6 things I learnt about living alone (#adulting101)

Confession: I’m still an amateur in this adulting department. I have come a long way to who I am today but there are still so much so learn. Before I share 6 lessons I learnt since I left my parents and be on my way, let’s take a trip down my memory lane.

I moved to Sydney when I was 17 and here’s how it all began…

story time


I stayed in a shared student accommodation 15 minutes away from the campus when I first arrived Sydney. It was mainly because I was underage and I could either live in such accommodation providers or go to homestay who acted as a guardian (later I found out it was all BS – I am an Australian citizen and such rules only apply to international students). Not gonna lie, it was a painful period for me. First of all we had stupid rules to follow, like we needed to swipe our cards to prove we were back by the dorm by 10pm every single day. Anyway, I shared a place with four other girls. Besides my room everything else was common area. So I wasn’t really living alone back then but it was indeed the first time I left my parents and went on my own.

It took me some time to adjust this “free” lifestyle. Truth to be told, I never really did any chores so it was a big change for me. Think of me like some plant grown in glasshouse. I won’t say I was spoiled, but rather lack “common sense” in dealing with household things. I tried to copy whatever my parents used to do in terms of home maintenance, from standard grocery shopping to cleaning systems. Everything was new to me. From choosing the brand of cooking utensils to deciding whether to use washing powder or liquid, I was clueless as hell. Funny thing was that I somehow couldn’t be bothered for all the chores. I was quite distracted by the fact that I was in a foreign country and I had freedom away from my family. At some point I only vacuumed my place only when I felt like it, and I never had any meal preparation or cleaning schedules. Everything was a mess, but honestly who cared?


Then in my 3 years of uni life I stayed in a studio in another on campus accommodation. I was officially living alone and I had all the time and space and privacy to myself. Since I didn’t have a lot of school hours I spent more time at home. And I loved being alone. I hated sharing, and I felt like I wasn’t “at home” if I had to live with someone.

Besides the lack of discipline, I think I was not being mindful about the way I lived. My room was always messy. I went shopping all the time, and had a lot of impulse shopping online as well. Not to mention how much I bought when I went back to Hong Kong once a year. I didn’t realise my stuff was piling up. Another main issue was cooking. I never ever enjoyed cooking and I wasn’t at all aware of my diet or nutrition. I valued convenience. I preferred dining out. I always went to the city with my friends when we didn’t have class and we would spend a lot on entertainment and fancy food.


I graduated from Uni, joined workforce and moved to my parents’ place but they only visited me twice a year so I was mostly alone. I still remember vividly how much of a disaster it was when I moved – I just had so much stuff that it took a few trips back and forth to move. I didn’t even know those stuff existed. It dawned on me that I never kept track of my posession or maintained my place. I told myself I would change. So I moved to a bigger place and I tried to be as tidy as I could. I also tried to cook more although I still didn’t enjoy it. But you know the deal when you started working – you feel powerful with the money you earn. I started to be “generous” to myself and I could spend recklessly on things like spontaneous coffee and milk tea, or branded clothes. How naive was I back then. I lack self discipline and control.


I made the decision to go back to Hong Kong, a.k.a. the materialistic city of all, and I lived with my parents again.. Nothing came close to the relocating situation I had – 7 years of accumulated possession! It was the most painful process ever to decide what to throw away, what to ship back home and what to bring with me. I vowed to myself I would start looking into minimalism and only acquire things I truly enjoying using that last long.

I actually did a mini renovation in my room so I went through everything before I got rid of shelves and wardrobes. I sorted through all the prizes and certificates from my childhood, all the souvenirs from every trip I went to, and all the soft toys, novels and CDs I had. Massive process. But I finally got them all under control. It felt so satisfying knowing I only had two big boxes of possession and a small wardrobe consisting of my favourite clothings.

But you know how the story would go. I occasionally stocked up cheap t-shirts and facial masks. There were also other random things I saw online and couldn’t resist trying out. Then life happened, and I decided to move back to Sydney again this year to pursue my master degree.

Guess what? I only took one luggage with me. Took me a long time to decide the absolute must to bring with me. I was alone again. I went from one luggage-worth of stuff to one car-worth, then when I moved back to where I used to live after I graduated, it took me two trips. Yep I definitely was accumulating stuff again but this time it was different. They were all things that I use almost on a daily basis. I realised that kitchenwares and kitchen appliances occupy a lot of space. But if you were into baking and fancy cooking, I bet your possession will be a lot more than I do.

