The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone

As long as I’ve been an adult, I’ve loved living alone.  I got my first apartment shortly after college.  It was a cute little studio apartment that had very little furniture: a bed frame and mattress, a table set, and a tv that sat on milk crates.  It was like heaven to me.

I’ve had roommates twice in my life.  Shortly after I moved to NYC, while adjusting to rental market sticker shock, I decided a roommate was one way to manage the expense of this wonderful city.  One roommate was a woman who was a bit of a nut, the other a woman who was perfectly normal.  Even though it was pleasant enough rooming with the normal one –even fun sometimes– I couldn’t wait to get my own place again.

I’m sure my love for living alone is one of the reasons marriage had so little appeal to me.  I’m not a hermit by any means, but no matter who you are, at some point I want you to go home.  I’ve posted about this a few times:

And now, I’m delighted to learn that, not only is my love for solo living perfectly normal, it’s now becoming close to the norm.  There’s a new book by Eric Klinenberg called “Going Solo:  The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone“.  It’s about the recent sharp increase in the number of people who live alone…and it offers surprising insights on the benefits.  (These insights are actually not surprising to me, but I’m sure they are to many).

Did you know:

  • In 1950, only 10% of American adults were single.  Today, more than 50% are single, and 31 million, roughly 1 in 7 adults, live alone.  

  • People who live alone make up 28% of all U.S. households, which makes living alone more common than any other domestic unit…including the nuclear family.

I don’t know why this is happening, but it’s nice for someone to “come out of the closet” about this.  I still occasionally come across people who think living alone is not normal.  Some think it’s really not such a good thing.  And though it may not be a good thing for some, it’s really good for me.

According to Eric:  “Though conventional wisdom tells us that living by oneself leads to loneliness and isolation, this book shows that most solo dwellers are deeply engaged in social and civic life.  In fact, compared with their married counterparts, they are more likely to eat out, exercise, go to art and music classes, attend public events and lectures, and do volunteer work.  There’s even evidence that people who live along enjoy better mental health than unmarried people who live with others.  And they have more environmentally sustainable lifestyles than families because they are more likely to live in urban apartments rather than large suburban homes”.

The book goes into lots of detail supported by statistics, original data, and vivid portraits of people who live alone.  I love that this book is helping to dispel the myth that living alone is for losers.  Thanks, Eric!

And what about you?  How do/did you feel about living alone?  I know it’s not for everybody (nothing is), so how is/was it for you?

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31 Responses to The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone

  1. Anonymous says:

    As it seems that living alone is the most popular trend here, I thought I'd put in my story from the opposite end of the spectrum!

    I suppose I'm different from everyone else here! I lived alone for 8 months and I dreaded every moment of it (part of that may have been that I had just moved to a new town and had no friends or family for support) I missed having someone even in another room, some kind of company anyways.

    Relating to a newer post about separate bedrooms, I've found a living arrangement that everyone involved enjoys. I and another girlfriend both dread the thought of living alone (perhaps it is a personality flaw that we can't survive the alonedom?), so we share a three bedroom apartment with our boyfriends. The other couple shares the master bedroom, while I and my long term boyfriend have separate bedrooms. We sleep in the same room most nights, but those nights where he goes off on his own are refreshing and are the only downtown I really need from everyone.

    And when the boys are off for a day or two doing their boy things, my room mate and I still have some one around to chill with. It's nice not depending solely on the boy for company.

    All the other general room mate issues have worked out without any real problems, so I can't really complain about having three other people around the house making messes!

    My friend and I have talked about moving when the lease expires, but we both agree that the thought of living alone with just the boyfriend around for company is daunting, and frankly unappealing.

    So it goes to show that every individual has to find the living arrangement that brings them the most sense of peace, and this just happened to be what worked for us :)

  2. Smokie says:

    Ahhh living alone. Being a married woman, I can't live alone, but I can definitely see the appeal. Before I decided to work from home, I would wistfully think about how great life would be if I could live alone from time to time. There are times that I so completely enjoy having my family here (especially at night), but being a wife with two teenagers, I found myself day dreaming about living alone sometimes. Just packing up and living in my own condo from time to time! Then something miraculous happened: I got a job working from home. So, now, while the kids are at school and my husband is at work I am BLESSEDLY alone.

