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My 5 Golden Rules From Living Alone for 2 Years

How to live better in your own company

By Justin BoyettePublished 2 years ago 9 min read
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My 5 Golden Rules From Living Alone for 2 Years
Photo by Karsten Winegeart on Unsplash

This bed and breakfast was shit. The communal kitchen was dressed to the nines in food scraps, permanently stained silverware, and cockroaches. An odor so rancid I could feel it — the room’s air hung like a swamp’s breath. Or bog. Or mire. Would that make me a swamp monster, then? Maybe a bog troll? Mire goblin? I harrumphed at the thought as I sat down to eat.

During the earlier half of my college career, I learned what it took to live well in solitude. For the first time in my life, I had a space that belonged to only me, and decisions only I could make. I could’ve felt limitless if I tried.

The equation was simple.

A Type-B personality, characterized by a special kind of nonchalance, coupled with a purely online class schedule, and you have the perfect breeding ground for everything to go wrong.

So, in the grace of the most cosmic of all jokes, I got to enjoy the full extent of Murphy’s Law (anything that can go wrong will).

At the end of my first year, I was one class short of failing out.

Hilarious.

I knew I needed to change. I took stock of everything I had at my disposal and came up with my code.

By the end of my second year, I was more engaged, passionate, and lived with more vitality in every breath than in the entirety of my freshman year.

Here are my five golden rules that let me go from zero to hero, and will help you do the same:

1 — Get lost in your work like your life depends on it

Humans are the first animals on the planet to have developed a curiosity for learning. Building tools, skill acquisition, money — all of these are things we’re wired to pursue. A primal enjoyment. It feels good to feel human.

Despite our curious nature, we are equally (if not more so) bored with specific subjects. My brother loves working on his car. I can’t tell you a thing about one.

But, in times where learning is a necessity, once for surviving academia and twice for living (on whole) a happier life, I’ve found that you can trick yourself into enjoying boring subjects.¹

Whether this technique is more in line with brainwashing, hypnotism, or pure willpower is beyond me.

All you have to do is tell yourself that you like learning about a subject. That you find this interesting. That you want to know more. Even remote curiosities about a subject, like Googling “What is windshield wiper fluid made of?” should be engaged with.

Practicing reframing your inner monologue is such a small but incredibly powerful way to motivate you to go deeper into any subject. Even if it’s boring on the surface.

2 — Minimalism, but for those with commitment issues

This rule goes beyond throwing away trash and cleaning your spaces. Minimalism has always been one of those sexy lifestyle curiosities I’ve held in the back of my mind, but never saw myself actively practicing. I’m just too damn sentimental. I like my stuff. I enjoy the maximalism of keeping things.

For the sake of change, I negotiated a happy middle ground in what I’ll call Minimalism Lite.

In the same way that pure minimalists keep their spaces tidy with a spatial awareness that would make Marie Kondo proud, the same can be said about my philosophy on tidiness.

After reading Kondo’s book, I was struck by the concept of animism, the respect for things as if every object were alive, was something that I found particularly useful. In thinking of objects as things that are meant to be used in a functional manner (to fulfill a purpose) while still needing time to rest, I find myself treating my surroundings and the objects within them with greater reverence and respect than before.

There is a tacit take care of your things and your things will take care of you mindset that’s built into this practice. I’ve noticed that the messiness of my spaces corresponds to my mental well-being.

The more cluttered my spaces, the more cluttered my mind. Tidiness, then, is like a mental reset. A clean slate. I’ve learned that only a mind at rest can produce thoughts that flow in perfect streams.

At the same time, the items you do keep around need to serve some purpose in the ecosystem of your spaces.

I enjoy reading but don’t like the idea of owning too many books. It just seems wasteful to me. I now read mostly on my computer, occasionally picking up a physical book. Sustainable — and a happy medium between purist minimalism and my natural affinity for physical pages.

My desk is a perfect example of minimalism lite at work. Everything I use daily is within arm’s reach, each object has a little home somewhere on my desk. Not only are the items I keep on my desk functional, but they also fulfill aesthetic coherence, another tenant of the minimalist lifestyle finding its way into my own practice.

So, when selecting items that meet your standards for form and function, be sure to optimize your choices for your workflow and match your style.²

I take great pride in my desk setup, an ode to where the organic meets the digital. The black shades of my PC and headphones paired against the wooden frames of my custom mechanical keyboard and small analog alarm clock would qualify as things that “spark joy,” as Kondo would want me to say here. Cough cough.

