You've signed a lease and closed on a house. Your boxes are packed, and you're headed to your new place: you're off to live alone. I'm no pro when it comes to self-defense nor do I work in the security field, but I did spend most of my 20s living alone in a major city.
These are real ways I put my mind at ease and worked to keep myself safe. These are my tips for living alone as a female, from me to you.
Ways to Feel Secure Living Alone as a Woman
The easy answer is to use a security system to alert you to any intruders, but apartments often don't have that luxury, and you may not be able to afford one in your own home. These are a few easy (and quick) ways to feel safe living alone.
Make Your Door Noisy
Lock your door as soon as you get in, for starters. But, hang a bell or other decoration on your doorknob that'll make a ruckus when opened or closed.
Use a Door Stop
When you're home, a simple door stop that you use to keep a door open for a breeze can keep that same door closed when you'd rather not have any uninvited guests letting themselves in.
Decorate Your Windowsill
Like your door, make sure you keep your windows locked. Make sure if someone tries to head into your apartment through the window, you'll know. I always had something that would fall over if the window was opened without being moved. A flower vase, empty or full, or a decoration does the trick perfectly.
Check In With Friends
Whether in a group chat or a chat with just one friend, check in with a simple good morning, good night, how's your day going. Send a quick meme, link, or tweet just to let them know you're doing fine, and make sure you hear from them too.
Learn Who Lives Near You
Low-key learn the names of your neighbors. You don't need to be their best friend or even introduce yourself, but knowing a name can be empowering. Be it someone mistakenly knocking on your door, and they really are or aren't looking for someone else that lives on your floor, it's a great piece of info to have in your back pocket.
Skip the full name on your mailbox if you can, use only your first initial with your last name or use only your last name. The best step to not tipping anyone off that you live alone is to not give them the tip in the first place.
Use a Fake Name on Delivery Apps
Not only can you skip using your full name on your mailbox, use a different name on your delivery apps! Just because you're ordering dinner for one doesn't mean you need everyone and their mom to know that you're a female dining alone. Gender-neutral names like Alex, Jordan, Blake, Cameron, Casey, and Jamie are all great places to start.
Draw Your Blinds
You don't need to let everyone see what you've got going on inside of your place, your habits, your routines, any of that. Draw your blinds. This applies whether or not you live alone, too.
Put Men's Shoes Outside
While I've never put this tip into action myself, it has crossed my mind. Grab a pair of construction boots or another pair of men's shoes, preferably used (so this is a good chance to go thrifting), and leave them outside of your door, where you can. Some landlords and building managers frown firmly on leaving things in the hallway.
Install Automated Lights
There are plenty of lightbulbs, smart timers, and technological gadgets you can use to play with the lighting and create timers. You can go fancy with something from Philip Hues or stick with Amazon-brand smart plugs or Amazon-brand smart bulbs. All you need is a simple "smart plug" search to find what you're looking for.
The same applies to light bulbs! With most smart light bulbs you can even change the brightness or the color of the lights.
Leave Your TV or a Podcast On
Whether you leave your TV on while you step out for a little bit of time or have it hooked up to a smart outlet, there's nothing wrong with having a light, mumbling sound in your apartment so it doesn't appear empty when you're gone. A podcast also works wonders since it naturally sounds like people chatting. Be mindful of the volume, however.
You don't need to go full Home Alone with cardboard cutouts and party scenes, but something that would look and sound natural is perfect.
Make Friends With Your Building Super
This is a double-edged sword. Building supers aren't always the coolest, nicest people, but the ones that are can make your living solo experience much easier. If they aren't the type to take things the wrong way, they're a great ally when you live alone. Even outside of safety, I was once worried I had left a candle lit and had them check (I didn't!), and another time I was locked out because I left my keys at work. Because we had a good rapport, I didn't pay a lock-out fee (and that was a steep $100).
Have a Designated Spot for Your Keys
Much to the annoyance of my mother, my friends, and later my boyfriend, I had a terrible habit of not putting my keys in the same place. On several occasions, I'd leave my keys in the door and only realize it when I went to leave my apartment a day (or two) later when I couldn't find them. Have a cup, have a hook, have a dish - but don't be me, and don't leave your keys right in the door.
Ways to Feel Safe Outside of the Home
Running errands, heading to the grocery store, or getting back late, these are a few ways to add a feeling of safety.
Don't Tell Drivers You Live Alone
You live with your boyfriend, your parents, your several roommates. I've had some weird drivers, and suddenly, I lived with two guys who played for the local college football team, and my best friend, who played basketball, also lived with me. Lying to your friends? Don't do it. Lying to strangers? Do it. Feel free to use your gender-neutral name here, a fake name, or whatever makes you comfortable. And always make sure you're getting into the correct rideshare car.
You can take things a step further and use an address that's a few numbers off from your actual apartment or home, too.
I once got into a ride share with a friend to head home, and as soon as she got in the car, she opened her door and said her coat was hanging out. It wasn't. I asked her why. She said she wanted to make sure the child safety locks weren't on in the back.
Use an Internet Phone Number
Some apps don't allow you to use an internet phone number (VOIP) or Google Voice number. But register for one and use it wherever you'd like, including when someone asks you for your number and you're not sure you want to give them your actual number. You can even pick the area code.
Share Your Location
I'm more than happy to use an app to share my location with close friends. Sure, they can roast me for saying I'm at the gym when I dodge their call when really they can see I'm at the bar, but I love that they can pop in at anytime and see what I'm up to. The same applies to them.
Sharing your location with friends is great for attending a concert or festival together. They tell you they're by the bathroom, but there are four bathrooms, Lisa, which one is it? Check the app!
Be Aware of Your Surroundings
I lived in a great neighborhood, and that's a good place to start looking when you are checking out places to live, but just stay alert when you're out and about. Have only one headphone in, or have headphones in and no music. Just know what's going on around you. Yeah, you want to crank your jams, but you can crank your music when you're safely at your destination.
Final Tips for How to Feel Safe Living Alone
Here are a few things to check out before you sign that lease or mortgage and book the movers.
- Make sure the building has adequate outdoor lighting to the entryways you'll be using. If you're moving into a home, consider installing motion sensor lighting.
- For homes, make sure you keep the yard trimmed and maintained so no one can hide in bushes near the house.
- Security cameras are a great start, and you can use these outside of your home or inside your apartment. Even pet cameras can be a great way to detect any motion, with or without a pet.
- Not everyone can have a pet - I never could - but a dog or even the sound of a pretend dog can help! Even just a dog leash or dog bowl can help.
- Check the peephole before opening the door. My house didn't have a peephole (which I didn't realize until moving in), so I immediately installed a smart doorbell so I wouldn't need to James Bond around the house to see who was knocking on my door.
- If you're comfortable doing so, go beyond just learning the names of your neighbors and become friends and exchange phone numbers. It's nice knowing someone is a few steps or just a quick walk away.
- Have your keys ready to go when you approach your building or door, and make sure nobody is ready to slip in the building behind you.
- I slept with a baseball bat under my bed. Would it help? I've never had to know. But it did make my brain feel a little better. You can use knitting needles if Mabel from Only Murders in the Building speaks to you.
- Yes, you want to show everyone on social media that you're somewhere wonderful, but you don't want everyone to know that your apartment is sitting empty.
Living Alone Can Build Self-Confidence
Those first few nights you might jump at every sound you hear, but after a while, it all becomes background noise. Armed with these tips, you're ready for your own place. Decorated the way you wanted, living just the way you want. Congrats on the new digs. You're going to be great!