It was 8.00am on a Sunday morning, and with a sense of urgency, I opened a new note on my iPhone. I began typing words that until this point had 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, 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 until I starting living alone. When you live without the constant surveillance of other humans, you start to develop new habits. Your behaviour fluctuates. You’ll swing from a super human who has clocked the near impossible culinary equation that is cooking-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, with 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 solo sing-a-longs to Jewel. In between these interactions with my friends and family is when the real ‘living alone’ experiment happens.
I used to think the phrase ‘turn off the light’ was reserved exclusively for parental nagging and Nelly Furtado songs, now I understand it’s the mantra of energy conservationists. I know this because I have become one. My index finger is already toned from constantly flicking off light switches. When my first electricity bill arrives, I want the graph measuring my energy consumption to be so low that Origin are compelled to reward me with a dozen LED lightglobes.
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, covering everything from collecting antiques, to pawning antiques, to having your antiques repossessed. Tuesdays to Thursdays are good if you like seeing everyday Australians battle it out for the opportunity to date the country’s most eligible bachelor/bachelorette, 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. I am two Coles transactions away from having a microfibre cloth for every day of the week. I use them to clean everything from the kitchen splash back to the TV screen, and even to remove dust from the leaves of my indoor rubber plant.
The worst of my cleaning tendencies is that I have become that person who pats dry the kitchen sink with a tea towel, but when I see my reflection looking back at me the next morning, it all seems worth it.
Living alone brings other great joys, such as having unlimited access to the hairdryer, even after 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 keeping the toilet paper stocked up to remembering bin night is now my singular responsibility (and the reason why I keep an emergency travel tissue pack in the bathroom).
I’m still getting used to the idea of not being able to shift blame onto co-inhabitants. When I open the fridge and notice a full wheel of brie 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, to protect it from myself.
It’s also easy to forget social etiquette when you have to re-enter the ‘real world’. I live in perpetual fear of leaving 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 my face crack like the top of a crème brûlée. I haven’t made my public debut in pyjama pants yet, though I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before I start treating the communal areas of my apartment building as an extension of my own living quarters.
Life as an independent dweller has just begun, and it has been mostly smooth sailing. Except for that one time I thought an intruder broke into my house. It ended up being my coat stand.
Lisa Marie Corso is Managing Editor of The Design Files, writes her sporadic blog I Won’t Apologise at night, and somewhere in-between is probably reading the celebrity section of The Daily Mail.
Alice Oehr is an editorial and commercial illustrator based in Melbourne.