Baby Steps to Living On Your Own {Guest Post by Dances with Chaos}

Welcome to the third day of guest posts at Cori’s Big Mouth! 

Today’s guest post comes from Kelly of Dances with Chaos and Writing with Chaos


You can follow Kelly at:
Personal Blog: Dances With Chaos
Writing Blog: Writing With Chaos
Twitter: @DancesWithChaos
Facebook: Dances With Chaos


There are many ways to cut the figurative apron strings and “grow up.” 

Officially moving out from under the parental units roof – and living on your own (and your own budget) is often the final step to declaring your independence.

It can be terrifying.  Elating.


This is why sometimes it’s best to follow the words of Dr. Leo Marvin (Richard Dreyfuss) in the movie What About Bob? and “baby step” your way to full independence. 

Baby Step 1: The dorm. 

The perfect beginning step in the path to living “on your own.”  And by “on your own” I meant “share a tiny room slightly bigger than your old room at your parent’s house with another person, most likely one you’ve never met before.”

If you’re forgoing the whole college thing or can’t tolerate the thought of sharing a cinderblock cell room with another person, then skip to Baby Step 2.

The dorm has many perks, such as being close to campus and being a lot cheaper than living in an apartment outright.  You don’t have to buy much furniture, you can live there easily without a car, someone probably cleans the communal bathroom for you, and cable is often included.  The tiny prison room doesn’t have a kitchen either, so you eat cafeteria style.  This means no grocery shopping, no cooking, and no dishes to do (or purchase). It isn’t mom’s cooking from home, but at least you don’t have to do it.

The drawback of the dorm is you share a single room with at least one person.  This person carries the power to make your life pleasant, or fodder for MTV’s latest reality series When Roommates Attack.*

My freshman year, I had The Awesome Roomate: she was a year older, able to show me the ropes, and was an Architecture Major required to spend a ton of time away from our room working on projects.

That last part is key to having The Awesome Roommate.  They could be the most amazing person ever, but if you’re forced to share too much cell time with them, you will get on each other’s nerves.  A lot.

The first half of my sophomore year, I had the I’m Only In College Because My Boyfriend Is Here Roommate.  She went to class and she stayed in our room. With him. All. The. Time.

He snored.

I bit the bullet for the second semester of sophomore year and my entire junior year by paying for my dorm at Double As a Single Rate - highway robbery but worth it to live on campus and not have to break in another freshman with zero life.

Overall, the dorm is an excellent first baby step to living on your own: you have freedom to do as you wish but are back with the parents during breaks, holidays, and Laundry Weekends.

Baby Step 2: An Apartment…. With Roommates

You’ve done your time in the dorm.

It got old and you’ve now gained fifteen pounds from eating dinner at 5 PM followed by pizza delivery at 10:30 PM several times a week (at least until you discover Jimmy John’s, the only non-pizza place that delivers after 10 PM).

You’re ready to cook something other than popcorn.

You research and find the perfect place: not too expensive, but not run by the town slumlords either. You’ve found one or more people you think you could live with – as long as you finally have your own bedroom

Here are a few tips to making this baby step less painful.

  • More roommates are better than one: The more people you live with, the more to share the cost of the heating bill and you likely pay less per square foot for the space you rent. This means a (potentially) larger living area and kitchen.  A downside when it comes to cleaning, but the extra people come in handy for:
  • The Divide up the Things We Must Have List: Every apartment requires certain items for survival. While the landlord typically provides the stove and refrigerator, other household items like a microwave, blender, toaster, TV, DVD/Blue-Ray player, couch, table, vacuum cleaner, and something to put the TV on are not provided.  Don’t forget about your kitchen while you’re at it.  You need pots, pans, silverware, dishes, glasses, measuring stuff, and the list goes on and on.  It adds up fast and gets expensive even if you buy The Cheap Stuff.  If you’re smart, you’ve picked a roommate(s) that has/have lived in an apartment before, so they already have a lot of this stuff. Figure out what you still need once your items are pooled together and divide up the list: he buys the pots and pans, while you buy plates, bowls, cups, and silverware.
  • Do NOT “share” items and split the cost of one larger item, like a microwave.  Unless you plan on living with this person for the rest of your life, you will run into the tricky “Division of Property” issue. This rule can only be broken if the item(s) can be split and still be usable, like a dish set (not the vacuum cleaner).
  • Talk about “The House Rules” on Day 1, or earlier: Do you want your roommates significant other sleeping over? Who does the dishes? Who scrubs the toilet? Will you risk having a party and losing your entire rental deposit?  These are all issues or can become problems if the rules aren’t set at the get go. It might take some hashing out, but the initial work will help prevent a possible future blowout from someone assuming “it’ll be okay.”

I went from dorm living, to “living in sin… with roommates.”  My boyfriend at the time (now my husband) joined me in my first apartment my senior year of college – along with two other roommates (who changed during our two years there).  I was 21 years old and my parents, while not happy, could not say or do anything. The main reason we did this was practicality: I was insanely busy and it was the only way I’d even see him. It didn’t make financial sense to have two places when we were likely to spend the night together (sleeping) anyway.

I was nothing if not practical.

Baby Step 3: Living by yourself and/or buying your first home.

The final baby step to cementing your independence., it is also one that can take the longest to reach.

Some people never do.

When you are responsible for Your Own Place, the costs go up along with the responsibilities. You can probably afford to do your own laundry by this point, and no longer lug it back to the parental units for washing. You now own, or have “borrowed” from your parents, every kitchen item you’ll ever need – at least until it’s time to fill the wedding registry.  You’ve learned to cook, dine out, or love the taste of Ramen.

If you took the plunge and bought a house – you now also understand about The Mortgage you heard your parents complain about as you grew up.  Not only that, but you’ve shelled out for lawn equipment and have had the misconception that “grass grows on its own” blown out of the water.

I never lived alone, but I bought my first house at age 23.  I lived in a “college town” and rented out rooms in my house – once again for financial reasons – while I lived there as well.

Most importantly, when visit your parents and they ask you to mow their lawn, you can now bestow upon them The Look and say, “I have my own lawn to mow now, so unless you want to help out at my place…?”  

They get quiet very quickly.

Then it hits you. And your parents.

You’ve grown up.


Now you’ll spend your remaining years longing for someone to do your laundry and cook your meals while you take a nap.

To sever the final apron string, your parents issue an ultimatum: get the rest of your stored crap (that you lacked the room to put in your apartment) out of their house or it’s going into a dumpster.

Welcome to adulthood.

*Not an actual show on MTV, but I claim the rights for when the idea finally occurs to them.


Ahhh, thanks Kelly for that great advice!!  I’ll keep it in mind as I continue to settle into my new “on my own” life!!

Thanks again for guest posting!!

One Response to Baby Steps to Living On Your Own {Guest Post by Dances with Chaos}
  1. Jackie
    February 18, 2011 | 5:06 AM

    Owning a home can be great and at the same time a never ending work in progress! Sometimes it seems like there is always something that needs to be fixed, changed, updated, or something! It’s worth it though to have something that you can call all your own!
    Jackie recently posted..Packing up the past