Anyway, that’s the complicated story of me moving around from countries.

Here are a few things I learnt about living by myself, in order of importance:

1 own your freedom

Do you know what does “freedom” mean? Yes, discipline. Two sides of the same coin. They are not opposite of each other. In order to find peace and be trouble-free on your own, you need discipline. In a home setting it means taking full responsibility of maintaining your place in order to make it suitable and comfy to live in – or make it homey, if you would. In the life setting it means the discipline to exercise, eat healthy and read to take care of your body and mind. Do you see why I put this as the first point?

Owning your freedom to live alone means you take 100% responsibility of yourself.

So is there any way to make this whole discipline, responsibility way of life easier and more fun? Funny you should ask. Read on.

2 set up a life maintenance system

I personally divide it to several sections. There are cleaning, cooking and maintenance (the actual kind, like when the aircon doesn’t work). By that I don’t just mean my apartment. I have a system set up to remind me the weekly, monthly, quarterly and annually things I need to do. From daily vacuum to weekly laundry, monthly fridge cleaning to quarterly decluttering and annual car service. You need to put the dates down. Keep track of everything. I use Notion for such system and I use Evernote to store the receipts, warranties and user manual. You only need to set this up once and you life will be depending on this system forever. So don’t be lazy. It’s for your own good. Remember what we just said? You own your freedom.

3 have a weekly, bi-weekly, monthly and quarterly cleaning schedule in place, and stick to it

I obviously am not the original person to come up with this. I found such cleaning schedule and checklist on Pinterest and I copied that to my Notion page so I can check off things as I go. It will make your life so much easier. Especially if you are afraid of insects just like me. You know what I mean. Be a decent human being and have some discipline. Most stuff requires less than 2 minutes to finish. I am sure you can do it.

4 set up a grocery shopping routine and bulk buy if possible

It depends on when your local supermarket updates its catalogue. I always have a shopping list on my phone. I add things in when I am cooking because that is the time I know something runs out. Then I check out the catalogue before I go to the supermarket for items on sale. Now due to the coronavirus I only do my grocery shopping once a week. I plan out my meals after I finish shopping because there is always something I end up not buying or things I don’t expect to buy. On the note of meal planning – it will save you a lot of time to think and decide if you plan all the meals out in advance. It will also be more convenient as you can take the food out earlier to defreeze. Also remember discipline – living alone means no one knows when you finish the whole tub of ice cream by yourself, but what good does it do?

5 do a stocktake every quarter

That applies to food, kitchenwares, toilet rolls, cosmetics supply and – yes, your closet. My rationale for this is to think about the things I absolutely cannot live without. For me, it’s concealer, lemon, hoodies, to name a few. If you run a stocktake every now and then, you might find what you have forgotten at the back of the closet or cupboard, or worse – fridge. Once you clear things out, you have more space physically and mentally. I also actively think of ways to simplify my life – from stationery, accessories to my clothes. Less stuff, fewer items to keep track of.

6 you dont need to follow your parents' footpaths. Sometimes people just get too used to a routine and they don't evaluate if it is still effective after all those years.

I have observed my parents for a long time and I finally concluded that their way of living didn’t suit me. Sometimes it’s not just a lifestyle choice, but false beliefs and refusing to change. As someone who overthinks on almost everything, I do spend time revaluating everything I do and I try to improve efficiency and effectiveness. When you live alone, there is no one to judge your decisions. You don’t need to think about others’ opinions. From the colours of your towels to when you decide to hang your clothes, the choice is all yours. You do you.

Final thoughts

I truly learnt and grew a lot when I started living by myself. Not only did I become more independent, I also became more aware of myself and my decision. I am not saying you will be as contented as I am by yourself since some people draw energy by spending time with other people. But it is definitely a good experience to be on your own, even just for a short period of time.

Sometimes it amazes me to see how some people grow older, but not wiser. They let time slip by without being mindful to their lives and how they spend their time. As someone who strives to make 1% of improvement every single day, I would totally encourage you to actively manage your own life, no matter you live alone or not.

Let me know your story of living arrangement in the comment section below! x