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What’s the best thing about living alone?
When asked, I used to say ‘I can eat ice cream whenever I want!’ Lately I’ve been trying to come up with more grown up ways to respond to that question – but I’ve realised in writing this post that it’s actually a simple and fun way to describe what many would say is the most fulfilling aspect of living alone.
When asked, people who live alone overwhelming say that ‘freedom’ is the most positive aspect of a solo life. This can be freedom to do certain things, or freedom from other things. In my case, freedom to eat ice cream – or anything I like at all – is one of the purest joys there is, and I appreciate the freedom to do it at any time without disrupting anyone else’s routine.
At a time when so many of our freedoms have been curtailed, it can be helpful to remind ourselves that living alone comes with freedoms that those living with others don’t have in the same way, and that this can be a source of real contentment. I’ve done a bit of reflection on this, and have set out what I think are the seven greatest freedoms of living alone. Tell me if I’ve missed anything!
- Freedom to do what you want to do
We all know that compromising is an important life skill, and I wouldn’t want to suggest anything different! There is however something incredibly freeing about knowing that – at least within the constraints of your income – you are in control of the decisions that affect your life. When you live alone, this covers everyday decisions – which milk to buy, what to eat for dinner, what to watch on TV, and what music to listen to, but can extend to more significant decisions as well. In living alone, you are free to decide where you work, what you study, who you are friends with, and even where you live – in other words, to build a life that works for you.
At first, this freedom can feel a bit overwhelming. Over time though, a lot of solos find that being in control of all the different aspects of their lives is deeply empowering – and discover interests, likes and dislikes that they never knew they had.
There’s another freedom in here, of course, which is the freedom not to have to spend time doing things that others want to do, and that you have no real interest in.
2. Freedom to decide how you want to do it
When we live with others, one of the main things we negotiate is how certain tasks will be completed. Think about it: should we pay to have those shelves put up, or do it ourselves? Should we do one big shop, or a couple of smaller ones? Should you drive, or should I? Sometimes you agree, sometimes you don’t. Either way, energy has to be invested in reaching a decision – and it can be frustrating if you repeatedly have to compromise away from your preferred way of doing things.
When you live alone, none of this negotiation is needed. You are entirely free to decide how you tackle different tasks. Sometimes you’ll know what to do, and the freedom will come in not having to compromise on this. Sometimes it can mean trial and error (e.g.: in DIY tasks) as you work out how you prefer to get things done that you’ve never had to do before. Either way, you have complete control over the task in hand, and complete freedom over how to do it!
3. Freedom to run to your own timetable
Not only does living alone give you the freedom to decide what you want to do and how, it also gives you the freedom to decide when you do almost everything. Clearly there will be some constraints on this – your work, family and friends probably wouldn’t be entirely happy with you turning up at any time you like! Outside of this though, you are free to run to your own schedule. This allows space for spontaneity – if you feel like going out, staying in, jumping in the car, putting on a movie, starting a new book – then Covid restrictions aside there is literally nothing stopping you. Your time is your own, completely, and it’s up to you to decide how you use it.
There’s a responsibility that comes with this, as you can no longer look to anyone else to put in place healthy structures and routines, so you will need to do this yourself, and some people find this challenging at first.
4. Freedom to decorate, organise and furnish your space
No compromise needed here – when you live alone, how you organise your space is completely up to you. This is important – our surroundings can have a very big effect on our mood, and being able to fill our homes with the bedding, cushions, rugs, pictures, kitchenware and garden furniture we like is not just fun, but can actively improve our mental health too. Decorating and furnishing to your taste is a powerful way to express your identity. For those who feel as though they’ve lost sight of this a bit, simply saying yes or no to images, paint swatches, fabrics etc can help us remind ourselves of who we really are.
5. Freedom from noise
Solos often point to the peace and the quiet of living alone, and the opportunities that presents for solitude and deep reflection.
If you’re not used it, the absence of noise created by other people can feel strange, and even uncomfortable – almost like it’s too quiet. Listen carefully, though, and you’ll realise that the sounds have simply changed – different, less intrusive, but still there. Birdsong in the early morning. Car engines outside. Floorboard creaking. Boilers clicking into life.
In the quiet, your own thoughts become loud, and you’ll find you have little choice but to listen. If you can acknowledge and accept your thoughts, rather than trying to drown them out, then you could find yourself hearing clearly for the first time – and might learn more about yourself than you ever thought possible.
6. Freedom from other people’s habits and behaviours
This might seem to go without saying, but living alone means not having to live with anyone else – or to tolerate their more challenging habits and behaviours. This can range from the little-but-significant irritations like messiness, through to much more problematic, difficult behaviours and the disagreements and arguments that can follow.
A lot of people who live alone have told me that they didn’t realise until they started living alone how much energy they had put in to accommodating other people’s unwanted behaviours – or what a relief it was in not having to do this any more. In living alone, you don’t have to be around people who drain your mental, emotional and physical energy – this in itself is pure freedom.
7. Freedom to follow your interests and passions
Without the need to prioritise other people’s wants and needs, you’ll find that solo living not only gives you more control over the use of your time (see 3 above), but also that you simply have more of it. What you do with this is up to you – and there is nothing wrong with Netflix! Many people who live alone find that a solo life gives them more time to discover and pursue their interests, hobbies and ‘passion projects.’ This could be anything – cooking, crafts, studying, gardening, gaming, reading, setting up a business or community project, or getting involved in local politics. The inventor Nikola Tesla pointed to this when he said ‘be alone, that is the secret of invention…that is when ideas are born’ and there is absolutely truth in the possibilities that open up when someone simply has time, and the freedom to choose what to do with it.
Living alone is entirely different to living with others, and comes with an abundance of freedoms. We may not always want these freedoms, and sometimes it can take time to even recognise that we have them. But many solos come to find their freedoms deeply fulfilling, and make the most of them to follow their interests and to build lives that suit them.
What do you think? How do you feel about the freedom you have as someone who lives alone – is this a good thing? Or is it a case of too much choice? Are there other freedoms you’d point to? Leave a comment below if so…
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