A long read exploring 12 ways when combined, make the living alone experience different from other lifestyles. We talk about Solo Living’s mission as a community-driven manual charting the modern living alone experience, and why solo living can help you succeed in life in more ways than one. We also hear from members of our Super Solos Living Community who share their thoughts on their solo living experience and what they think makes it different from other lifestyles.
At Solo Living, we focus on talking about the living alone experience because culturally, living solo breaks from the norm of recognised and accepted traditional lifestyles of living with spouses, partners, children and extended family.
As a consequence, many people living alone will question their living situation, particularly after a long period of time of living solo, and may see it as a failure of not achieving what others have done in finding a partner, settling down and having a family. It is not unreasonable to say, that many people in our Super Solos Living Alone Community do wish to find a partner or companion and actively seek to change their living situation and relationship status.
That said, we want to advocate that by living alone you can succeed in life just as much as anyone else and it helps to rethink and redefine what success means to each of us.
On behalf of people living alone who have never married, settled down or had children, is it not fair to question if we place too much value on traditional lifestyles when for one reason or another, they have not happened for everyone?
Why should Solos be made to feel they haven’t succeeded in life because we have a different set of achievements?
Often, it can feel like people who are living alone are ‘up against it’, being measured or judged with traditional lifestyles, while at the same time, Solos are navigating similar challenges of everyday living, alone.
There are not many things more challenging and exciting at the same time than finding happiness and contentment in life through our own devices. And, in doing so, we can position ourselves to present our best selves to the people around us.
When Solo Living launched in 2016, no one was really talking about living alone in a positive way or in a way that recognised the millions of people who find themselves living alone either through choice or circumstance.
From our perspective, as living alone can be a lifestyle that can last longer than expected, as everyone else would do, we encourage Solos to make the best of what the living alone lifestyle has to offer.
Solos who enjoy and love living alone, take advantage of the opportunities the solo living lifestyle has to offer and persuading them that a solo life can be a good life doesn’t require much convincing! Indeed, it may take much more to persuade them to change their living situation.
While adjusting to living alone may take time, it is a lifestyle many of our Super Solos from our Facebook Living Alone Community have come to cherish.
We normalise the living alone experience so that Solos can feel confident and content with the way life may have unexpectedly or not turned out for them. Regardless of a person’s living situation, life is widely recognised as challenging, and we all have to try and find ways within our resources to live well and be our best selves.
Living alone through choice or circumstance
‘Living alone through choice or circumstance’, is a phrase Solo Living coined when we launched back in 2016 in recognition that there are many reasons why people across the world are living alone today.
In summary, they include, young people opting to settle down later in life and more people choosing a life of solitude. However, in the UK and possibly in the US too, although some do, most people do not choose to live alone in the long term, and find themselves solo living through circumstances; say, after divorce, a relationship breakup, being widowed, or after a traumatic event.
However, these days, the seeds for the modern living alone experience can start early in life, with young people delaying partnering up and having children when a hundred years ago it wasn’t uncommon to be married with a child by the age of 21.
Young men and women today are more likely to live on their own, with parents or in house-shares through their twenties, with more staying in education and taking advanced degrees while focussing on building their careers.
Once in their thirties, and while building careers, it can become more difficult to find the partner we want to attract as our needs, wants and expectations change; and as a result, people might find themselves living alone for longer than anticipated or planned.
At the same time, people are increasingly choosing to remain single and live alone later in life. According to one population study, women live alone two to four times more often than men.
While this can be explained by the fact that women live longer than men, (meaning more widows choose to live alone after losing their partner), some of the reasons are explained by divorce or the dissolution of a partnership. It is amongst the middle-aged that the number of people living alone is most likely to rise in the future.
Choosing a single life
In addition, our contributor, Bella DePaulo writes prolifically about people who know they want to be single throughout life and who may likely find themselves living alone as a consequence. Being single at heart and understanding that someone may not ever want a life partner is a topic she demystifies and underlines as a positive lifestyle choice.