    (I'm an only child (and a Cancer), so I love my space. My husband is as well, so we are comfortable giving each other quiet space.)

    God must have heard my prayer for hours of solitude. I couldn't imagine how I could have the best of both worlds, but I got it. Then, for the cherry on top, I'm the only female in the house so once a year the fellas take a trip together and I stay at home alone/alone for the weekend. By the time they get back, my batteries have been recharged and I've been a lazy lady. I welcome them home…only to send them all off again on Monday morning!

  3. I now feel totally free after reading this blog. I love living alone. I was married 3 times and have had room mates. I use to think that it was others that had the problem. Society said that living alone was not very normal. After taking a deep look at myself, I came to realize that I just like living alone. Here I am age 63 and I still feel that way. Thanks for writing.

  4. Stella says:

    I”m backtracking through posts and so this is later than everyone else but had to comment because, yes, I love living alone. I don't necessarily like everything about being single but I love living, and sleeping, alone.
    I love the peace. I love the quiet. And I love the space. There's nothing about it I don't love.

  5. Onely.org says:

    Ok, apparently the “Name/URL” option is working and will allow me to comment. Hooray, now we're back in business!

    I look forward to reading this particular post after the 28th, which is when ours is due. = ) = )

    CC

  6. Onely says:

    Hi Eleanore,
    This is Christina at Onely. Blogspot/Blogger has not been letting me leave comments on anyone's posts for some reason, so I'm trying the “Anonymous” login to see if that works.

    I can't read your post because I don't want it to influence mine. . .
    CC

  7. Angie G. says:

    Living alone is delicious! It allows me to indulge in my thoughts (and my secret single behavior)-uninterrupted. I am like you, in that after a certain period of time, I want EVERYBODY to go home. Doesn't matter if you are friend, family, or SO. Having been married to a man who was perfectly lovely to live with, I still prefer being on my own. It's a personal choice that makes me very happy. :)

  8. Aumoe says:

    I think of myself as living semi-alone. I'm married, but my husband works long hours. Before that, he was a long-haul trucker and would be gone for weeks. He's also a homebody whereas I go stir-crazy in a matter of days. I go a lot of places by myself and I really enjoy it. I have my own areas of our apartment that he's not allowed to mess with too.

    I don't think there's really anyone else I'd be suited to living with with besides my husband. I hate staying with friends overnight or having them over for too long. If something ever happened to him, I'd definitely be happier on my own.

  9. bikegirl says:

    I also love living alone. I've never had roommates and never will. My own family gets on my nerves sometimes. A roommate would drive me absolutely insane.

  10. Liz Hiles says:

    Re: the book THE QUIET, I totally agree…however, as an extrovert…IIIIIII also need quiet time to recharge and recover….unfortunately I think the art of unplugging, as I refer to it, is quickly becoming a lost science! :( sadly….

  11. Lisa says:

    Living alone I think is great when you're a young adult. It really teaches you skills and how to be self-sufficient. However, it also made me really appreciate having a flatmate! I've since moved but my flatmate and I are best friends and I think the experience was made better because I had lived alone for a long time. Cheers!

  12. Annabelle says:

    I didn't realize living alone was so common these days! I definitely like having my quiet time — while I can imagine living with someone again someday, I definitely wouldn't live with anyone I wasn't really close to. I'm thrilled that I don't need to have a roommate for financial reasons.

