It was 8am on a Sunday morning and with a sense of urgency, I opened a new note on my iPhone. I began typing words that up until this point meant nothing to me: Windex, toilet brush, truffle salt. I had just moved into an apartment by myself and was listing the essentials I needed to buy, determined that my new accommodation would inspire a new, better version of myself. I hoped that through living alone I would emerge as the type of person who commits to cleaning the bathroom weekly, willingly watches the 7.30pm Report nightly, and actually uses at least one of the seven meditation apps downloaded on their phone each morning.
It’s now been a month since I moved in and while my metamorphosis is yet to transpire, I can tell you truffle salt tastes good on everything. At 27 I thought I knew everything there was to know about myself, which was the case, until I starting living alone. When you live by yourself without the constant surveillance of humanity you start to develop new habits. Your behavior fluctuates. You’ll swing from a super human who has clocked the near impossible culinary equation used to cook-for-one to someone who occasionally (see: always) talks to themselves.
When visitors come over I dupe them into thinking they have entered a domestic utopia that has an endless supply of lavosh crackers, scented candles and an ambient Spotify playlist. When it’s time for them to go home, I revert back to Savoys, Glen 20 and a lot of sing-a-longs to Jewel. In between the interactions with my friends and family is when the real sociological ‘living alone experiment’ begins.
I used to think the phrase ‘Turn off the lights’ was reserved exclusively for parental nagging and Nelly Furtardo songs, now I understand it’s the mantra of energy conservationists. I know this because I have become one. My index finger is really toned from constantly flicking off light switches. When my first bill arrives I want the graph which measures my energy consumption to be so low, that Origin are compelled to reward me with a dozen LED globes.
Living alone has also nurtured many talents I didn’t know were within me. I can now recite the entire TV guide. Generally Mondays are a slow day for free-to-air TV. There’s a lot of Mid-West American reality shows spanning from collecting antiques, to pawning antiques to operation reposition for not paying for your antiques. Tuesdays to Thursdays are good if you like seeing everyday Australians date 20 eligible bachelors/bachelorettes, lose weight while wearing primary colours or sing a song with the echoes of an emotional past in front of Danni Minogue. Pretty much anytime after 9.30pm you’ll find a crime drama, which when you live alone is not ideal.
I love to clean when I get into the zone. The problem is I rarely get into the zone. My theory was as long as my toothbrush was tucked into a clean hygienic space I would live a long and fruitful life among soap scum. This has all changed since moving, now I am always in the cleaning zone. I am two Coles transactions away from having a microfiber cloth for every day of the week. I use them to clean everything from the kitchen splash back to TV top and even to remove dust from the leaves of my indoor rubber plant. Perhaps the worst of my cleaning tendencies is that I have become that person who pats dry a sink with a tea towel, but when I can see my reflection in it the next day it seems worth it.
Everything is all fun and games when you live alone and have access to unrestraint liberties such as using the hairdryer at 11pm. It’s when something eventually breaks or runs out, and it will, that the fun stops and it’s all on you. This is why self-sufficiency is the number one character trait required for solo living. Everything from not forgetting to buy toilet paper to remembering bin night is now my single responsibility (and the reason why I keep an emergency travel tissue pack in the bathroom). Wedged between books and magazines on my nightstand is my dishwasher manual. I keep chapter three permanently flagged because it’s four syllables for salvation: Troubleshooting.
I’m still getting used to not being able to shift blame onto co-inhabitants. When I open the fridge and notice the full wheel of brie from yesterday has disappeared, I can no longer hurl accusations and file a missing cheese report. The truth is I should probably put my cheese stash into witness protection from myself (which for the record is the unsuspecting vegetable crisper draw in the fridge). I’m lactose-captive.
It’s easy to forget you’re not alone when you have company or re-enter the real world. I live in fear that I will leave the house mid-mud mask. I’ll only notice when I open my mouth to say hello to a passing neighbour in the foyer and feel the mud crack on my face like the top of a crème brûlée. I haven’t made my public debut in my pajama pants yet, though it’s only a matter of time before I convince myself that pajama pants are basically inactive active wear so it’s okay to be seen in them. Life as an independent dweller has just began and been mostly smooth sailing, except for that one time I thought a stranger broke into my house. It ended up being my coat stand.
This story was originally published on The Design Files with illustrations by Alice Oehr.