Learning to Live Alone… with Other People
Learning to live alone can be very empowering – and expensive.
As solo women, we often prefer to live alone, but we want to do so in an environment which also provides social connections, activities and the sense of community we crave. Community makes it easier to maintain our independence by allowing us to “live alone, together,” the core of the Entourage concept that I write about in my book Retiring Solo.
Money is a factor in solo living, but creativity can compensate for a lack of cash. Resourceful women are falling in love with the idea of having neighbors – and potentially also roommates – again.
The Right Mix of Solitude and Sociability
In her book, How We Live Now, social psychologist Dr. Bella DePaulo calls the simultaneous search for independence and community a mission to find “the right mix of sociability and solitude.” She writes, “There are two things that just about everyone wants in their life. Time with other people and time to themselves.”
I recently moved into a free-standing home in an active adult community in search of exactly that: the ability to live alone in my own space while surrounded by community and, with that, the freedom to be as social (or as reclusive) as I choose!
As an ambivert, someone with both extrovert and introvert characteristics, I love the idea of being able to close my front door and retreat into my own space, knowing that I have neighbors just outside who are available for a chat, an impromptu meal or for keeping an eye on things while I am away. That probably appeals to you, too.
Finding the Right Match
It is a common misconception that people who live alone are unhappy or lonely. It’s not whether we live alone, but whether we feel alone.
There can be nothing lonelier than living with the wrong person. Being confined to a space – no matter how large – with someone who is a bad match can feel far more isolating than being alone ever could. There is an old saying, “It is better to be alone than in bad company.” Very true.
“Friendships have emerged as the essential twenty-first century relationship,” explained DePaulo. That trend is also carrying over into living arrangements. People want to avoid isolation and create support networks while also reducing their housing costs and responsibilities.
Learning to Live Alone – Making the Numbers Work
Living solo may not be an option when costs are high and money is limited. When we live alone, we pay 100 percent of the rent or mortgage and other expenses. There is no one to share the cost, no second income to fall back on when times get tough.
There are many new ways to live in community, including homes clustered around shared areas in pocket neighborhoods; apartment complexes with common spaces; co-housing communities where residents share administration and chores; active adult communities; and senior independent living facilities that offer housing, food, activities and support services.
Shared housing, or living with roommates, is becoming increasingly popular given the cost of most housing options today. Solo homeowners are opening their doors to like-minded housemates. Groups like the Golden Girls Network, Roomates4Boomers and Women Living in Community connect potential tenants with homeowners.
House sharing also allows you to build your own micro-community where people live separately but together and watch out for each other. If you are looking for an encore business to start, creating a service that connects potential housemates could be a great idea!
Rethinking a Roof Over Your Head
Living with other people carries costs that you may not be willing to bear, e.g. lack of privacy, compromise, friction, shared decision making, conflicting personal habits, friends or design taste. When you live solo, you truly are the queen of your own castle.
Think about what is important to you. Consider your finances. Do you have a support network? How social are you? How much privacy do you need? Shared living could be a good solution for your needs.
Living in an active adult community will be a learning experience for me. I also fancy the idea of sharing a home with other like-minded women in the future, particularly as I get older.
Are you learning to live alone? Have you found a way to live successfully with other women? What are the challenges of living alone but together? What unexpected benefits have you found by having other women close by? Please join in the conversation to share your thoughts and experiences.
Lori Martinek is a successful entrepreneur, author and mentor to new and aspiring business owners. She is the owner of Encore Business Advisors, and the founder of @MindingHerBiz, a pro bono project which helps women embrace business ownership. Her latest book, Retiring Solo (2016) is available on Amazon.