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:
“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)”
— Kathryn S.
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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.

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Eric Kim is a Senior Editor at Food52, where his weekly solo dining column, Table for One, runs every Friday morning. Formerly the Digital Manager at Food Network, he writes about food, travel, and culture and lives in a tiny shoebox in Manhattan with his dog, Quentin "Q" Compson. His favorite writers are William Faulkner, John Steinbeck, and Ernest Hemingway, but his hero is Nigella Lawson. You can follow him on Twitter @ericjoonho.

110 Comments

Aja A. March 11, 2019
Love love this article. Living along is wonderful for so many reasons. But mostly, its a time when you can really finally know yourself. Everyone should be so lucky to do it before living with a partner. Plus when you come home, everything is exactly where you left it, which is weirdly satisfying feeling.
 
Signe March 10, 2019
I've been living alone the last thirty-five years and love it. What I like best about it is that I am free to think all the time. When around someone else, it is natural to communicate and the calm that comes from long periods of silence and reflection is not so easily attainable. The deeper self knowledge that comes with silence fosters personal growth.
 
Carry B. March 10, 2019
No need to dirty a dish when the urge for ice cream hits. Just grab a spoon. No need to ever shut the bathroom door. Don’t have to share - anything.
 
swimmeret March 10, 2019
I have total control of the thermostat (important for Women Of A Certain Age;, if I buy something and put it in the fridge/cabinet, it's there when I go back for it; if the TV is on it's because I want it on, otherwise it's off; I can't tell if I snore or not ..... SSOOO many good reasons to live alone.
 
Barbara L. March 10, 2019
You do realise that four score and seven is 87?
All credibility lost with the first words
 
Author Comment
Eric K. March 10, 2019
Hi Barbara, it was a joke.
 
Katherine February 23, 2019
After years of saying I would never have a roommate again, I unexpectedly adopted one. We both keep to ourselves, but it's just the presence of another person in my house that irks me a bit. Rubs on my nerves slightly, and constantly. I need the space to dance around and be crazy when nobody can see. And decide to reorganize the closet in my office with a bottle of wine wearing a t-shirt and underwear. Or just sit in bed Saturday morning reading without feeling that she might think I died in my sleep, smothered by my extremely large cat.

This will be changing soon... but I need to choose my words carefully, kindly and gently. It's not her fault that I am who I am.
 
C. B. February 18, 2019
I love the silence about my single life. Second to that are the two animals I share my solitary life with. I even get the joy of planning meals with the idea that they can have a portion of broth or certain parts of food.
 
Kathy January 29, 2019
After a great marriage of 50 years, in a large home, I now live in a two bedroom apartment of less that 1000 square feet. I love it, for all the same reasons that you do. It has become my sanctuary and although I treasure my time with friends and family I always welcome myself when I enter this small and quiet space.
 
B. U. January 25, 2019
OMG - your life is almost identical to MY life (including the dog). Are we long lost twins? I'm always telling people that even though I am alone, I am not lonely. Thanks for the article and the recipes, much appreciated.
 
Amanda January 23, 2019
Great article. I had a room mate for a very brief amount of time, it was a nightmare, I enjoy living alone and the peacefulness of my home. Being able to cook and dance when I want really is a little luxury that I do not take for granted.
 
Rexene O. January 22, 2019
I could not explain it better myself!!! I am too often taken aback by people who do not do alone well and don't understand how important the ability to enjoy one's own company is. Some folks may think that I enjoy my own company too much, but I think I'm just perfect :) Thank you for this article!!!
 
Author Comment
Eric K. January 22, 2019
It's healthy! Thanks for reading, Rexene.
 
Juanita C. March 5, 2019
Unfortunately I am not able to have pets in my apartment. That seems to make living alone a lot more lonely. Compared to all of your other commenters. Goldfish don't really count.
 
knittingrid January 21, 2019
87 years ago?
 
Lyz January 20, 2019
I too live alone ( other than the two four legged feline bosses) and I love it. My place is not small but I have a great deal of artwork and I love to cook and entertain. My storage/laundry room has shelves with bins for all of my specialty cook ware, and serving pieces, as well as bins of fabric for sewing projects, and a panty. If I had a roommate they would probably want to use that space as a weight room or studio. My idea of entertaining does not include having guests stay for periods of time. After the last disaster, I turned the guest room into my office and studio. There is a couch in the wine cellar if someone really needs to spend the night, but it is two flights of stairs to the bathroom, so it is as a rule only the occasional good friend who had too much wine with dinner who stays over. No one ever asks if their cousin can stay for a few weeks while they look for an apartment and or job. (Meaning eat all my food, drink my expensive booze, break things, ask to borrow my car, and leave a mess.)
I love living by myself, everything is where I left it, the mess doesn't get too out of control, yes my family nags me but I just don't "hear" the phone ring when I don't feel like listening to them. Life is good.
 
Christine R. January 20, 2019
I understand now, after living alone, that my personality cycled in 2 extreme ways. I gave off vibes of independent and strong which was especially appealing to those in unhappy relationships or looking for such a mate. But when faced with a really difficult situation, I would fold and depend on others. (This made them feel needed , and strong but also reinforced my feelings of failure. I am less extreme now because of this realization . Living alone has given me confidence. I am free to be there for others. I cook and bake daily and share. I have learned to be grateful, not resentful, when someone offers support. I am more perceptive about others. I also know the strengths I am able to share when needed. Living alone has helped me to break an unhealthy cycle.
 
Author Comment
Eric K. January 22, 2019
That's so powerful, Christine.
 
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.
 
Author Comment
Eric K. January 22, 2019
Ha! I love my "fortress of solitude," too. Sometimes I wonder if I stay in mine too much, but the outside world is messy. People are messy.
 
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)
 
Author Comment
Eric K. January 22, 2019
One of my favorite lines is, "I could be lonely anywhere." It's incredible how my greatest moments of loneliness, like you, are when I'm with others.
 
Ailyn June 30, 2019
I agree.
 
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 ;)

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.

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.

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!

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)
- 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
- I can walk around naked
- Have dance parties all by myself
- Scream at the tv without annoying anyone
- I can clean and decorate the way I want
- The whole bag of popcorn is for me and I don't need to hide it
- No weird smells except my own

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???
 
Author Comment
Eric K. January 22, 2019
+1 popcorn
 
Juanita C. March 5, 2019
Seems like all the positive sides to living alone are the result of NOT having a roommate, lol!
 
Laura L. July 6, 2019
You just summed up Exactly how I feel
 
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.