  13. Aunt Danny says:

    Correction: I ment to say while married I loved living with my husband but now that I am single again I totally love it. Aunt Dannu

  14. Aunt Danny says:

    To T. Martin – the issue is living alone and how you feel about it whether in or out of a relationship the key words are “living alone.” I love it too as so many others have stated. I loved it before marriage; during married and now that I am divorced I am back to loving living alone. I feel like I can never live with anyone ever again. Now some say if I meet Mr. Right, my feelings will change but at my age, I doubt it. Once I enter my home, nothing that comes with a live-in relationship is required and that I like. I only wish I had a more active social life. I am working on that and once that is in place, I will be totally cool. If I meet someone he will need to have a nice place that we can go to sometimes because he will not be bunking out at my place 24/7. To anonymous with the disability, I hope you can connect with a community organization of some sort that can provide you transportation to events, etc and connections to people with like interests as yours so that your life can be more active. Life can be hard and unfair. Aunt Danny

  15. I think the title is a little misleading or is too in a box. Are we talking about living alone but in a relationship or living along with no relationship? The same goes true for marriage. Are we talking about people who are legally married or people who are in a relationship that resembles marriage (Goldie/Kurt, Angie/Brad)? What the difference? A book like this doesn't look at the big issue. The issue isn't living alone has benefits. The issue is living alone when you have a full life has benefits.

  16. PHEENA says:

    I totally love living by my self, well i say by my self but i have two boys, but even to have sumone live with me like a room mate,or bf, idk, i don't know that i would be able to share my space with them. Its like my boys and i have our own zones and we have our house customized to the way we live, and for someone to come in and just kind of interrupt it. I don't think I am ready for that. I love living on my own, no one to dispute anything, well other than my boys, but those are different disputes!!! 0:~P

  17. Anonymous says:

    I recommend the book Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that won't stop talking. This is about people who are introverts (and this isn't a personality disorder) and how they've helped society over the years. But, one thing that is jumping out as I read this book is that it's clear that introverted people (who are also termed 'sensitives') need quiet, alone time in a self-defined and self-controlled place to recharge and recover from daily life. Having a quiet space is so important that I know I won't be living with another person at any time in the future.

  18. Liz Hiles says:

    I absolutely *LOVE* living alone. Since graduating from college, I have lived with 4 roommates in college, 2 since college and moved back in with my father to care for him for 8 years. Living alone is absolutely the best. I am currently living with a roommate due to financial issues and dealing with the legal aftermath of my father's passing. I love her dearly, we have been friends since high school, but we both have talked about it and we both love living alone. It is only a matter of time and finding a new job that I will be moving out, with no hard feelings on either side. Three out of my four college roomies and I still keep in touch and we are friends. Two of them live in Japan, where they are from. The third lives north of where I'm at and even though she dropped out of college after a quarter, we have still remained close. I probably had the most fun with her, but then again, it was first quarter of freshman year when everything was new and everyone was starting new friendships and support networks. The fourth college roommate and I didn't spend much time together. She was a Korean exchange student there to learn English, but her brother and her sister in law lived right off campus so she was rarely in the room. My first roomie after college was a family friend…a bit of a nut and definitely OCD, which wasn't helped by the fact that she was an alcoholic who relapsed while we were living together…needless to say I moved out ASAP! Overall, my living with other people experiences have been positive, but I am always glad to live alone. I think many times that this is magnified with the fact that I am a creative soul and succumbing to other's tastes at times really puts a damper on my spirits, especially when more of the common areas are way more of them than me or even us.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Living alone has always been my preference. I had roomies in college, but as soon as I could afford a teeny-tiny efficiency on my own I was out of there. I did stay with a parent for a period, and made one attempt at a live-in LTR, but nothing brings me as much peace and contentment as living alone. I'm guessing that attitude didn't help the whole LTR situation….

    I do share my house with 5 rescue critters, but as far as sharing my space with another human being? Can't even fathom that at this point. I love pulling into the drive every night after work, knowing that what I'm walking into is my own space, my own time to do as I please. If that means eating popcorn for dinner, so be it. I can sit on the sofa reading quietly for hours, or blast the stereo and dance around like a fool…I don't have to adapt my behavior to someone else's moods or plans.

    I'm definitely a loner by nature, and would have to say that if there is any possibility of a future LTR, it will probably have to be with someone who is willing to live next door. :)

  20. Cynthia says:

    Can't tell you how thoroughly I agree with you–I LOVE living alone and have done so since the early 70's. I might feel differently if I didn't have my dear kitty (no snide remarks please!!), but she provides all the 'company' I require. I have lots of friends, family and people in general to socialize with and invite to visit, but I'm always so glad to reclaim my space at the end of the evening. To this day, when I come home I sometimes gaze over my domain and realize how genuinely happy I am and how much I love my condo…I am queen of my castle!

