldn’t be a permanent way of living, rather a mere transitional phase. And while this will most certainly be the case for some, many more unapologetically choose to live alone as it is the most restorative, ideal way of experiencing life.
In Kate Bolick’s new book which I will review later this month, Spinster: Making A Life of One’s Own, she makes a valid point about the societal expectations that can bend our mind one way or another simply to maintain the status quo, “How difficult it is to detach ourselves from the mass emotions and social conditions of the age we’re born into; all of us, male and female, are (to quote Doris Lessing’s lecture series Prisons We Choose to Live Inside) ‘part of the great comforting illusions, and part illusions, which every society uses to keep up its confidence in itself.'”
Now, I want to dispel any myths about living alone, as with anything that is new or different, if we haven’t done it, it will take time to do it well. If you aren’t used to living alone, coming home to an empty house or being left to your own devices to entertain yourself, living alone will be difficult . . . at first. Anything of great value takes time to appreciate and emerge to reveal it’s true greatness. Living alone is no exception.
So today, I’d like to set you free. Admittedly, it took me some time to proudly say “I thoroughly enjoy living by myself” because many people around me just could wrap their minds around it, but it has always been true for me. I have always enjoyed my own company, and if you too are someone who revels in regular time to be by themselves or perhaps are living alone trying to figure out how to do it, today’s post is something I have a feeling you will enjoy. Let’s get started.
1. Appreciate, Relax, Enjoy
“You only grow when you are alone.” -Paul Newman
Yes, it may not be something you chose initially, or maybe it was it’s not initially what you had expected. First, take a breath. The experience will be what you make it, and it all comes down to appreciate the time, space and solitude to do those things that you would not be able to do if someone or multiple someones were sharing the same space.
Just a few perks: When you leave, upon returning, the house will be as you left it, decisions don’t need to be dependent on a compromise – risotto for dinner, done!, sleep straight through the night without interruptions, a quiet space to read, listen or entertain when you want, no problem, and decorating is entirely up to you.
2. Established Beloved Rituals
Whether it is your Paris tea which you savor each morning before going to work or starting your day or your weekly coffee chat to meet your close friend to catch up on each others lives, establish these rituals as a way to give yourself something to look forward to and savor each and every day because there is without question something to appreciate every day we’re alive to savor it. Click here to discover even more benefits of daily rituals or check out Chapter 8 is dedicated in entirely to ideas on how to cultivate and establish simple pleasures and rituals into your everyday life.
3. Cultivate a Healthy Social Circle
Klinenberg points out that studies have revealed those who live alone are actually more socially involved and have a stronger social circle than those that co-habitate. Why? There is motivation and the removal of dependency on others in your home to entertain you. Social media makes this much more viable as information of what to do and the capability of staying in touch is much easier than before. If you know you have plans to meet with friends or family, one of the most blissful moments is spending time with those with whom you enjoy their company and then returning home to a space that is your own. A beautiful balance.
4. Pay Attention to Your Senses
“There can be no very black melancholy to him who lives in the midst of Nature and has his senses still . . . I have never felt lonesome, or in the least oppressed by a sense of solitude.” -Henry David Thoreau
When we start witnessing the world around us in any given moment, we quickly realize how rich and full our lives are, and we actually are never alone. Some prefer more human interaction, but take in mother nature, plant a garden, hang a bird-feeder, take care of your environment indoors and out and help improve others lives (animals, plants, and people too). When we become aware of all of the wonders around us, we are more motivated to contribute and sustain such amazing ecosystems and ways of life.
5. A Time of Exploration
The things one experiences alone with oneself are very much stronger and purer. -Eugene Delacroix
You are free to dance with your curiosities when you live alone. Curious about that new documentary? Watch it. Wish to try a rock climbing class? Do it! Listen to what piques your attention, and explore. Who knows what you will unearth. When we pay attention to what innately captures our attention and are not nudged by outside forces or peers, what we will discover will take us closer toward reaching our true potential and finding our passions.
6. Create a Sanctuary
Tending to our sanctuary when we live alone is vital, and while it’s important when we live with others as well, the key is to curate a home that we want to return home to at the end of the day. Our homes should be the place that restores us, comforts us and allows us to rest so that we can be our best when we return to the world the next day. Consider our interior decor as an investment in our well-being.
7. Master Your Mind
In episode #20 of The Simple Sophisticate I shared 10 specific ways to master your mind; and while mastering your mind isn’t exclusive to living alone, accomplishing this feat is vital to building the foundation of living well on your own. Why? Often when someone lives on their own for the first time, they’ve never had their mind all to themselves for such a long period of time. As such, they can allow it to wander into places that are destructive and irrational; however, at the time, it’s hard to tell the difference. Master it, discover the power of meditation and discover a whole new level of living well.
