It isn’t until you start living alone for the first time that you realize the true purpose of all those annoying roommates you’ve had. Roommates are there to split the bills, sure. They’re also there to keep you from tapping into that part of yourself that is full-on crazy.
That’s not to say that living alone will make you go crazy. According to the most recent Current Population Survey from the Census Bureau, more Americans are living alone than ever — rising from a mere five percent in the 1920s to 27 percent in 2013 — because they like it. For the single adults who now outnumber the married folks in the U.S., living alone has plenty of benefits, from not having to worry about what weirdo your roommate is going to bring home from the bar this week to learning how to appreciate your own company.
Aletheia Luna, writing for The Loner Wolf, argues that making the big leap of signing a lease without a roommate can be a transformative experience. She lists some of the positives of living solo as encouraging self-discovery, providing more time to relax and decompress, boosting creativity and even supporting inner balance. There’s research to support many of her theories: People are more likely to come up with their best ideas on their own. As Eric Klinenberg, Ph.D., author of Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise And Surprising Appeal Of Living Alone, confirmed on Prevention.com, people who live alone may have better mental health than those who live with roommates.
There are some major perks to living alone, whether for a season or for the long haul. But anyone who has spent some time with themselves for more than a few days knows that no one can prepare you for what really goes down when you start to let it all hang out. Living alone will change you in more ways than one. Here’s the good, the bad and the ugly of what you can expect when you finally decide to ditch the roommates:
1. You’re the boss
No more glaring at that ugly Goodwill couch your roommate insisted on putting in the living room. Melissa De Luna-Ribeiro of Joybird Furniture says her favorite part of living alone is that she gets 100 percent design control. “You finally buy that chaise chair in a velvet royal plum just because you think it’s sexy.” She adds, “You become braver and go for the pearl/white colored sofa because you don’t have anyone to discourage you from buying it.”
2. You don’t have to share
Hallelujah — the time has finally come when you’re living the grownup life and don’t have to share food or a TV. You can come home from a long day of work and eat all the Cheetos you want while watching hours of mindless television, without anyone to judge. Nada Giuffrida, digital marketing PR executive, says the most heavenly part of roommate-free living is ordering takeout for two and eating it all by yourself, along with “watching two, three or more rom-coms without interruptions.”
3. You get quiet time
If you have been waiting for years to check items off your bucket list (start painting again, learn to knit, write a short story), living without a roommate will serve you up that coveted “me time” on a silver platter. “You spend more time reading in your favorite chair and actually finish more books,” says De Luna-Ribeiro.
4. You don’t have to wear a bra
Never again will you have to worry about how you look when you roll out of bed at six in the morning, and don’t it feel so good. Gabrielle Loehr of Loehr Consulting says that when it comes to living alone, there are two things that make life worth celebrating: Not having to wear pants and not having to wear a bra — in that order.
5. You don’t have to follow the rules
No more bedtimes, no more chore charts and no more house meetings about whose turn it is to buy toilet paper. Living alone means you’re finally adulting — so you can make your own house rules or throw them out the window completely. “I would have to say on a regular basis I have a ‘Rachel’ moment (from Friends, when Rachel is alone in the apartment walking around naked). Living alone gives you this desire to walk around naked all the time — it’s a very freeing experience,” says Ashley, a 25-year-old media relations professional based in Los Angeles.
6. You start talking to your cat
Crazy cat lady stereotypes aside, there will come a time in your solo living when you realize that you still need someone to talk to inside the four walls of your home. Cara Stein of Book Completion Editing & Design says that while living alone is awesome, there is one side effect she didn’t expect, “I live alone, and I work from home, so I’m probably an extreme case study. I think it’s pretty common for people who live alone to talk to themselves. I certainly make unnecessary proclamations to my cat all the time, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t do that when I had other people living with me.”
7. You never talk
And then there’s the other side of the coin, where it’s far too easy to spend a weekend at home alone before you realize you haven’t said a word to anyone in 48 hours (which may not be a bad thing if your vocal chords need a break after a long workweek). “I got really used to silence and could go through the entire night or weekend without saying a word,” says 30-year-old Gloria from Los Angeles.
8. You get addicted to the Internet
But of course, there is option number three: Either you start talking to your cat, or you stop talking altogether, or you join a Facebook group to provide you with some connection to the outside world. After getting her first “big girl job” in 2013, 26-year-old Deidre Weight of California decided the time was right to live on her own for the first time without roommates. She explains, “I rely on group chats/group texts with my friends to keep me company — whereas, when I lived with them, I could just go knock on their door!”
9. You have to kill bugs alone
If there’s one drawback to living alone, it is this: You have to deal with the things that go bump in the night all by your lonesome, without a pushover knight-in-shining-armor roommate to save you. Ashley says, “In the past, I would defer to Dad/Mom, roommate or boyfriend to do the dirty work of squashing those oh-so-scary insects that somehow wandered their way into my home. Living alone certainly brings out an undiscovered courage that I didn’t know that I had, a.k.a., shoe in hand, eyes closed, hoping for the best.”