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Crucial Update

When You Live Alone, Everything Is Yours

Photo: Parachute

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Yesterday, our sister site Curbed published their relaunch feature, Home Sweet Home. It's the multi-page embodiment of the site's new slogan, Love Where You Live.

Loving where I live is the most important thing in my life right now. A year ago today I moved into my first solo apartment. No roommates, no best friend since high school, no live-in boyfriend, no pets (my landlord's decision, not mine). I do love where I live — I bought a print that says "This Must Be the Place" in case I need to be reminded — but it took about a year's worth of shopping for furniture, journaling, and phone calls to my mom to get to this point.

The intro to Home Sweet Home, written by Curbed's editor-in-chief Kelsey Keith, made me tear up Tuesday morning. (It's been a while since I had a good public cry.) I can't sum it up better than she wrote it, so here it is:

The only house that ever appears in my dreams is the one I moved out of when I was ten. Pre-Latin class, pre-AOL instant messenger, pre-sneaking out, pre-college applications — €”all adolescent landmarks I should probably remember more clearly than the grasscloth wallpaper in our foyer, the gutters over the back deck that required constant cleaning, the carpeted stairs one could sled down into the den, or the cherry tree in the backyard that only bore fruit once. But that's the thing about homes. Home is where physical space melds with security and comfort — real or imagined. Home is a kid's drawing of a gabled roof and shutters on the windows. Home is the place you remember even after living in 13 different places since you graduated from high school.

The line that got me was "real or imagined." That, for lack of a better word, is so real. Security, outside of a deadbolt and bars on the windows, is intangible. It's in no way concrete. To me, it's right up there with love.

My apartment is the place I end up almost every night. Mostly, I'm in my own bed, under my own blankets. I sit in my own bath and drink my own wine and read my own books. For the first time in my life, everything I own belongs to me. There are no stray knick-knacks; no unwanted shower products; no one on the other side of a wall to text, "Hey, are you in the kitchen right now? Can you grab me a glass of water?"

This is my apartment!

I lived with a significant other for almost two years before I moved into my own place. Transitioning to a solo, studio apartment (and a life of non-attachment, which is a different essay entirely) wasn't as simple as signing a lease and asking my dad for help hanging up shelves.

Because living alone can be terrifying and existentially nerve-wracking. A friend of mine who moved into her own place a few months before I did said to me at the time, "You could stay in your house for 48 hours straight on the weekend and no one would know you never left." It's less of an I could die here feeling and more of one that begs the question, What is the meaning of something that only exists for me?

My parents have lived in the same house for 28 years, which means I've only had one childhood bedroom. Like Kelsey writes, home is the place you remember, even if you've had other houses since. When I was a kid, the defining characteristic of what made someone who they were was their bedroom. I still feel this way.

So, the most important thing about my new place was making sure I got the bedding right. Last week, after a year of getting it wrong, I splurged on a set of sheets, pillowcases, and a duvet cover from Parachute. Adult bedding makes me feel like I'm living my best life, even if there are still shards of glass somewhere on the floor from a broken candleholder, or just an onion and face masks in my fridge.

If I get home at a reasonable hour, my typical nighttime routine before getting into said bed involves a bath. This almost always involves a glass of wine, and, because I have a tremendously short attention span, usually only lasts 10 or 15 minutes. But it's the moment that I think about all day when I start to feel like I want to go home.

So far, the freedom to start a bath, indulge in it for an almost useless amount of time, and then give it up is one of the best things about living alone. So is coming home at 2 a.m. and making pasta, and so is taking a long time to get ready without being rushed, and so is walking from my bedroom to my bathroom, which are at the opposite ends of my apartment, and saying out loud, "This is all mine."

The this, though, isn't just stuff, although most of my things do indeed spark a lot of joy. This is about physical space. This is something I can actually call my own, something I worked hard for, both financially and emotionally. This is security and comfort, real or imagined, but most of the time both. This is the place.