Honestly, I think it just looks dope as hell.

3 — Take fun seriously

I won’t gush over Big Magic again.³ As my story goes, I wouldn’t go on to read Elizabeth Gilbert’s book on creativity for another couple of years. But holy moly did I realize the value of pursuing an artful life.

On entering college, I discovered my passion for music creation, learning about what it takes to record, produce, and release independent music. I was so naive and ill-equipped to attempt being a full-fledged rockstar as someone who had barely been on the planet for two decades.

But if I didn’t buckle down and try to pursue it, I wouldn’t have my current skill set and confidence, and would probably suffer some mental anguish over whether or not I could ever “make it” as a musician.

Sometimes, all it takes to enjoy the fervor of the good life is to try to find it.

We all have a hobby or two that we can’t help but explore. For many of us here, that curiosity is in writing. For others, it could be designing bridges, fly fishing, or playing video games.

Whatever it is, so long as we are chasing a distant goal, like trying to catch your heaviest grouper (the heaviest can — and oh my God, get to 800lbs, 362kg), or making tryouts for an esports team, our quality of life will be far better off than standing still.

But you have to put in the time.

I’ve recently finished Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport, in which he discusses intentional and beneficial leisure at length — a concept I had never given much thought to before. So long as your leisure activities are demanding of your faculties, physical and mental, and can show proof of work upon completion (finishing a marathon, whittling a chess piece, etc.), your happiness, motivation, and energy will be revitalized.

4 — Social butterflies are overrated. Cocoon the fuck up.

The more time I spent focused on developing and abiding by my golden rules, I knew I had to focus less on my social life.

My grandfather on my dad’s side once gave me advice about college that I’ll never forget. He told me in very clear old-sage English to party as much as possible. This was exactly why my grandfather had to drop out of the first university he attended, despite his 170 IQ.

Like any healthy diet, the lesson here lies in moderation.

While I was never the party animal my grandfather might’ve wanted me to be, I held enough social stock that I could drop a few from my portfolio — freeing up time while prioritizing more meaningful relationships. This is one of those rare instances in life where letting go of assets boosts your value.

I found that tightening my social circle led to spending better quality time with my friends whose company I enjoyed the most. I had selected for creative types, not just in music but in every way. The result was being surrounded by people that constantly inspired me to pursue my creativity, refine my craft, and dedicate myself to my work.

There’s an adage that goes something like this. You are the sum of your five closest friends.

I fully believe this to be true. Choose wisely.

5 — Who needs therapy when you can scream into a diary?

The most important golden rule I live by is to find time to reflect. I’ve made journaling a habit, using it to think through all of life’s actual problems, not to complain over the Starbucks barista calling me “Judas” (the biblical betrayer of Jesus) again.

Again. Who in their right mind would think —

There’s a feeling, a warm, homely blend of equal parts nostalgia, face-palming, and all seven-stages-of-grief-but-in-a-good-way that I get when I read through my journals.

Melodramatics aside, being able to reflect in this way gives me a sense of accomplishment. Not only had I used written thought to map out and work through the challenges I faced, but I have a record of how I solved them.

Some of the ideas I’ve formalized here on Medium existed first as seeds I planted in my journals years ago. My current practices on creative nurturing, time management, and so many others were born first from when ink met the page.

You don’t need to journal every day. Sometimes, I won’t pick mine up for months.

But I believe the best way to use a journal is as a tool to think through a problem so that you might be closer to finding a solution.

In full pretentiousness, being able to have a dialogue with your past self is wonderfully rewarding. There will be times in taking a notes-stalgia trip, where you notice flashes of brilliance in your thinking, followed immediately by moments of complete idiocy.

As naive as you were, find solace in knowing that it took a good amount of personal growth to move beyond that moment. Never before have you had as many anecdotal resources at your disposal. With each new experience, a learning opportunity.

So, after filing down fangs and cutting down claws, I began to clean.

Disclaimer: This article was originally published on Medium.

Here's a link to the original - https://medium.com/illumination/my-5-golden-rules-from-living-alone-for-2-years-29a34093718

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About the Creator

Justin Boyette

4x Top Writer on Medium. Telling interesting stories from life's ordinary moments.

Writing about learning, organization, and erudition.

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