How To Live Alone For The First Time

Illustrated by Alex Marino.
There are countless benefits to living alone: no need to tiptoe out the door for a break-of-dawn spin class, to be late to work after waiting 30 minutes for your roommate to vacate the bathroom, or to compromise on hanging her tacky poster directly above the couch.

But with this freedom comes challenges, especially for first-time solo-dwellers. From feeling lonely on Sunday afternoons despite living in a crowded city to furiously attempting to get those 40 screws in place in your new dresser, it isn’t always easy.

However, it can be an all-around positive experience. To gather up some real-world, tested-and-true wisdom, we partnered with Clinique and checked in with a few women who couldn’t be happier to have laid down roots on their own. Read on to see how they’re thriving — and how you can, too.
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Illustrated by Alex Marino.
Let’s get this one out of the way. Even if you have more friends than you can count and an awesome significant other, poorly timed solo nights can be a major bummer. You might like your space, but spending Sunday evening in front of the TV with popcorn, the occasional internet video break, and good company is straight-up fun.

Avoid feeling like a shut-in by being somewhat structured — and committed — about getting out or hosting guests. That might mean signing up for twice-weekly Pilates classes or volunteering after work on Wednesdays.

“I created a Google calendar with different colors for each category,” says Kate Bolick, author of Spinster: Making A Life Of One’s Own. “I used blue for alone time, purple for social, green for work, and yellow for travel, so I could visually keep track of how I spent my days and nights and manage myself better. I came to find that two nights out during the workweek — dinner with a friend, usually — and three at home puttering or reading kept me sane and within my budget.”
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Illustrated by Alex Marino.
Just because you live alone doesn’t mean you are alone. Whether you leave your keys on your desk (oops) or need someone to check in on your place when you’re on vacation, it’s a good idea to designate a neighbor or friend who lives nearby. When Ashley Ferrett, 30, a hair colorist at Serge Normant at John Frieda, moved into a studio on Manhattan’s Upper East Side early last year, she made three sets of keys — two for her and one for a neighbor. “One of the best things I did was make friends with the person who lives above me,” she says. “We exchanged phone numbers just in case something happened within our building. He's already texted me three times: twice to tell me he shut my mailbox door and once to tell me our apartment building had caught on fire while I was away on vacation.”

And don’t forget about the professionals. An emergency contact list seriously reduces stress when you need to call a plumber or electrician. “I went to the local hardware store and asked for the phone number of a handyman they recommend,” says Ferrett. “He hangs up heavy items that I don't want to fall, like my large mirrors or the net around my bed — and he's way cheaper than Craigslist.”
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Illustrated by Alex Marino.
For most of us, the leap to living alone means moving from a two- or three-bedroom into much more cramped quarters — often a studio or very small one-bedroom. While your first instinct may be that you need to resort to pricey furniture and accessories to create a homey vibe, instead take a page from the creative playbook of San Francisco-based Devin Tomb, 27, deputy editor at Levo League. “When I first moved into my studio, I found it super weird to be in bed and still see my refrigerator over in the corner,” she says. “Credit goes to my dad for the idea, but we hung a big painting from the ceiling with invisible cords, creating a rather sweet room divider between my ‘bedroom’ and the ‘living room.’ It was also a great way for me to exercise some creative interior design chops — without having to ask anyone else for permission.”
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Illustrated by Alex Marino.
Showerhead leaking? Kitchen cabinet hinge coming apart? Used to waking up with makeup smeared below your eyes? There's no better time to learn to take better care of yourself and the space that you — and only you — are responsible for.

Get comfortable with a hair- and skin-care regimen, such as Clinique 3-Step Skin Care, which streamlines your routine, sets you up for better skin in the future, and cuts down on clutter in a teeny, tiny bathroom. Then, take stock of essentials, such as toothpaste and toilet paper, and devise a system to keep extras on hand, so you avoid another a midnight run to the drugstore.

And when it comes to your home-care habits, do yourself — and your checking account — a favor and invest in a tool kit and a step ladder for those tasks that don't really require professional assistance. “I finally learned to hang my own pictures, put together furniture, and repair mini things around the house,” says Ferrett.
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Illustrated by Alex Marino.
Not to worry: Just like you did after college, you’ll no doubt maintain your group of friends even though you’re not living with them. Nonetheless, it’s a good idea to cultivate a smaller circle of like-minded pals who also live alone. “Once my friends started marrying or moving in with their partners, I realized the necessity of this,” says Bolick. “I made three new close friends, all women living on their own, and we hosted dinner parties constantly, inviting as many new people as possible. Devoting a Saturday to menu-planning, grocery-shopping, and cooking, then staying up all night talking — I loved it.”

It’s not always easy making new friends as an adult, and while it sounds counterintuitive, living alone may be the push that helps you welcome an awesome new crew into your life.
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Illustrated by Alex Marino.
Gone are the days of cooking up a big batch of turkey chili for you and your roommates and all three of you eating it for lunch the next day. “At first, I'd buy too many perishables, not get to them before they rotted, and just end up eating cereal for dinner for months on end,” says Bolick. Now she’s got grocery shopping for one down to a science, keeping staples like eggs and yogurt in her fridge, frozen shrimp in her freezer, and non-perishables like nuts, seeds, canned beans, and almond butter in her cabinets. “I buy fresh greens and other vegetables at the start of each week — just enough for a salad for lunch every day,” she says. “Nights, I'll pick up a poached salmon fillet at the grocery or make a pot of lentils that I can eat for leftovers.” It sure beats another bowl of cereal.