I grew up in a big house; three siblings, a myriad of extended family living with us for years at a time, and having weekly visits from grandparents and relatives. I had my own room for the majority of my teenage years, but moving out on your own is really another full experience.

You can only prepare yourself so much for living alone, but at the end of the day, you have to be kind to yourself and remember to stay well connected to your community. But, here are some things to keep in mind and work on when you are starting life on your own.

cheap hand drill, living alone 101
sewing kit, good skill to develop for living alone

Home Care Skills

Sure, most young people living alone will rent for the first few years. Not many people turn 18 or 20 and can put themselves through school and afford a house, and many entry-level salaries work out to approximately minimum hourly wages.

But you still will have to sometimes put work in to maintain the four walls around you, and with a few life skills, you can turn your first apartment into a great space of expression and personality.

How to use a drill

This is such a simple skill that really allows you to make a place your own. If you want to hang shelves, art, or a cupboard door just needs to be tightened, having the tools on hand to do the job will make your apartment way more livable.

How to change a light bulb

The first thing when changing a light bulb is to make sure the power to that light is not on. We do not want to blow bubs or electrocute ourselves.

Next, we have to actually figure out what bulb to replace it with. If you live in an apartment rental the management company will probably have light bulbs on hand to replace, so just ask.

But, if it’s a lamp, upgraded light fixture, or you’re in a condo, read the bulb to find the wattage, and replace the bulb with that wattage only! And consider changing to LED lights to help reduce residual heat and cut costs on your monthly electricity bill.

How to clean a dishwasher

Yes, dishwashers need to be cleaned, and regularly. First, you’re going to want to find the food trap, and take that out and apart to clean out any gunk that might have built up in there. Then, the blades of the washer (the parts that rotate and shoot water) usually can remove and should also be occasionally flushed.

Finally, you can run your dishwasher with CLR or vinegar on a high heat cycle to disinfect all the little nooks and crannies you can’t reach and scrub without crawling into the dishwasher itself.

Making homemade cleaners

Living in small apartments, I find that chemical cleaners can leave overwhelming scents that linger. And, not many commercial cleaners are safe for households with pets!

While it’s good to have a few on hand, you can also make your own cleaners for different situations that are very effective and cheap.

Citrus Vinegar – Soak citrus rinds in vinegar for a week to infuse them with oils that are antimicrobial and antibacterial.
Baking Soda – A great cleaner for so many things. You can mix it with water to use as a mild abrasive, work it into grease and stuck-on food to be lifted with a vinegar reaction, and use it to remove unpleasant smells. Sprinkle it on your mattress and vacuum it off to help protect against dust mites and mold.
Hydrogen Peroxide – Perfect for removing stains, essential for disinfecting the bathroom, and safe to use on the furniture in diluted concentrations.

Unclogging drains

Drains will get clogged no matter where you live, so learn how to keep them unclogged and the best ways to clean different clogs.

In the Kitchen – Never pour grease or fat down the drain. I keep an old can in the freezer that I add grease and oil to until It’s full and ready to be tossed on a day I’m taking the garbage out.

If the kitchen sink does get clogged, you can start by trying to pour boiling water down the drain. As much water as you can boil. This will hopefully move the blockage along. If that fails, remove the standing water and dump down some baking soda, and after 5 minutes, add vinegar then follow with boiling water to flush the blockages down.

In the Bathroom – Keep a mushroom in your tub to stop hair from clogging up the bathtub drain, but also keep a drain snake on hand. The best way to remove buildup in the shower drain, before you pour any chemicals down. 9/10 times this solves the problem.

How to remove different stains

I am very very clumsy. I have a hard time going out to eat without spilling on myself, and working outside in the dirt also has me covered in stains and sap.

If you want to maintain your clothes, learn how to care for them well, and treat stains with the right cleaners to make laundry a little easier. Check out this list of 10 common stains and how to clean them.

How to read a laundry care tag

Clothing is expensive, but there are ways to keep pieces looking good for ages. The trick is to know how to care for your fabrics. Laundry is a big chore when you live alone, so make sure you read the garment care tags and avoid costly mistakes.

How to strip your bed sheets

We spend a lot of time in bed, and having quality bed sheets is something, but maintaining that quality is another. When you live alone and start managing your own household, you should be aiming to wash your bed sheets about once a week.

If you like to moisturize right before bed, self-tan, or use heavy oils and fragrances, you’re going to want to go an extra step and strip all that out before the washing.

Toss sheets in a hot bath with a little detergent, Oxi Clean, Hydrogen Peroxide, or Borax and stir occasionally for a mildly horrifying and satisfying cleaning experience. Then wash your sheets as normal. I do this once every one to two months.

