10 Life Lessons From My One-Bedroom




You’ve got to have moxie to live alone. I consider myself a social gal, and yet, I chose to live alone. Why? One reason. I want to live without the influence of anyone other than myself for a bit. I’m on a journey here, in a very Emersonian sense. Self-reliance is my mantra. Can she do it, folks? I can, in my very first one-bedroom apartment.

Growing up the youngest of four had it charms, the least of which being, what I shall call ‘spatial independence.’ Surrounded by a bustling household, followed by a bustling college experience, I have had little ‘time to myself’ in the best sense of the phrase. I do not regret anything! Indeed, I love people. I do, however, recognize that a young person should experience pure independence and I am determined to forge that experience: to spend the year asking myself the toughest questions, to test my strengths, pay bills, make mistakes, educate myself, achieve balance, exercise, pray, call my family, write letters, volunteer somewhere no one knows me and become acquainted with a new subject and a new people, sleep.

And so – with resolute baby steps – I declare my self-reliance. And I begin man’s noble search right here in my very own 667 square foot apartment, the stomping ground for this little experiment in which I find myself the test subject surrounded by endless variables. I list a few well-intentioned learning experiences below – wisdom I consider hard-earned and it is my pleasure to share in the hopes that you either smile knowingly or learn something for yourself.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, so I’ll begin with honest humor:

1. Don’t ever run out of toilet paper…ever.

2. Since when did grocery shopping become complicated?

So all your life, you assume you know how to shop for food. You know where they keep the bread and milk, what’s the big deal? Well, try to stock a full pantry without spending half a day deciphering spice blends and brand differentials.

And so begins the story of my 8-hour grocery shopping trip.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is a decent pantry.

I think I took it too far, however, when the other day I spent an hour selecting poultry seasoning. It all seemed so simple! Until the wall of a thousand spices confronted me.  I was faced with earth-shattering prospects. Did I want my chicken to taste like chili-lime tonight? Or maybe Cajun! What’s this Caribbean poultry spice over there? And should I get the lemon pepper with our without garlic added? And who is Mrs. Dash?!?!?! I found myself sniffing the tiny bottles for clues.

Needless to say, an older gentleman approached me to ask if I was lost. I imagine I looked strange and at the very least perplexed. If I ever find a young person who looks as funny and lost in the spice aisle as I did that day, I’m going to offer to help the dear!

3. Palmolive is NOT dishwasher safe.


Here’s what will happen… BUBBLES EVERYWHERE!!!!!!

Here’s what to do… soak up as much soapy water as you can with towels, kill remaining soap bubbles with olive oil and salt, clean the walls of the washer to pick up any rogue soap residue, and try to dump out as much as you can before running the dishwasher through.

I hope in earnest someone reads this and thinks to themselves, “Oh, very good to know!” Because everyone I have shared this story with winds up laughing about it for five minutes… am I the only one in the world that wasn’t privy to this?! I wonder…

4. Do you drink red wine? Read this.

Buy club soda to have on hand for preventative stain-removal! I bought immediately after a guest of mine splashed red wine on her gorgeous white dress. I was frantic while she remained carefree. Why? “Oh, I have club soda at home. It’ll come right out!” Magic! It’s true. I have since used it to remove splashes of all kinds on my white carpeting and I’m one clothing stain away from carrying a personal vial of the stuff in my purse… not a bad idea…

5. Target. Friend or Frenemy?

It’s easy to “love Target.” Somehow, they created magic for adults. Walking through the organized red and white aisles, I imagine, is like being invited to hang out in the Keebler Elf tree. It’s unreal! And wonderful.

I walked in today to buy a stainless steel pot to boil water. I walked out with about 12 more items than that… only 12 unplanned items this time!…I got out lucky.

UPDATE: I went back the next day to return an item that proved unsatisfactory. I told myself “in and out!” But oh! I do need more bowls! And I think I’m about to run out of stationary… 5 items later, I was discharged from Target. So there we have it, folks! Target is a wonderful frenemy I reluctantly hope to always have in my life.

Further Reflection: In truth, in your first year out of college, you’re collecting a life. You’re gathering all the things you never thought about because you always had them available to you, either at home or in college. Things like salt and pepper, a hammer and nails, coffee filters and a never-ending list of kitchen ware, from Tupperware and silver wear to pots and pans, baking sheets, spatulas and all the cleaning products I could never distinguish under mom and dad’s kitchen sink growing up. To me, it was all the same!

And now whenever I find myself in a home furnishings store, every aisle offers inventory I actually do need in time, though not all at once. The difficulty is distinguishing what you need now versus later.

6. Be handy and know handy people!

I am still working on this. In truth, I have only pieced together one IKEA couch… but all the same, I had the experience of holding those clunky metal pieces so foreign in my hands, known as bolts and screws. Not to mention, I fiddled with what I just learned from Google is named, the socket wrench. I stared at the directions, flummoxed, and scratched my head. Literally, scratched my head. I pieced together the masterpiece in no less than an hour. And then I sat at on it – hard as a rock – and wondered to myself, ‘why did I buy a couch I had to piece together anyway?’

Some things you shouldn’t do by yourself… like mount a heavy TV. Not only are you more likely to drop it and break it, you may hurt yourself! I asked the apartment complex if there happened to be a maintenance person free to help me one afternoon, and they sent the kindest individual, whom I thanked with a plate of cookies. I’m relieved to know there are people around to help me when push comes to shove, and I’m glad to know I can do a lot on my own as it is.

7. Don’t just stand there screaming in horror! Kill that cockroach.

It doesn’t mean your place is “Gasp, unlivable!” It just means you need to take action. Talk to the leasing office employees, get on the waitlist to have your apartment sprayed, and dispose of trash and dirty dishes every night. Problem solved.

If that doesn’t do it? Yeah, you need to get out of there.

8. The simplest touch

Frame your space with pictures of loved ones and favorite paintings. No matter where you live, no matter its style, furnishings, or size, placing framed pictures and images on dressers, bookshelves and walls create a warm environment that is uniquely yours. It’s comforting, defining, and it always looks great! In addition to pictures of family and friends, I have framed one Norman Rockwell original magazine cover from the August 1918 issue of St. Nicholas, two small Monet prints, the 1866 Jardin à Sainte-Adresse and the 1876 Parc Monceau, and my diploma.

9. Cable-Shmable.

Television is a legitimate distraction from a lot. I’m not saying it doesn’t have its place, but it probably has too much of a place in life for some. What have I done without cable in the two months between my arrival and my cable installation last Friday? Read, exercised, called my mother, learned how to cook German and Italian dishes, ran errands, took walks, caught up with old friends, and wrote this blog post.

UPDATE: I installed my cable during Shark Week, which served as a fantastic reminder why cable is also sometimes just – awesome – for lack of a better word. Thank you, Shark Week, for serving thrill-seeking, JAWS-loving humans since 1988.

10. In all seriousness, read often and read purely, without distraction, wherever you are!

That’s all, folks! Ten lessons and counting!