Table for One

10 Very Important Reasons Why I Love Living Alone

And why I'll never go back to having roommates again.

by:
January  4, 2019
Photo by Bobbi Lin

Table for One is a column by Senior Editor Eric Kim, who loves cooking for himself—and only himself—and seeks to celebrate the beauty of solitude in its many forms.


Four score and seven years ago, I had a roommate. He was terribly inconsiderate and somehow got peanut butter on everything in our apartment: the toilet seat, the front door knob, the kitchen sink. He was perfectly nice otherwise, but as an introvert I was irked by every little thing he did. His greatest crime was, probably, that he existed. (And the peanut butter.)

Needless to say, I had to move out.

Eventually I found a tiny place near my work in Morningside Heights. The 250–square foot shoebox studio would be my bachelor pad for the next four years; I was in love with it because it was mine. I filled it with books and kitchen supplies, and a desk—which would become my writer's sanctuary, the place where I escaped to meditate and create.

Living alone all these years, I've learned so much about myself—that I hate doing the dishes but love making my bed, and that I 100% always prefer a desk to a couch when it comes to furniture. But the most important thing I've learned from living alone is how to be happy—truly, perfectly content—on my own.

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Top Comment:
“I read all of the comments so far and found things that resonate with me in all of them. I am 63 and have lived alone most of my adult life, although it took 3 marriages and a number of living with other for me to FINALLY learn that I am happiest living with a dog and a cat! For 33 years and counting, I have worked from a home office (computer programmer). For the last 12 years and counting, I have lived in a smallish home on 8 acres in rural Northwest Montana - takeaway and/or quick runs to anywhere are not options. I love to cook and 90% of the time have nice meals on nice dishes sitting at my kitchen island: table for one :) . I bake bread, crackers, occasional sweets and working in the kitchen is as much a work break as getting outside with my pets. I'm not a huge fan of dishes and no automatic dishwasher, but some time ago I read that Zen thing of "when you chop wood, chop wood" ... basically mindfulness. For me, I found that when I'm doing dishes, I do the dishes - in my head as well as with my hands - it turned the task into something more pleasant. I like my own company and the company of my dog and cat. I like to keep things neat and mostly organized. I am naturally quiet and enjoy my simple and quiet life. Mainly, I am content :)”
— MtAdventurer
Comment

After years of weighing the options between dwelling with others and dwelling by myself, I've decided full-stop that the latter is a thousand times better. Here's why:

1. Having my own space to come home to makes me feel safer in the world.
It's a source of necessary comfort knowing that, as much as I enjoy going out with friends or spending time with others, I can always be alone again by heading home and recharging my introvert batteries. It's to my—and everyone's—benefit that I have this time to myself, so I can come out again and be a productive, social person in the world.

2. I'm not on anyone's schedule but my own.
There's a big difference between being alone and being lonely. I've always felt that my being lonely has nothing to do with who's around me. Which is why I often opt for solitude and run the risk of sealing myself off for days on end—especially after difficult weeks, or when it's rainy outside and I just want to cuddle in bed with my dog. But I don't apologize for any of this. I can take the time I need and go out for a drink or a quiet dinner when I'm ready and no sooner.

3. I spend more on rent, but less on food.
Because I stay in and cook a lot more, I find that my budget comes out to about the same as when I had roommates and paid less on rent every month. But for me, any extra money I spend to have my own sanctuary is worth every penny. Plus, cooking in my own kitchen with my own things has made me want to cook in the first place, versus stumbling through a shared kitchen with assorted (and often dirty) pots and pans.

4. I experiment more in the kitchen.
Living alone means discovering strange (but delicious!) combinations I never would have tried were people watching. And it's in this kind of daily eating—that is, without any shame or remorse—that I'm truly able to relish the day-to-day tinkerings about in my kitchen, fridge, and cupboard. For instance, I almost always put sour cream on whatever I'm eating. I stir it into risotto to loosen it up, I slather it on eggs, I even dip French fries into it. If any of that seems weird, I'm not ashamed—sour cream makes everything taste better.

5. The sink is my happy place.
The one thing I hate doing most is the dishes. I despise it. Luckily, because I live alone, I can leave my dirty dishes for as long as I want—and even find myself eating over the sink when I'm pressed for time! The crumbs end up there (and not on the ground), and there's a certain empowering frivolousness that comes from licking food off my fingers.

6. Only I can hold myself to a regular cleaning schedule.
My apartment is one tiny room. The kitchen is on one side, my bed is right next to the fridge, and my bookshelf and desk are a stone's throw away from both of those. Which means I have to clean—once a week, usually on Sunday—or else I'll wake up on Monday unable to find my socks or boil an egg.

