Hunter's Ten Step Guide to Moving to a New City and Living on Your Own: Steps One - Four
As you may or may not know, at the end of July I moved to Washington D.C. for graduate school. I’m currently a first year student in the Global Media Program at American University.
Yes, I am now officially an American eagle.
I moved into a one-bedroom, fully furnished apartment in a nice, quiet neighborhood of the residential part of D.C.
As you can imagine, moving to a new city, half way across the country from all of my friends and family was a bit of a challenge. But since when am I one to back away from one of those?
Living alone was a huge change in and of itself. I’ve never lived alone, and in fact, the last couple of years have lived with a number of people in a number of unusual situations. Since I know I’m not the only one who has ever gone or will ever go through some of these major life changes, I thought I’d put together:
Hunter’s Ten Step Guide to Moving to a New City and Living on Your Own
Step One: Adapt to your environment.
This can mean a variety of things. For me, living in a large, urban center, there were a number of changes I had to adapt to very quickly. Aka, no driving.
I’m from the Midwest, so I grew up driving 25 minutes to and from school every day. In college I got used to driving to get groceries, go shopping or to visit home.
Now, I almost never drive. In fact, I sold my car right before I left Ames. It was a difficult decision because my car was my baby and had previously belonged to my grandfather before I drove it so it was also very sentimental. But Washington D.C. was no place for a four-wheel drive SUV.
Instead, I primarily exist on public transportation. Mostly the Metro, D.C.’s underground train system as well as buses and the occasional Uber. It was a big change, but one that I recognized as necessary. It’s also significantly cheaper than filling my tank with gas once every one or two weeks.
One of the biggest changes with not driving became grocery shopping.
Which leads me to my second point:
Step Two: Meal plan!
I’ve always hated grocery shopping. It has nothing to do with the distance to and from the store. Heck, when I lived in Greece I was within sight of the nearest grocery store and I still hated making the trip. In Ames, I could drive my groceries door to door.
I’m not really sure why I hate grocery shopping so much, but I really, really do.
But do you know what I don’t hate? Eating.
In fact, like most humans [and basically all other living species,] I love to eat! I also love to cook… but I still loathe grocery shopping.
However, eating and cooking go hand in hand with grocery shopping, so even though I hate doing it I put my grown up hat on and occasionally force myself to make the trek to the nearest store.
The best solution: Meal Plan!
And no, I’m not talking about a freshmen year meal plan. I’m talking about looking at what you realistically plan to cook and eat for a week, or a month! You do you.
Personally, I like to plan for about two weeks at a time. This is because I’m close to a tiny grocery store where I can buy milk once a week, but much farther from a large grocery store where I can get the rest of my groceries.
But most importantly: Make A Grocery List!
I don’t always follow it to a ‘T,’ but having a list is a good place to start. You’re less likely to forget items if you’ve made a list before leaving home and you’re less likely to wander around the store and buy foods you don’t need if you’re looking for specific items on your list.
Bonus tip: make what you hate fun!
For me, this means that I sometimes splurge and shop at Whole Foods so that I can pick up fresh sushi. Or visiting a nearby wine shop after I’ve bought all of the other, much less important, kitchen basics (like milk, eggs and bread). Celebrating a shopping trip with a glass of the cheapest bottle on the shelf is always refreshing and it’s a nice reward for feeling accomplished.
Step Three: Only buy what you need when you need it.
Most people who are living in their first apartments far away from home are living in tiny, cramped conditions. If you aren’t, good for you!
Personally, I live in what feels like a fairly spacious one bedroom. I was actually surprised when I moved in and had more storage space than I knew what to do with. There are areas where I’ve had to condense, such as kitchen cabinets and self-space, but for the most part I’ve found my new home very roomy.
However, I still try not to buy more than I need. This can apply to everything from food to cleaning supplies.
I know some people will advise you to buy in bulk, and sometimes that’s necessary. But if you don’t have the space to store a years-worth supply of something, especially something bulky like paper towels, it’s not worth it even if it is on sale.
Bonus tip: make sure to keep your supplies organized.
If you go out an buy a new tooth brush every time you throw your old one out even though you already had a package in your closet, it doesn’t do you any good to have that package of toothbrushes in your closet!
I’ve designated closet space for cleaning supplies, extra toiletries, travel accessories, and other random supplies. If I’m running low on conditioner, I know to look in one spot rather than having to search my entire apartment because I don’t have any sort of organizational system.
Keep a running list of supplies you’re running low on. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be down to your last toilet paper roll before you finally give up and go to the store to by more! Keeping a list can help you avoid this issue.
Furthermore, buying more than what you need for the immediate future can make shopping difficult. Personally, I refuse to buy more than what I can easily carry home from the store. This is especially important for my bi-weekly grocery trips.
Step Four: Learn to Cook!
If you’re a adult who isn’t made of money, you really need to learn to cook.
I know eating out is fun.
I know cooking (and especially cleaning up after yourself) sometimes isn’t fun. But cooking for yourself is often the cheapest option available to you.
I actually love to cook and have been cooking since I was a kid, but even for me cooking isn’t always the easiest task.
Do some research. If you know you love [insert favorite foods here] then look that food up on the Google! The Internet exists for the reason, and that reason is so you can easily access information from a variety of sources from across the country. (This is literally the exact reason the Internet was invented, we learned about it in #gradschool).
Learn to make easy recipes. I know watching those videos on certain social media platforms or apps *cough* Buzzfeed *cough* can be entertaining. But if you’re not a super dedicated cook there is no reason to make a recipe with 32 ingredients, 29 of which you’ll never use again.
Especially if you’re just starting out, simple is better.
Stay tuned for more steps of: Hunter's Ten Step Guide to Moving to a New City and Living on Your Own