There is no denying that as life expectancy increases, more older adults will live alone in the future. In Nordic countries such as Sweden, living alone is seen as ordinary no matter your adult age. This has evolved by fostering a culture of individualism and building a welfare state that enables people to live alone more easily with easier access to affordable housing and public services.
So, you can imagine, in countries where living alone is an accepted norm, the internal battles we might have with ourselves about whether or not we are succeeding in life because we live a misunderstood modern lifestyle might seem incomprehensible!
Will I love or hate living alone?
Will you love or hate living alone? Well, the answer to the question really lies with the individual. The factors that may influence a person’s attitude and view towards living alone and the solo living experience might depend on the following:
Personality type – Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, can affect your attitude towards living alone. While Bella identifies five types of introverts with varying degrees of preference for social interaction, the degree to which you need to be around other people, or need to spend time alone can influence your attitude towards living alone.
How comfortable you are in your own company – Do you enjoy solitude and spending time alone? Do you manage to achieve more of what you want and what needs to be done through time spent alone? The degree to which you are comfortable in your company will definitely influence your enjoyment of living alone.
The state of your mental health – Mental health is becoming a global health issue, something we are all encouraged to look after, and with support, if we need it. The more mentally resilient we are then the easier living alone will be. For many who experience, or are healing from trauma, the living alone experience can be the tonic they need to heal. Conversely, some may feel that, without others to connect with and discuss our feelings and emotions, living alone may exasperate negative emotions and feelings of isolation.
The question to ask would be, is living alone the issue? Or, is it our ability to reach out and connect with others? Do you need people around 24/7 in order to feel better? Or can you find ways to improve your mental health with the freedom that is offered through the living alone experience?
Level of social connection – Solos who are proactive in making connections and building a social life that fits in with their lifestyle needs will enjoy living alone. Inevitably, our ability to build and make social connections is linked to the three factors mentioned above.
Being able to opt-in and out of social activities as one pleases is certainly cited as an advantage of living alone. However, if you find connecting with others a difficult thing to achieve, even though it is what you want, then you may take a less than enthusiastic attitude towards living alone.
The reason why you’re living alone – This goes back to whether or not you are living alone through choice or circumstance as talked about earlier in this article. You’re more likely to enjoy living alone if you have chosen the lifestyle, whereas someone who is living alone after a breakup that wasn’t their choice may find it harder.
What makes living alone different from other lifestyles?
1 The mental load of decision-making
Solo living helps you become an expert in decision-making in every area of your life. We have to manage the mental load of managing finances (paying bills, household repairs, life admin (insurance, health, savings, etc.), managing a home and household, looking after a career and its direction, developing and nurturing our relationships with friends and family, socialising and looking after and making decisions over our health and wellbeing.
While this can be overwhelming at times, the ability to self-care and look after our wellbeing (see point 9 below) can help create a good balance between all the decisions we have to make and living alone well with confidence.
2 More time spent alone and in solitude
People living alone are likely to spend more time in solitude. This can be a blessing or a curse depending on your personality and your social needs. The reasons why you are living alone may affect your ability to manage time spent in solitude and if you will enjoy it.
For example, if you are a natural introvert, spending time alone may be essential to your health and wellbeing, whereas if you have been used to living with a partner for most of your adult life, then living alone can feel more challenging.
However, the benefit of spending time in solitude is that it can help you cultivate a healthy body and mind.
3 Treated differently by friends and family
Living alone and being happily single can result in you being treated differently by your family and friends. This means you may miss out on being invited to couples’ events, such as dinner parties and group holidays. We say this in jest, but you may be banished to the singles or children’s table at weddings because being a solo guest doesn’t really help even number table planning!
Seriously though, living alone and being single can affect how relationships develop, particularly if your family and friends have children and you don’t. The feeling of not being able to fully relate to similar life experiences can impact and affect friendships on both sides.