  21. Anonymous says:

    I am alone for the first time in 30 years and it has been a hard time a really hard time for me to adjust to it. Sometimes I just sit here and talk to my pooch and act like he is my son to keep myself sane !! I suspose if I had a job or something else to keep myself busy I would not feel this way but I am stuck here at home with a disability and not much to do and no way to get around and no one really comes to see me so it does get kinda depressing around here. However when I WAS living with them I could not wait til Monday when one would go to work and the other one's would go to school so I could have the house ALONE and do what I wanted to do !! Funny isn't it ???

  22. Janet says:

    I love living alone – If there are dirty dishes in the sink it's because I left them there, If I'm out of milk, it's because I drank it all!

  23. Kathy says:

    I am so grateful to have found your website. Up until about 2 years ago I had a big house, 3 kids growing up (and all their friends) in a very active household. I have been a widow for 20 years now. I sold the house, kids have moved out, I rented a small place of my own and I was feeling that I was not adjusting to the single life at this late stage of my life. It is so refreshing to read the comments here. I then think back to before I married and had kids. I lived alone and enjoyed it very much.

  24. eleanore says:

    @Michael Ann: Hey! Missed you. Glad to see another always insightful comment from you

  25. Michael Ann says:

    This is really interesting to me. I have always enjoyed my own space and being by myself. I wonder if part of my marital problems have been due to this. I loved living alone before I got married, and I look back on my old apartment and time there, with fondness. I don't like sharing a bed, a bathroom, and especially a closet. I like being able to eat what I want, when I want etc.. All the things others have talked about.

    BUT…I do like having a love in my life and a partner. A healthy relationship, of course, and maybe…maybe if it's a good relationship, I wouldn't mind sharing my space? I'm not sure.

  26. Annie H says:

    As a woman of a certain age, I've lived alone for forty years, with a few brief exceptions–my sister and brother in law when their house burned down, two boyfriends who stayed temporarily when they were between living situations. My ex-partner of twenty years and I didn't live together–he had his own house about two miles away–and he rarely spent the night although we ate dinner together every night.

    I can't imagine at this point living with another person. He'd have stuff in my space and he'd probably make noise. I bet the television would be on most of the time. He'd want meals and even if he cooked them (ex-partner did all the cooking), I don't always want a real meal.

    Yes, I am an old maid and proud of it. I'm proud to be independent and I'm proud of my willingness to do things on my own.

    And thank you for rescuing the word “spinster”. I often refer to myself as a spinster and people are horrified. I think it's a lovely descriptive term.

  27. Sandy says:

    I LOVE living alone, apparently I am not the only one. I know that part of this is the relief of being out of a bad relationship, but honestly – I lived alone before I met him and I reveled in it! I am not lonely, I choose to be alone and I love my alone time with my pooch. My space is my own, my time is my own – I think it is going to be difficult for me to give this up if I ever find a LT relationship (maybe he'll agree to live in his own place?)

  28. Janine says:

    Once again, I hear ya! Those stats are surprising indeed. I envy you only having had 2 flatties. I've had way too many, due to chronic instability, entry-level wages and sky-high rents, but the older I get, the less tolerable flatties are to me. I am a natural loner and am currently trying to rid myself of my ex, who's still in my 1-bedroom flat with me. Even as a sweet, passive kind of boy, he has a way of taking over the space. He sweats like nobody I've ever known, and the smell (which is rank) embeds itself in everything, esp the bed and my couch. I cannot wait to be alone again, but the price is SO HIGH. I will soon be forking out $430 a week, and that's average for a 1-bedder in Sydney. But by golly, it's worth it.

  29. I love, love, love living alone. While I'd had periods in the past of living alone between room mates and the like, it was not until two years ago that I finally had a place that was really 100% my own. I would be loath to give up the comfort and freedom that having my own space provides. I am very excited to see this book and do plan to give it a read very soon.

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