Slightly over 6 months ago (on April 15 2012), I arrived in Montreal alone, broke, and homeless.
Now I am living in my own house, I have friends and a social life, and I'm still broke.
Here is what I’ve learned this past half-year about the realities of leaving your parents’ house and living on your own for the first time.
Note: Most of this advice gears towards living with very little money. If you want a job, it will be even easier.
There is nothing more stress releasing and freedom providing than moving out of your oppressive parents’ house and living on your own. And when I say oppressive, I mean in that controlling and infuriating way that all parents seem to become as we grow into adults.
You don’t have to hear their opinions, or fight for your freedoms, or tell them to stop trying to control you, or deal with all that heavy and annoying stuff they do.
Food might be harder to get, and it might be colder in winter, and your bed might not be as comfy, but you mind will be free and you will be in complete control of your life.
This, to me, is the greatest advantage of moving out of your parents house and living on your own.
The bare necessities are simply shelter and food. I have no money, and yet these two things never run out for me.
In my case, my shelter first came from people I met at couchsurfer.com. These cool people will host you on their couches for a few days/weeks for free. Just make sure you make it clear that you have no money, as it is common to give your hosts some food or gifts in return.
Then a friend I’d found (I’ll tell you how to do this later), mentioned that he had a run down apartment he could give me rent-free for a while, in return for doing some chores and paying for the electricity I use. I still live in this apartment.
This exact case scenario may not happen to you, but it shows that finding a place to live is not that hard, even when you have no money.
And, of course, you can just keep moving between couchsurfer hosts until you find a place to stay. I lived for about 4 months solely on the couches of couchsurfers when I left home to backpack around Ontario.
For food, I have never run out and will never run out. That said, I do not get much choice in what I eat and so often eat foods that are not optimally healthy.
For a long time, a ‘friend’ of mine stole food. I'm not recommending you do this (and will accept no legal obligations), but a smart person can avoid getting noticed and can steal quite a large amount of food. Recently, my friend’s life-philosophies have changed so that this is now against their morals (thanks to Atlas Shrugged), and so they don’t steal anymore.
I have also been given food by friends. When people know that you are low on food & money, they will often help you out. From giving me their leftovers or the non-perishables they never eat, to actually taking me grocery shopping, I owe a huge debt of gratitude to my friends (and mother) for helping me out with my food.
I have also taken food that restaurants throw out. At the end of the day, fast-food restaurants will often have leftover food that nobody ordered. Since this will not keep till tomorrow, it is thrown out. Doing this, I have found meat pies, pasta dishes, bread, whole pizzas, packaged and uneaten burgers. The best places to do this are pizza places and fast food restaurants.
And, of course, I have bought food when I have money. The best food, in my opinion, is eggs. They are nutritious, versatile, and very cheap. Bananas are also cheap.
For a long time, my bed was a horrible small spring mattress that dug into my back. This did not bother me, nor did it stop me from getting laid.
My house is very cold & I cannot afford heat. So I wear layers and close windows.
I cannot afford new shoes or clothing. So I wear them until they are totally worn out, and patch them up when I can.
My shower is small and smells weird. My walls are light pink. My toilet clogs often. My microwave is broken.
But these are all little things that won’t bug you if you’re okay with roughing it.
And, if you’re not, just get a job and most of these will be easily fixable.
Transportation is expensive, and staying home alone all the time is depressing. The solution: get a bike. I found a good one for $50, and a second was loaned to me by a friend.
With a bike in a city, you can get virtually anywhere within 45 minutes.
Here is the guaranteed formula for making new friends:
Get online and find groups built around some of your interests. These can be meetup.com groups, forums, local facebook groups, social networks, etc.
Then find out when they meet up, and go there.
You’ll have new friends almost immediately.
If you live alone and work alone, loneliness can really creep in on you. Coming home at the end of every day to silence can be depressing. It gets so bad that it can break you down and get in the way of your higher priorities (which it did to me).
The solution: make friends. And, if you work alone most of the time, reserve one or two days a week to just stop working and rest and socialize. It will save you from burning out.
When my house was a complete mess, it would weigh heavily on my mindset. Waking up in the morning to a mess is a horrible way to start a productive day.
And cleaning it is relatively easy. It usually takes me about 2 hours a week.