4 Treated differently at work
If you are part of a team at work, you may be asked to cover family holidays such as Christmas and school holidays because other team members want to spend them with their families. While you may be happy to help your team members out, it can be frustrating if bosses and colleagues always assume you are happy to do this year after year.
Equally, it is not uncommon for people living alone and without children to consciously take their holidays at times that don’t clash with school holidays.
5 Control over your career
For many a Solo, their career will be an important part of their life because, on a day-to-day basis, they spend a significant amount of time focused on work activities and building relationships within the workplace.
Work can be an important place to apply and put skills, knowledge and experience to good use and where Solos interact and engage most with others. Therefore, it can mean that work is more than just a job where Solos cultivate themselves as individuals, the relationships they have with others, and their career direction at the same time.
For major life decisions such as boosting your career prospects, living alone can mean you will have the flexibility and mobility to relocate and live anywhere you want to gain a promotion.
If your employer offers you a better-paid job with more responsibility but requires you to move home for it to be viable, living alone means you don’t have to consider your partner’s feelings or concerns about the move.
It makes you wonder how many flourishing careers have been missed out on because living with a partner has influenced decision-making and career choices.
Depending on the type of work you do, living alone can help you manage your work-life balance. Being in charge of your finances means you are in a prime position to audit your life activities and find ways to define a working life that suits you.
6 Enjoy financial independence
Living alone means you have complete control over financial decisions regarding how you want to decorate your home, where to go on holiday, what car to buy, how to manage your household budget and how you save and invest. Whether you are living on a lot or a little, you are in control of your finances and money planning decisions.
7 Work hard at social life and staying connected
Single people tend to work harder on maintaining friendships and staying connected. If we want to see others, we are more proactive about arranging meetups and social events with family and friends.
In turn, Solos often highly value their relationships with friends, holding them in high esteem and treating friends just as importantly as they would family. It means solos can often be sensitive to disappointments from friends or when they feel they have been let down by them.
Singles are also known for being generous with their time, and actively taking part in voluntary and community work dispelling the idea that people who are living alone and are single, live a selfish lifestyle.
Some of our Super Solos have mentioned that living alone allows them time to spend on caring activities for family members like elderly parents, and in a way that other family members who are married or in a relationship with children cannot. This can be because of where they are living and the physical distance from relatives who have caring needs. It is not unheard of for Solos to bring elderly relatives into their home to live with them, relocate or travel the distance to undertake caring duties.
8 You become self-efficient and resourceful
Living alone means that you can become incredibly self-sufficient. You get to make all the choices, so the decision-making process of major and minor tasks or changes in your life is made easier and more stress-free.
Around the home, living solo provides the opportunity to become a great problem solver, especially when it comes to DIY tasks. Many of our Super Solos comment on their ability to tackle jobs around the home that may otherwise be carried out by bringing people in.
9 More time for self-care and to focus on personal wellbeing
Living alone and time spent in solitude means you can get to know yourself, your likes, dislikes and desires. Being in control of your time means you can focus and dedicate time to your mental health and wellbeing.
By dedicating time spent in solitude to getting to know yourself you can decide on self-care activities that will bring you personal happiness and joy, even in small doses. In turn, by working on yourself and presenting your best self to the outside world, you can improve your relationships with others.
10 Open to different types of relationships
Living alone and being self-efficient can help redefine what you want from a relationship. Many solos who are single are open to maintaining a relationship with a significant other but may draw the line at living with a life partner.
Living together apart is a modern way to conduct a committed relationship without making unwanted compromises. People may choose other ways to conduct relationships because of how someone has been treated in a previous relationship; having children and being a solo parent; or simply because solo living means you thrive better when living alone, and having your own space – both physically and mentally.