7. And I can put off laundry for a solid month.
When you live alone, there's no one there to make you do your laundry. Which is great, but also terrible. Sometimes my hamper gets so heavy and scary that I ignore it for a good month or two. Eventually I wash my clothes, but it's nice to not have to do it when I'm too tired or don't feel like it, and to make that decision myself.

8. Quality ingredients are really worth it.
Filet mignon, scallops, shrimp, avocados—these are all significantly more affordable when bought small-scale, which means cooking fancy dinners for yourself is encouraged when living alone—and an easy way to treat yourself.

9. I appreciate other people more.
As much as I love lying in bed with a chocolate lava cake, being without people for an extended period of time is the one thing that makes me appreciate the moment I'm with them again.

10. My peanut butter ends up in cookies and nowhere else.
Much to my dog's chagrin.

Do you live alone? What do you love most about it? Let us know in the comments below.

90 Comments

sf-dre January 16, 2019
Three slobby roommates were what got me on the road to living alone and I stayed in that fortress of solitude for over 25 years, not having to answer to anyone but me. I already worked in San Francisco so I moved here just as rents were going into the stratosphere and managed to get a roomy (for SF) in-law unit in a not-hip neighborhood. Landlords live upstairs, neighbors in the adjoining apartment are quiet. On weekends, I make things which freeze well and don't cook all that much during the week. I hope to stay here for as long as I can.
 
Kathryn S. January 14, 2019
what a wonderful article re: living alone. i will be 75 in august. i have attempted to live with others at various times in my life . . . to no avail. didn't add to my happiness or self reliance in any way. solitude, privacy and stillness are integral for me. furthermore, the times i've experienced a sense of loneliness is when i've been living with a partner. still looking for a partner, but not to live with ;0)
 
HalfPint January 8, 2019
I liked living alone too. I spent a year in Austin, TX and had a one bedroom to myself with a washer/dryer combo that I didn't have to pay extra for ;)<br /><br />It was the perfect place for me at that moment. I was young and on my own for the first time in my life. It was heaven.<br /><br />Fast forward a few years and a different state (California), I couldn't really afford to live alone and had a series of roommates who were mostly good roommates (except for that one girl who left her dishes in the sink for days!). I was thankful for having these roommates because during this time, I got really depressed and the anxiety that came with it was terrible. For the first time, I was really afraid of being alone. It was nice to have someone else in the apartment even if we weren't in the same room. <br /><br />These days, I just want 5 minutes alone without a mini-human asking me "what are you doing???"
 
Author Comment
Eric K. January 8, 2019
That image of the mini-human is so cute, though.
 
GZ January 7, 2019
I agree! Thank you Eric for sharing your thoughts on living with Self! Isn't it wonderful to know how to love being with yourself AND to love being with others too! Now that my children are grown and married, I live with just me! I love living with me! I love cooking for me and growing a garden for me! I love sharing what I cook and what I grow in my garden too. I quiver with excitement when I am alone and can cook with flat out creative ( often reckless and messy) abandon and sensory anticipation. And when I create a meal where all the tastes are splendid and complementary- now that is pure enjoyment! Such events are present moment expanding and those moments make myself very happy!<br /><br />I love the peace, silence, and stillness that exists when others are absent in my environment. I love hearing myself think, seeing myself observe and learn; using my senses and feeling so alive and grateful for the time with myself. Life is amazing and gorgeous, fun and inspiring when I am with myself and especially in my kitchen and garden. I can give more to others when I give to my Self.
 
Author Comment
Eric K. January 8, 2019
I love living with me, too. Thanks for reading and sharing your joy, GZ!
 
MarieGlobetrotter January 7, 2019
I agree with this so much. I live on my own and enjoy every moment of it. It's the one place where I get to be selfish (I work in the humanitarian sector so no selfishness allowed there) <br />- I get to do my groceries at the market without thinking about what anyone else wants to eat that week or whether there would be any space left in the fridge<br />- I can walk around naked<br />- Have dance parties all by myself<br />- Scream at the tv without annoying anyone<br />- I can clean and decorate the way I want<br />- The whole bag of popcorn is for me and I don't need to hide it<br />- No weird smells except my own<br /><br />I could go on but I won't. If I need a friend I have a bunch in my neighborhood or I just squeeze my cat. And , no, I'm not a cat lady. Do you know how my grandmother wishes to have my life instead of having to take care of my despotic grandfather???
 