8. Become your Best Friend
“Solitude is strength; to depend on the presence of the crowd is weakness. The man who needs a mob to nerve him is much more alone than he imagines.” -Paul Brunton
When we enjoy your own company, we are better able to set healthy boundaries, speak respectfully to ourselves and require that others do the same. When we enjoy our own company, we become selective about who we allow into our lives, and in doing so, we begin to welcome quality, supportive, inspired people that elevate our quality of life as well.
9. Strengthens Relationships
“People who cannot bear to be alone are generally the worst company.” -Albert Guino
This quote made me chuckle because it is so absolutely true. Upon reflection of people that I have hard time spending lengthy amount of time with, it is those people who cling to me or others and cannot be left alone, even for mere minutes. Nobody wants to be this person, in fact, the person doing the clinging may not realize how off-putting their behavior is, so not only do yourself a favor by becoming comfortable with your own company, do your current and future relationships a favor as well.
10. Dive into Your Passion without Apology
“Without great solitude no serious work is possible.” -Pablo Picasso
What an amazing opportunity it is when we live alone to have the time and space to throw ourselves into our passions without worrying about hurting someone else’s feelings or balancing with other priorities. I know without question, if I hadn’t been living alone, I would not have started TSLL blog. Referring back to #5, when we give ourselves time to explore, we can discover our passions and then have the time to dive in and be our most productive selves.
Such periods in our lives build the foundations of what the rest of our lives may be built upon, and thankfully, it is something sound, honest and authentic. What better way is there to live?
11. Get to Know Yourself
“Solitude can be frightening because it invites us to meet a stranger we think we may not want to know – ourselves.” -Melvyn Kinder
Often we surround ourselves with incessant social events and chatter of others so that we don’t have to be alone to discover what we might fear. However, often what we fear is a significant indicator that we should indeed explore it all the more. And when we explore, we find our purpose. It is when we filter out of the fluff, or the noise of life, that we can get to the truth of discovering what makes us truly content.
12.Get to Know Your Neighbors
Whether you live in a house or an apartment, befriend at least a few of your neighbors. Being able to step outside your door and see a friendly face or way hello is a simple luxury to remind us of the community we live in and are contributing to. Not every neighbor will we want to get to know (being able to discern this difference is crucial), but knowing you have at least one person who knows your name is a very good thing.
13. Craft a Schedule
Whether it’s when you exercise, head to the coffee shop or work in your yard, when you stick to a schedule you will often run into the same people, establishing a small community all its own. While you may not know them intimately, seeing a friendly face on your morning walk or run allows you to feel connected to the neighborhood you live in.
14. Watch the Television with Purpose
Since you are the queen of the remote, it can be very tempting to watch it more than you should. And while I am quick to admit I watch television, choose when and how much you watch based on the content you want to internalize. In other words, don’t watch it mindlessly. DVR your favorite shows so that you don’t have to waste time with commercial. Set up a Netflix account so you can watch what you want, when you want to. Balance your television watching with time to sit and read quietly or fill your home with music from time to time rather than the hum of the television. Radio or podcasts are also a wonderful option as you can go about your day without the visual bombardment to your mind.
15. Master Your Vices
One thing I wholeheartedly love about living alone is being able to stock my refrigerator and pantry with only the food I love and should eat. If you come to realize you have a weakness for a food you know you shouldn’t have or can’t control yourself around, don’t bring it into your kitchen. The gift of living alone is that you can eliminate entirely without upsetting someone else which makes it much easier than simply exercising strong self-discipline every single day.
16. Curate a Positive, Inspired Life
“It is only when we silent the blaring sounds of our daily existence that we can finally hear the whispers of truth that life reveals to us, as it stands knocking on the doorsteps of our hearts.” -K.T. Jong
When we live alone, we become the stand-alone artist of our own lives, every single detail. We can choose what to eliminate, what to add and what to foster into beautiful fruition. Choose the people, the words, the information, the images, the experiences, the destinations, carefully and consciously for they will shape your world and thus the person you become.
Whether you choose to live alone for a short duration or a lifetime, I want to leave you with one last quote from Ellen Burstyn as she reflects on living alone after being under the assumption that it was something to avoid, “What a lovely surprise to finally discover how unlonely being alone can be.”
~SIMILAR POSTS FROM THE ARCHIVES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
~Acquired Tastes by Peter Mayle
As a super fan of Peter Mayle, a British author who now resides in Provence, France, I thought I had read all of his books. So when I friend recommended to me this past winter Mayle’s book Acquired Tastes, I was eager to immerse myself in his delightfully delicious prose.
Acquired Tastes, published in 1993, is ideal for evening reading as it is an compilation of his articles written for GQ (there is one from Esquire). Each chapter is 4-6 pages long and brings the reader along for an excursion of how the other half live. From living with servants to have shoes custom made, Mayle takes a peek into the pleasures of decadent living at its finest. And along the way, much is learned as well such as precisely how to hunt for truffles and why cashmere is worth investing in. Certain to make for pleasant dreams.