11 The cost of living is higher when living alone
According to data from the ONS, people living on their own spend an average of 92% of their disposable income, compared with two-adult households who spend only 83% of theirs. As we all know, the cost of living is rising.
With energy bills increasing exponentially and the cost of food soaring, this will be a significant concern for solos living alone. Living alone means you have to become skilled in managing your finances to achieve and enjoy the financial independence mentioned in Point 3.
12 Unrivalled freedom and independence
Cited as the most popular advantages of solo living (by our Super Solos), are the unrivalled freedom, and sense of independence solo living offers. While there are trade-offs to be made by living alone, many solos accept the higher cost of living and the mental load of decision-making as worthwhile in exchange for the freedom, independence, less need for compromise and control over one’s life the modern living alone experience has to offer.
The freedom and independence solo living offers can present a lifestyle directed by our own choices, helping us to succeed in life on our own terms where we can foster a greater sense of personal wellbeing that helps us be better people in our communities, and amongst our family and friends.
What do people living alone think?
Solo Living is a community-driven resource for people living alone. So, we asked members of our Super Solos Living Community what they think makes living alone different from other lifestyles. You’ll find much of what they have to say, chimes with what we have mentioned above.
“I have never lived with anyone except my parents, so I can’t really compare, but for me, it’s cool how you become a jack of all trades when you live alone. Nobody’s gonna help you with anything, so you learn to fix the sink yourself. From (usually female) friends I often hear stuff like, “I’ll ask my husband to do that”. If you live alone you don’t have that option, but I enjoy that. I don’t wanna have to rely on anyone and I enjoy learning new stuff. And if it’s something I can’t do, I’m in the privileged position to be able to afford a professional to do it for me.”
“I am a widow, so do know both sides of the coin so to speak. Obviously, at first, it was really difficult to adjust. I went from having a full house, with my husband and children, to just me and him, which did take some getting used to. When my husband passed it was a shock, and I hated living alone, and couldn’t get used to it being just me. But now, although I miss my husband, I love living on my own, I can eat what I want when I want, and I can watch what I want on the telly.
I can pretty much do whatever I want and because it’s only me I have to consider. I have learnt a lot about myself. It’s almost like being set free from a life of always doing for others to just doing what suits me! I think it probably has made me a bit selfish, and I certainly would struggle if I had to share my life again. Would I have chosen solo living when I was younger? No, because I wouldn’t change my experience or my relationships, but I’m 61 now and feel like it’s my turn now. Solo living is definitely for me!
“The lack of compromise is great, as is not eating stuff because others want it and not going out unless I want to! Leaving an event when I want and speaking with lots of different people during the course of an event.
Not getting lazy – I have to sort the decorating, the repairs, put the bins out, stack and empty the dishwasher. Mend my own cycle punctures, check the car over, fill it with petrol etc. I’ve got several male friends, and at least one female friend, who’d help with all these things if I asked, and some offer regularly, but it’s hugely empowering to do it all myself.”
“Living alone is a completely different life altogether having always been among family and then living almost on your own. Widowed for a long time now so that was hard, and it has taken years of recovering (if we ever do). Having to cook for one or decorate the house which I loved until health issues meant family stepped in to help, although, I still do these things.”
“I’ve mostly lived alone, and as someone has said, it does, I think, make you a bit selfish, but on that note, I only have myself to please. The toilet seat is always DOWN. I’ve picked up all sorts of skills over the years – I do my own decorating/minor repairs, I can check my own tyre pressures and oil level, I have an allotment which I love, cooking for one is easy – I cook double and freeze food – a ready meal for when you can’t be bothered! The lack of compromise is total freedom!”
“I enjoy the peace, freedom and having a home tidy and as I left it when returning home.
I enjoy shutting the door on the outside world. Eating what you want. Listening to the radio or TV at night when cannot sleep.
Life is on your terms without having to consider others as you do when sharing a home with family or housemates.
Knowing what you buy is yours and yours alone.
