How to Live Alone Well

“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 […] Listen now or continue reading below.

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“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 Ownshe 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:

~Create the Life You Want

~Why Not . . . Dine Alone?

~Why Not . . . Revel in Solitude?

~Why Not . . . Get to Know Yourself?

Petit Plaisir:

~Acquired Tastes by Peter Mayle

petermayle1

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.

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22 thoughts on “How to Live Alone Well

  1. I love Peter Mayle as well. Have you read his mystery novels also? My summer reading guilty pleasures 🙂 Enjoy!

  2. Dear Sharon, thank You for yet an other wise and thoughtful writing.
    I am a single mother with 12 year old twins and I work in law enforcement ( I very much like my job). I and the children have lived by ourselves for the last 11 years and we all three feel very happy and alive. I do not long for a marriage or living together with anybody. This does not mean, that I do not believe in love. I do. Although I do not have a lot of money, I feel very free. I have created nice rituals for me and the twins when we are together or for moments when I am by myself: We go swimming, walk by the sea, hike in the forest, read or cook together. I can invite friends over for dinner or paint the walls in my favourite colours without having to negotiate or ask for permission. I can read late at night if I have the time, have a late phonecall with a good friend etc.
    I live in northern Europe and ladies who live alone by themselves or with their children are not shunned here. I think it is because people here do not feel pressured by the society to conform to old harmful traditions which mostly were created to hamper change and development, and to control people, mostly women.

    Thank You Sharon! I read your posts every day. You always inspire me. Have a great spring!

    Greetings from faraway Finland.
    Rebecca

    1. Thank you very much for sharing your experience! You have cultivated a lovely everyday life that demonstrates we each create and foster a quality way of life and must approve of our lives rather than seek acceptance from the outside. All my best. 🙂

  3. I LOVED this podcast! I was divorced with child for ten years before I met my husband and it was both a good and necessary experience. With every other weekend completely alone I quickly learned to appreciate the solitude and quiet. Yes, there were some struggles but I managed and most importantly I survived and as a result set a positive example for my son. Living alone made me more discerning and confident in choosing a new partner, it allowed me to hold out for something extraordinary because even on my own life was already far better than mediocre. I am very proud of that experience and wish that everyone living on their own can embrace it and see the value of it.

    1. I like your attitude and of the women writing to you.I am going out on my own soon. At 70 I find it a little frightening. But as I look for the right place I am getting more excited about the life you and these women have made for yourselves. Thanks for your positive attitude . I needed this right now.You made my day! Barbara

  4. I spent most of my pregnancy and the first 15 months of my daughter’s life alone and with an amazing swift turn of events found myself back in my daughter’s father’s life. It was so hard to let him go in my mind and heart but with persistence I did it. And because of that I was able to receive a new opportunity with him. We’re both better and stronger than before. I had to evolve as a woman and as a mother before being able to as a partner and now it’s all about balance. We respect each other’s needs to have time alone, time with friends and also family time. We’re not needy like we use to be which is freeing. There’s trust and dependability and the fact that we both know we will do just fine without the other makes us attracted to each other more. To be able to stand independently then come together interdependently keeps the magic alive in our vintag relationship. And our daughter is thriving. I love my time alone and never take it for granted. To just be is when my soul comes alive. It’s necessary as a woman to have that connection to our intuition which nurtures and protects us.

    1. Thank you very much for sharing this life experience. Stronger and healthier relationships most certainly result when both parties are strong and secure on their own, and you exemplify this beautifully.

  5. Thank you for writing this article. I’ve just moved into a studio on my own and can relate to your thoughts. You’ve inspired me to continue to enjoy and make the most of it whether it be transitional or long term.
    Hopefully I’ll get the chance to pursue my passions more.
    xx

  6. I made a conscious decision to live alone after two failed marriages totaling 35 years. I dated some but found I was still attracted to the same kind of abusive men. Now I have lived alone for 5 successful years and would not have it any other way. I treat myself the way I like to be treated, I date myself, and I make time to do the things I enjoy. I work full-time, have a satisfying social life and many new friends. I sleep through the night and I am not living in fear or anxiety any longer. I love it. It is not for everyone, but it is for me. Thank you for your reaffirming article.

  7. I am a widow of 2 1/2 years. I have two girls, one in college and the other a senior in high school. I have always enjoyed my own company. I have allowed myself to be “creative” each day, doing something that I love with my hands, be it art, decorating, cooking, etc. I have learned to love my life, even without my husband, and he is proud. I have become stronger, smarter, more independent and hope to show my girls that anything is possible. I look forward to your blog every Friday morning with a cup of coffee and it is one of my rituals. Some as if I am lonely. You can be lonely in a room full of people, and I am not lonely. Thank you so very much for your inspiration, dedication and beautiful blog.

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