MtAdventurer January 7, 2019
I read all of the comments so far and found things that resonate with me in all of them. I am 63 and have lived alone most of my adult life, although it took 3 marriages and a number of living with other for me to FINALLY learn that I am happiest living with a dog and a cat! For 33 years and counting, I have worked from a home office (computer programmer). For the last 12 years and counting, I have lived in a smallish home on 8 acres in rural Northwest Montana - takeaway and/or quick runs to anywhere are not options. I love to cook and 90% of the time have nice meals on nice dishes sitting at my kitchen island: table for one :) . I bake bread, crackers, occasional sweets and working in the kitchen is as much a work break as getting outside with my pets. I'm not a huge fan of dishes and no automatic dishwasher, but some time ago I read that Zen thing of "when you chop wood, chop wood" ... basically mindfulness. For me, I found that when I'm doing dishes, I do the dishes - in my head as well as with my hands - it turned the task into something more pleasant. I like my own company and the company of my dog and cat. I like to keep things neat and mostly organized. I am naturally quiet and enjoy my simple and quiet life. Mainly, I am content :)
 
Author Comment
Eric K. January 7, 2019
MtAdventurer, my 'table for one' is also a kitchen island! Do dog and cat get along well? I've been tempted to adopt the latter...
 
MtAdventurer January 7, 2019
Eric, they do get along ... if you are interested and have time, my Instagram (easummers) has many, many photos of them together. Now, currently I have an almost 11 month old puppy and my cat is 5. My previous dog, I adopted when he was 6 1/2 and it took me a year to get him ok with my 14 year old cat: combination of my cat being older and diabetic and not as mobile as a young fit cat, i.e. not able to jump and run. And I didn't go about introduction and first months well. That dog's first person had died suddenly and I adopted him from New Jersey … flying him to Montana. At any rate, a lot of changes for the dog. All of this a long story to say that mostly I've had no trouble having a dog and a cat (at one time 2 cats), but I believe it pays to do the introduction slowly and respect each of the animal's needed time to accept the other.
 
Author Comment
Eric K. January 9, 2019
Your babies are precious. Bless you for adopting and introducing the two. Maybe I'll stop by the ASPCA this weekend (just to peruse, you know...)
 
XenaB January 7, 2019
I loved this. Except for No. 7, I agree wholeheartedly. ;) I’ve had roommates and my first year living alone in my own apartment while adjusting to a new job was tough, but now I love it. I’ve been living alone for years now and like Mary H, i like using good china. I will sometimes use real fine china cups and teapot for my tea. I’ve been asked why I need my ‘stuff’ living on my own. Well, why not treat myself to good food and good plates and bowls. Also flowers for my table.
 
Author Comment
Eric K. January 7, 2019
Flowers are the best.
 
XenaB January 7, 2019
Thanks for the reply. You asked MtAdventurer about having a dog and a cat. I have a dog and a feisty young cat. They get along nicely although my cat pesters dog. My friends have dog and cat households too. Like us introverts, just give them each quiet space of their own too.
 
Author Comment
Eric K. January 9, 2019
That's so cute. I think mine would be very patient with a feisty young cat.
 
Heather A. January 6, 2019
I love living alone!! I have had two renters since I bought my house last year and have hated every minute of it! This article speaks to my soul! I also cook way more because I feel more relaxed and comfortable here by myself.
 
Author Comment
Eric K. January 6, 2019
Exactly!
 
Berlin B. January 6, 2019
I agree 💯% w/ this article, especially #8. Can we be alone together?? We are literally the SAME person, w/ a few minor, insignificant differences. 🤷🏾‍♀️
 
Author Comment
Eric K. January 6, 2019
Together alone, sure. <3
 
Patrick R. January 6, 2019
Solitude and loneliness is a balancing act especially if you have the need to create something that requires you to immerse yourself in literary or musical universe of your own. I live in quiet neighborhhod in a large city with access to many ethnic foods. As much as I enjoy cooking foods from many corners of the globe. Turning some one on to new foods like Polish pickle soup or tacos with passilla peppers is still a thrill.<br />
 
Author Comment
Eric K. January 6, 2019
"Solitude and loneliness is a balancing act"—couldn't agree more.
 
Mary H. January 6, 2019
I too agree with everything you say about living alone except the eating over the sink. Doing dishes is not my favorite thing, however, I love dinnerware and setting a beautiful table for one. This makes washing the dishes worth it.
 
Judy P. January 6, 2019
Mary I hadn’t thought to use nice china....that would make my meals special and would entice me to treat myself to a grand dinner. Thanks for the idea.
 