Seems like a selfish lifestyle but as long it is a happy life why not?
I am alone as I cannot live with or without my partner of 13 years, and we’re both much happier living apart and seeing each other for ‘dates’ or quiet nights in.
I did have two dogs when I first lived alone but they have now sadly passed away. I am enjoying not having to get up to walk them, and being able to put my pj’s on any time as I don’t have to do bedtime walks.
To ease lonely times I chat online with friends and family, read, watch TV, and rest.
I take people with disabilities on holiday for a week at a time, once a month or so, plus I am a part-time carer for my elderly Mum.
That’s why I enjoy the peace and quiet at times.
I also look after a neighbour’s dog Somerton, easing the lack of company from pets.
Am 61 now and feel I deserve to have ME time in my own little Palace. ”
“I am 62 and have no family or children. I have three dogs. I find that solo living is just lovely! It’s taken me about three years to get to this place. I relied on my ex for all the “boy” jobs, so found it difficult, when we split. However, my DIY book and Google are my pals and I normally can do most things. If it’s something I can’t do, I get a professional in. I love my garden and my allotment. I love knowing that I can eat what I want and watch whatever TV I want.
Best bit of all?? The toilet seat is never up and I never have to watch football!!”
“I want this to sound positive, but I work in finance and find so many traditional couples leave the money issues to just one person, sometimes leaving the partner in a really sad situation when they assumed their partner had arranged things. Being on your own mean you have to be aware of mortgage rates, investment and pension fluctuations and what it means for your future.”
“This sounds a bit silly, but I like not having a plan for someone else to feel comfortable about what I’m up to redecorating/garden/out walking. Things can evolve organically and I can change my mind without being judged or thrown in confidence because of someone else’s comments or opinion or their right to input. My timescale is my own and my sense of pride is fully my own and hasn’t been compromised. I was in very nasty relationships before – I had zero confidence and gave up on so much because of someone else chipping in or taking over. That’s probably why I’m so aware of this particular freedom.”
“I am aware that I am the only unmarried person in my family but most of the time I appreciate the fact that I can go and visit each sibling and family more easily than they can and I can also give more time to my nieces and nephews.”
“I’ve lived alone (with my cat) for many years and wouldn’t want it any other way. I can do what I like when I like, and I’m not answerable to anyone. I don’t have any close family, but I do have several very good friends, so I can always have company when I want it. It’s a win-win situation for me.”
“I enjoyed my life so much when my children were living at home and they would be the only people I would now sacrifice my solo living for. For me, as with many others, it’s the total freedom you have over your own life – not having to compromise over anything is a totally liberating feeling. For me, it’s like a beautiful summer’s day. Yes, it has its difficulties which usually revolve around a home repair but if I can’t fix it(usually after I’ve YouTubed the issue a million times) I’m fortunate to have a close friend who can fix most things. I often listen to friends bemoaning their problems with their partners which always serves as a reminder that I’m definitely never going down that path again.”
“I have been able to give both my elderly parents more of my time. They were divorced and lived apart. Dad died a few months back and I have been able to clear the house and manage the estate. My Mum and sister moved 180 miles away so I have managed this alone. Being solo has given me tenacity.”
“Can’t, in all honesty, say I am the world’s biggest fan of living solo, but circumstances beyond my control have brought me to this place – namely divorce. But I am where I am, take one day at a time and try not to overthink it. The biggest thing I struggle with is not having someone at home to discuss the problems of the day with when I get home. Then there is the logistical nightmare every time the boiler needs a service or the car needs an MOT. It’s down to your own resourcefulness and problem-solving skills. Finance is also more pressured by only having one salary. Everyone tells you that you have to batch cook and live out the freezer, but you don’t have to any more than you have to live on take-out. On the positives, one thing I have done is nurture and develop my social network beyond the home. So much of the support I need can be found there. I am not actually single either, but in a distance relationship and that is another strange quirk.”