If you ever find yourself in a room full of twenty-somethings and you need to start a conversation, here’s a tip: start talking about how much you hate being an adult. We all have a story about sending a prescription to the wrong pharmacy, forgetting to pay a bill on time, or accidentally exploding an oven.
Wait. Is that last one just me?
Regardless, if the Internet and my own experience with people my age is any indication, everybody 30 and under experiences a little bit of regret about the whole leaving-the-nest thing. We all have a part of us that wishes we could go back to living at home rent-free with minimal responsibility. That’s a pretty sweet deal, but nobody appreciates it until it’s over… partly because we all get sick of it eventually. There is a reason that most of us in the Western world grow up and leave home to seek our fortunes. We get to have adventures, make mistakes and figure out our own minds and limits—maybe while doing some (legal!) things our parents would disapprove of. Moving out isn’t easy, but in the end human nature dictates that it’s for the best. Here are some ways to make the progression from your childhood home into a dorm room or your own apartment a little easier.
What is not sucking? Not sucking is defined in the world of striking out on your own as gaining a modicum of independence without hurting yourself, hurting anyone else, destroying property or going into soul-crushing debt. (You are capable of this, I promise.)
- Pack smart. Packing is awful. Unpacking is awful. Make both processes easier by only taking things you know you’ll need and that you can’t replace cheaply when you get there. Anything with sentimental value is worth taking; so is anything particularly helpful. Books are, of course, essential—for people newly living away from their parents, I highly recommend Do Your Laundry Or You’ll Die Alone. It was written by a mom who was worried she hadn’t told her daughter everything she needed to know before she went to college, so there’s advice on literally everything in it. (Relationships? Check. Money? Check. Care instructions for various types of fabric? Triple check.) Anything you don’t need to bring you can leave at your family’s place or sell at a garage sale to make a little extra cash before you leave.
- Get a planner. Dorky? Some people might think so, but I don’t. Planners save lives. Where else can you keep track of classassignments, work schedules, due dates for bills and birthdays all in one place?
…Okay, your phone would work, too. But having a tangible ink-and-paper schedule that you check regularly can keep you more in touch with your responsibilities so you don’t go into a downward spiral of flakiness. In short, get a planner that you can carry around with you and write everything down in it.
- Stay clean. Not just your body, but also your living space. Science has proven that spending most of your time in a messy room can have a chaotic effect on your mood and productivity. (I could have told you that just from playing The Sims.) Plus, as stated in Do Your Laundry, “even messy people like clean roommates”, so organizing your space can help you avoid conflict.
- Budget. Living as a student or an entry-level worker means living without an excess of cash. Keeping to a strict budget can help make sure you go into as little debt as possible (some debt might be necessary for things like student loans and credit building). First, save a percentage of your income whenever it comes in—it can be as little as 10% of every paycheck. Then pay for your nonnegotiable expenses: food, rent, tuition, utilities. What’s left over you can play with, but be smart about how you use it. If you’re in love with that adorable dress from Torrid but you can’t pay for it in cash right now, wait a week and decide if you still want it.
- Take baby steps. You may still need your mom to help you argue with your landlord, your dad to help you do your taxes and your older sister to help you approach romantic interests with confidence. That’s okay. Nobody’s one hundred percent independent right away. It’s okay to get help while you transition into adulthood. Just make sure you try new things—and don’t be afraid to suck at first. Everybody does.
Godspeed, readers. If you want to chat about what you hate–or love!–about living on your own, come visit me on Facebook or Twitter–if you want to look into Do Your Laundry Or You’ll Die Alone, check out its Twitter feed and Facebook page. (Comic via Buttersafe.)