How to mend a seam

If your favourite sweater starts to fray, don’t fret. Mending seams is a very easy skill to learn and will help you keep your clothing looking 100 times better. Hem pants or re-attach a button, you’ll want a little sewing kit for emergencies when you are living alone.

first aid checklist for living alone

Self Care Skills

Implementing routines

I’ve found the best success in my solo household when I build routines for myself that break down chores that would normally be shared by a community. I give myself 2 house chores to do a day, and try to create a morning routine so I always take my meds.

How to stock a medicine cabinet

Living alone while sick really sucks. No one to make you tea or remind you to drink lots of fluids. So keeping a stocked medicine cabinet is essential to living on your own.

Start with standard band aids, gauze, medical tape, and alcohol swaps. You’ll also want sanitizers, like hydrogen peroxide and/or rubbing alcohol. It’s best to have an allergy medication on hand, I keep Benydrill for bug bites and food reactions, and Claritin for allergy season. Your last basic is polysporin or another antibiotic salve for cuts and scrapes. You’ll want to keep tools on hand like tweezers, mini-scissors, and nail clippers.

To finish stocking your medicine cabinet, pick up some cold and flu medication, essential vitamins like C, D, and E, and something for heartburn if you’re prone to it. Even if you’re not sure if you’ll need it personally, best to have it on hand for guests and the unexpected.

Dressings and bandages

This is a simple skill that most people should know in case of cuts, scrapes, burns, etc. If you are living alone, you will have to take care of cuts and scrapes on yourself. If you cut yourself in the kitchen, in the garden, or get bug bits, and wasp stings, topical ointments for rashes, etc. Find your own pain management tools and stick to schedules on cleaning and re-dressing so everything heals nicely.

How to find a new doctor/dentist

If you’re moving to a new city, finding a family doctor and a new dentist can be tricky. Make sure you do lots of research and request if there are openings at clinics that you think will be supportive of your needs. Really read the google reviews. If you get in with a doctor you feel doesn’t meet your needs, don’t be afraid to start the process all over again.

Developing a budget

Developing and sticking to a budget is a crucial skill for all adults. So develop something reasonable for yourself, and work to pay down all your education related debts as soon as possible. These are some of my favourite finance bloggers.

Cooking Skills

Living alone, you either get good at cooking or you spend a lot of money on take-out. Cooking for 1 is a daunting task, and many places will tell you to make more than one meal at once and meal prep. Here are some other good skills to learn to make feeding yourself a simple process.

How to pick good produce at the store

If you just moved out on your own, you may not have always been the one to do the grocery store runs before. Depending on where you live, good produce can be hard to find. For sustainability purposes, I try to buy all my produce from Canadian growers. I always do my best to attend farmers’ markets, and even work for one.

There are some good guides on the internet already about this; here and here. There are also some good studies and conversations on whether you should buy local or organic.

How to use produce past its prime

Food and cooking can feel like such a constant chore when you are doing it for one. I don’t know how many others feel this, but I hate when my produce starts looking sad, and grocery shopping can get quite expensive.

Fruit – Not-so-great fruit can either be turned into jams, pies, or fruit leathers.
Leafy Greens – Soak wilted greens in a bowl of water to perk them up, or fry them in butter and salt as a side or addition to soups, rice, and curries.
Vegetables – Shred vegetables that are past their prime to be turned into fritters, bread, or ferment as an easy salad ingredient.
Frittata – If you have a few veggies that are past their prime, throw them all in a delicious oversized omelette and top with cheese for an easy meal at any time of the day.

How to make soup stock

One of the easiest ways to use all the parts of a vegetable is to save the trimmings for soup stocks. I throw all the bits that aren’t rancid into a jar in the freezer. When that jar is full I leave it in the slow cooker overnight with lots of water, cool, strain, and freeze.

How to preserve herbs

Grocery store herbs are expensive, so if you love something, consider growing it. No matter how you’re getting your herbs, there are a few ways to store them to maintain quality. and flavour.

Chop and Freeze – The simplest way to store extra fresh herbs you have on hand is to wash and chop them, then throw them in an ice cube tray with olive oil for per-portioned cooking cubes.
Dry and Freeze – To Dry herbs, tie them in small bundles and hang them somewhere with moderate air flow. once they’re dry, strip them from the stems and store them in glass jars.
Infused Oils – Throw your herbs in a pot with some garlic and olive oil and simmer on low for 30 minutes. Let cool and strain. Store on the counter or in the pantry for up to 6 months.

How to properly use a knife

My girlfriend was working in a kitchen when we met, and she always makes fun of the way I used to hold a knife. One of the things I still struggle with is using a slicing motion instead of chopping.