4 Ways to Feel Independent, Even When You’re Living at Home

I recently graduated from college and, having accepted the financial reality of my student loans and nonprofit career path, I moved back home to the suburbs after three years of living on my own in New York City. Leading up to graduation, friends in the same situation voiced their dread. At the time, I brushed off their concerns. How bad could it be? I lived at home during my freshman year of college and didn’t have a problem with it. Going home for winter and spring break wasn’t so bad either. How could living at home after college be any different?

But on the night of graduation, falling asleep in my childhood bedroom, I confronted the reality that I was a completely different person than the one who had walked out the door with my suitcases three years ago. Most notably, I’m a much more independent person who now has to relearn things like a curfew, household chores, and shared spaces. With the insight gathered from almost six months of living at home, here are four pieces of advice to help you feel like a grown-up when you’re living under the same roof as your parents.

1. Upgrade your space.

Since I’d already established that I’d changed since I last lived at home, it was time for my room to change too. To start, I purged the things I didn’t need and filled three garbage bags with random knick knacks, childhood stuffed animals, and clothes. This helped me free up space for some updated items that made it feel less like my childhood bedroom and more like the landing pad of the adult I wanted to become. I bought funky storage boxes, a new floor lamp, and a feathery dream catcher to hang from the ceiling. You don’t need to blow your budget on expensive decor. Update the photos in your picture frames, change your bedding, re-organize your closet, and refresh your bookcase with some new reads you’re excited about.

2. Strengthen familial ties.

I’ve found that my relationships with my parents and siblings get the most tense when weeks go by without us spending time together off the couch. Even though you’re living with your family and seeing them every day, it’s important to be intentional about nurturing those relationships the way you would with anyone else. Whether that means going for a bagel run with your dad and brother on a Sunday morning or getting dressed up and heading to a concert with your mom, try to carve out meaningful time with your new roomies. Connecting with your family on a deeper level will help you feel less like a kid living at home and more like an adult.

3. Get out of your comfort zone.

Create new habits the same way you would if you were learning your way around a new neighborhood. Even though you’re returning to the place you grew up (and probably know like the back of your hand), there are still plenty of opportunities for discovery. If your job allows you to work from home, scope out a new coffee shop or nook in the library to get work done. Join a gym with a friend or try a new workout class at the kickboxing studio that just opened. Look into volunteering opportunities in your community or pay a visit to your local church if you haven’t been before. You can still push yourself out of your comfort zone, even if you’re living at home. I started going grocery shopping on my own instead of relying on my parents. (I’m a newfound Trader Joe’s fanatic!) And I walk to the train in the morning instead of getting dropped off, which has led to making some new doggy pals.

4. Remember that this a temporary phase in your life.

A turning point for me in truly accepting my move back home was realizing that it’s a temporary situation and one that will benefit me long-term. My plan to live at home for a few years means I can make significant progress in paying off my student loans and save up for my own apartment. It also gives me precious family time that when I’m living on my own, I will yearn for.

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