Author Comment
Eric K. January 6, 2019
I should get better plates!
 
Victoria S. January 6, 2019
Like another commenter, I have also had a recent unexpected break up and find myself living alone (they moved out 12/22). Before cohabiting with this person for over a year I was in a state where I felt confident in my singleness and my ability to do anything that might need to be done--or at least hire someone to do so. But with the shock I've had the worst time. This is also the first time someone moved out of my place and it feels so empty suddenly. Thank you for reminding me of the nice quiet solitude there is in being beholden to no one by yourself. I will have to look through your back catalogue of articles, because I now find myself needing the skill of cooking just for myself again.
 
Author Comment
Eric K. January 6, 2019
Victoria, I'm so sorry to hear about your break-up. Of course there will be an absence at first, but be kind to yourself and things will get better, I promise. You have YOU and that's everything. When I'm having a hard time, I find that it helps to cook a nice dinner for myself, all of my favorite things to eat; glass of wine is a must. It's the best kind of self-care in my book.<br />-E
 
Michelle January 6, 2019
You are living my dream my friend. I am so jealous. Finding an affordable apt in NYC is like a pirate trying to find treasure. For now I'll live vicariously through your post and use it as encouragememt to keep looking.<br /><br />P.S. I am also a major introvert.
 
Author Comment
Eric K. January 6, 2019
It's very difficult, I hear ya.
 
Lauren G. January 6, 2019
Thank you for writing this. The only times I’ve lived alone were the years after I was widowed young and now, after an unexpected break-up. Living alone has thus always felt like a guilt-ridden curse. But you’re right. There’s some joy in being here by myself. There’s some freedom. And I suppose that in itself is hopeful. I’m going to go make some peanut butter cookies now - and ignore the dishes.
 
Author Comment
Eric K. January 6, 2019
Ha! That's the spirit. Thanks for sharing, Lauren.
 
Becky S. January 6, 2019
I so agree with everything you said! And your dog is adorable!<br />
 
Author Comment
Eric K. January 6, 2019
Thank you, Becky!
 
Thi January 6, 2019
This is so spot on! I
 
Author Comment
Eric K. January 6, 2019
Thanks!
 
Julie January 6, 2019
I could not agree more! I even love to make my bed more do the dishes. (Aside - I turned doing dishes into a "meditation" [add that to anything you don't want to do] and focus on the warm water - it made all the difference!) As a very happy introvert, my home is my sanctuary and the kitchen my altar. Thank you for this and the recipe references. Julie
 
Author Comment
Eric K. January 6, 2019
That's a good way to see it. I should try that; I do love warm water (hot baths)...
 
Holly A. January 6, 2019
Dear Eric- I share your joy (and pain). I love food, love to cook, love to entertain, and am lucky to have a very high quality market within 1/4 mile of my apartment in the "country." However, I have a very small appetite and get bored quickly with leftovers. I'll happily make big batch things and share with friends, but when I'm on my own, I'm often ordering 2 oz. of meat/fish/protein and praying the veggies don't go bad before I finish them. I recall recently reading about a country (France? Japan?) that has a special department of foods for one. Can we get the USA behind this? I hate to waste food, and I do love to eat. Just in very small doses. I end up throwing away a good bunch of food every week, which makes me sad! I'm the one ordering an appetizer for dinner. I repurpose what I can, but as I said, I get bored. Last night's salmon will go on a Caesar salad later, and then I'm done with it. Let's get this groceries for one started and celebrated!
 
Author Comment
Eric K. January 6, 2019
!! Couldn't agree more. I'm fascinated by the ways other countries cater to solo diners/dwellers. The US does seem to be behind in that arena.
 
Stacey January 6, 2019
Setting the thermostat to 65 year round. Never using overhead lights. Knowing exactly how old everything is in the fridge. Eating popcorn for dinner when cooking even your 5 minute steak seems too hard but having steak friday every week. Saying no to plans because of steak friday.
 
Author Comment
Eric K. January 6, 2019
Stacey, your list is grand and poetic.
 
Kathleen R. January 6, 2019
I loved living alone so much that my now-husband and I didn't get married sooner because I really didn't want to share my space. I remember telling him, "Well, maybe if we each had a side of a duplex...?" I got over it, but I still relish having the house to myself. (Thankfully, I work from home and he doesn't, so I get lots of introvert time.)
 
Author Comment
Eric K. January 6, 2019
I always joked that my ideal husband would be one I only saw on weekends (!). But Ina Garten beat me to it.