When you have a clean house, your mind feels lighter and you can focus and work better.
I have spent the last 6 months trying to make money online. Recently, one of my ventures has has it’s first (slightly) profitable month and is aimed at continuing an upward and exponential trend.
But, for most of those 6 months, I have made almost no money at all.
I refused to get a job on the principle that I wanted to devote all my effort to entrepreneurial work, but I have now relented and just begun hunting for a job.
So, making money is not easy. Not at all. I cannot give you a good recommendation about what to do about this, since I have not yet figured it out.
But living well without money is possible.
If you’re considering living alone, I highly recommend it. You will learn TONS every day, you will not run out of the bare necessities of life, you can enjoy it immensely, and, most importantly, you can handle it.
I don't know about Montreal, but here, food stamps can really help out in these kinds of situations.
Hey Steven, thanks for commenting. It means a lot.
We've got food houses here, where they give out meals to the homeless.
The problem is that it takes forever and you can't really take out your laptop and work (some of the homeless people around you would have no problem attacking you for it later). I'm not sure how foodstamps work, but if the situation is anything like the one here, it's probably a better use of time to simply get a job or take food thrown out by restaurants.
Welfare is an alike option I'm looking into though.
Thanks for writing this, I've been wondering about this for a while now. What happens when you can't find places to couchsurf? Once I was in japan and had to sleep in front of the JR station for a night. I didn't realize that finding a place to sleep on the street was that hard.
When I was homeless, I did a lot of sleeping on roofs. So long as the weather is nice, they are usually undisturbed places and safer than the street.
Besides that, I'd say start looking for a couch 2 weeks in advance if possible, and contact A LOT of people.
I was on the phone a couple days ago with my friend Hayden. After hearing about my plan to continue up to San Francisco, he predicted that within a year I would be living "somewhere posh". I doubt it. I really just love living in this RV, and can't imagine circumstances that would make me move out (famous last words). There are certainly upgrades I'd like to do (more solar, more batteries, more water capacity), but for now I have no inclination to move out.
Why do I love it so much? What makes me so willing to give up things like adequate floor space for a trash can? Here are six of my favorite things about living in an RV.
Moving becomes easy. As I skateboarded over to my favorite Ethiopian restaurant (Rahel on Fairfax), I realized that I am basically a Los Angeles resident. Not for tax purposes, of course, but I feel the same as when I lived here a few years ago. Visiting somewhere, complete with sightseeing, hotels, and rental cars, feels different than living somewhere. I may only plan on being here for a few weeks, but I feel like a resident.
Being an anarchist, anything regarding auto-sufficiency is of a huge interest to me. The thought alone that I am so dependent on other peoples knowledge (most of these commercialised through companies) is dwarfing to me. Most of my friends wouldn't even know how to grow a tomato, let alone change a door knob or fix a broken toilet. In the recent years, I have tried to combat that notion. We are more powerful and capable, than we ever give ourselves credit for.
That's why I'm fascinated with learing life skills, learning how to grow my own food, build my own house and repair my own clothes, tools and electronics. I am also intrigued by ideas about living without money, off the grid and minimalist life style. That is how Build a House made it to my bucket list.
Said jokingly, how can I call myslef a man, if don't even know how to build a house? Well, now I do, and it was one of the most empowering experriences of my entire life! We were a bunch of people, with no skills or training, whatsoever, who set out to build this house in the mountains of Mexico. We leveled the ground, dug the wholes for the poles, filled cement bags with clay and dirt and build up the buttoms of the walls. Putting up the skeleton of the house took a lot of hands and a lot of work, but the results were breathtaking. One of the climaxes for me, were when me and two friends put in the floor on the first floor, the floor I would be sleeping on for the rest of my stay. Nothing quite beats sleeping on a floor you made yourself, under a roof you helped build and put up (with the moon and the stars visible through the windows.
We made the house with primitive tools and primitive means, often we would have to chop down a nearby tree, when we needed timber. My soft academic hands filled with blisters, but hardened over time. Every strike with a hammer to a nail, improved my precision and understanding of how the nail can make or break the wood. I had experience with axe work, but my skills vastly improved, as I had to make floor boards fit, fortify angles or cut firewood for the meals (all cooked over open fire).