At the end of this September, I passed the one year mark of living in my own place (albeit living in one with my now-husband, so not alone alone). It’s been a growing and learning experience unlike any other, and I feel more in tune with who I am as a person, what I want future-me to look like, and how best to get there. Living with your SO for the first time inevitably magnifies the personal shortcomings and unsavory habits that you’d like to imagine *aren’t all that bad* (hem hem, clumsy anyone?!), and it forces you to face the person you truly are. While it’s been difficult to navigate the little tips and tricks that make running a household go smoothly (which I seriously took for granted when I lived with my parents), overall it’s been an exciting ~journey~.
In some ways, I feel like when I look at the person I was when I lived with my parents, it’s like there was a shade drawn over my eyes because I was living in a state of extended adolescence. Yes, it was unintentional (and I probably would have vehemently opposed that notion if you were to tell me that back then), but it was true. I was absolved from the responsibility of making so many decisions, which ended up making me feel “meh” about everything. I didn’t have any strong preferences either way; I didn’t have to make decisions about decor, groceries, cleaning, organizing, etc. I didn’t host people in my own space, I didn’t have friends over for pre-dinner drinks, I never meal planned for a week’s worth of lunches/dinners for two people — so many things that I never had to consider or decide! And, when you’re living with your parent’s for so long (age 25 for me since I was living at home to help funnel money into my student loans), it can create bad habits if you aren’t aware of yourself.
Overall, I found that identifying these problem areas came pretty easily, and I knew the areas that needed the most work: grocery shopping, cooking, and getting into good cleaning habits. You know, being diligent about the things my mom told me were important but I didn’t have to do regularly because they’d get done for me, like staying organized, meal prepping, and cleaning frequently so dust doesn’t pile up. Life essentials!
Below, I identified six things that I’ve noticed have changed about my lifestyle since living on my own. And, since I’ve passed the one year mark, I feel qualified to comment a bit on some of the things I’ve learned about myself through these behaviors.
1. Stopped eating dinner at 6 PM.
Eating dinner at a smooth 6:00 PM was the norm when I lived at home, and something I did by default for a very. long. time. My mom is a teacher who eats lunch at like, 11:45 AM and is therefore starving by 5:30 PM, so my family always operated on that schedule. And, it became normal for me too once I started working full-time not too far from where I lived, and I’d get home by 6. I’d stroll into the house and eat almost straight away because there was food ready. Even though I wouldn’t be all that hungry, it seemed easier than having to make myself dinner each night. On the nights I’d go to the gym or go out with coworkers or friends and cook for myself, I’d think “WOW, it’s so late to be eating at 8!” However, ever since I began living on my own, I find that Joe and I don’t eat any earlier than 8:30/9 PM. And, I have to say, I much prefer it that way. Not only do I get to cook frequently (something I love to do), I’m honoring my body clock, which much prefers eating later in the evening when I’m actually hungry.
2. Stopped treated mail like it was a giant pile of garbage to be ignored.
When I lived at home I was terrible at keeping track of my mail, and it would inevitably pile up in my room on top of my dresser. I knew I wasn’t paying any electric, heating, or water bills, so what did I need to sort through it in a timely fashion for? Obviously that logic is deeply flawed, and ever since I started living on my own I’ve become quite diligent with grabbing the mail each day and going through to sort and organize everything immediately.
3. Stopped watching TV (specifically 24/7 news cycle stuff).
The TV used to always be on the background at my old house, but I RARELY watch TV anymore. And that’s not a humblebrag — I totally enjoy watching shows when I get the chance. However, having a home that’s quiet 95% of the time has been oddly transformative for my overall sense of calm and stress level (guess I should never have children then, right?!). I never realized how much I crave and need things to be quiet, and I feel a low-level of anxiety when I constantly hear people talking along with the incessant flurry of commercials. Now, I’ll put something subtle on like public radio if I’m doing dishes or cooking. I never realized that I felt this way about preferring silence, and it’s just one of the many small things I’ve learned about myself since moving out — it feels good to be more in tune with what kind of environment I thrive in.
4. Stopped using my mom’s bathroom as a my own personal CVS/Walgreens.
This was a bad habit I got into after living home for so long — I’d view my mom’s bathroom/cabinets/closet as an extension of my own personal reserve of toiletries. Free to take when I needed them! She would always buy in bulk and stock up on essentials like shampoo, conditioner, makeup remover, razors, etc. If I ran out of my own supply unexpectedly, no problem! I’d just sashay down the hall and grab what I needed. Yikes. That is behavior fitting of a 16-year old with no job, not a grown-ass woman. I am thankful that I’ve moved past that stage, and that the temptation to piLfeR is no longer there. But I admit, I am not above being gifted a bottle of fancy something-or-other when I do go home for the holidays and my mom insists…heh.
5. Stopped buying “light” foods.
Oddly enough, one of the biggest changes I’ve made since living at home is that I don’t buy virtually any light and/or diet foods. I used to buy skim milk, diet coke, low-fat potato chips, non-fat yogurt, etc. However, as I’ve gotten older, have lived out on my own for awhile, and grocery shopped for just myself and Joe, I’ve really changed the way I view food and grocery shop. When I lived at home, I didn’t really pay much attention to what I grocery shopped for, and I felt like I was simply operating on default mode. My habits were influenced a lot more by the people around me and what foods and snacks pop culture/media/ads told me were “better for me,” aka what had fewer calories in them. As I’ve read articles about the behavior I once thought was healthy, and grown accustomed to sharing a household and grocery list with my husband, I’ve felt more free to choose the groceries I really want to eat. I’m much more interested in buying full-fat, full-flavor items, and eating a lot less of them. Yes, it can be hard to pull myself away from a bag of potato chips or a decadent pint of ice cream, but overall I find that I’m more satisfied with just a few bites of those than an entire bag of light popcorn with a diet coke.
6. Stopped buying clothes/shoes/accessories mindlessly. I simply don’t have the space!
When I lived at home, I used to never think twice about going out and buying another pair of heels, a cute fashionable coat that I might only wear twice a season, or a sweet knick knack for my room to display on my bookshelf. Wasteful (and materialistic) issues aside, I was deeply entrenched in the notion that I’d always have space to fit everything. Then, when I moved into a 300-square-foot apartment with Joe, it was an enormous eye-opener in terms of how little *superfluous* stuff we could fit. I seriously purged my belongings down to the essentials, and had to learn to be conscious of every little thing I bought. Each item had to have a purpose and function, and since storage space is scant, I couldn’t afford to buy holiday-specific decorations or trendy shoes I’d wear once. I think it’s been great for my wallet, but it was still an adjustment to shift my mentality from focusing on what I wanted vs. what I needed.
Overall, I think I’ve become a better and more mindful version of myself, and to me, that’s worth any amount of momentary discomfort.
Image via Unsplash