Last week Annie and Liz wrote about how to successfully live with your parents… again. Their advice was spot on — I know because I lived home for almost five years after college. That experience was a good one for me because I was able to save money, establish a new kind of relationship with my parents and think strategically about my next step. When the next step did come along, I was in a good position in life for independence, a new routine and a place to settle into that I could call my own.
A few months ago I moved into a house with my boyfriend of six years. Neither of us had lived away from our parents since college, so the experience was both exciting and intimidating. Every day I have adult responsibilities like laundry, dishes and yard work, and yes, it’s overwhelming. But when I allow myself to step away from all of that, I sit on my deck looking out at our yard and think, “this is my little plot of earth.” There is a great sense of pride in having found a place to call home away from, well, home. Aside from chores, there’s a lot that this comes with, including meeting new people and finding new doctors and discovering new eateries. Whether you’ve moved to an apartment, condominium or house, here are a few ways to settle in and feel part of the neighborhood.
1. First and foremost, welcome the birds.
I hadn’t been at the house for more than a week before I went out and bought a variety of bird feeders. Watching birds out my kitchen window was something I always envisioned doing, and I couldn’t wait to make it a reality. Much to my delight, it didn’t take long for the birds to find us! Buying seeds can be expensive, but most birds are happy with black oil sunflower seeds, so you don’t have to get a gourmet mixture unless you’re trying to attract a certain species.
2. Introduce yourself to the neighbors by doing something nice.
It took an entire afternoon to bake and cut sugar cookies into various animal shapes, but it was worth the good feeling I got when Chris and I delivered them to our neighbors. It was even fun to pick out colorful tins at the dollar store in which I presented the cookies. By the way, this took courage because it is not easy to show up on a stranger’s doorstep, but it felt like the right thing to do, and it was. Now we can almost call our neighbors our friends.
3. Bring life into your home.
Like the delight in watching birds, I am also easily excited by living, breathing things in my home. And since my dog stayed behind with my parents, plants were the next best thing. Chris and I went a little plant crazy (he is a landscaper, after all) buying lots of flora for our bay window. These potted plants drink a lot of water, but they’re my babies and I love having something to tend to that adds beauty to boot. As soon as the weather was warm enough, I filled pretty planters with flowers and plopped them on my bistro set outside.
4. Create a cozy place to sit and watch the world.
Speaking of my bistro set, it’s one of my favorite home items. Over time, I noticed that I’d migrate to the same spot to take in the view; it happens to be a small deck off our sunroom. As much as we didn’t mind standing to watch the deer cross our back yard or the sun come up over the hill, we knew we would appreciate the natural surroundings more if we invested in an inviting table and chair set where we could comfortably spend hours in our favorite spot. We’ve shared many a meal and glasses of wine out there while taking in the world.
5. Find the unique things about your town.
I was super excited to hear that our town is the birthplace of Lucy Stone, an influential women’s rights activist and abolitionist. It is also where Noah Webster published his dictionary. We learned these facts by visiting the local book shop (adorably named the “Book Bear”!) and by asking around. We discovered a great place to go hiking down the road – a reservation shaped by a glacier where indigenous tribes hunted and worshiped in cave-like shelters. It’s taken some exploring and curiosity, but knowing these facts makes me proud of the place I chose to call home. Not to mention, they’re great conversation starters and places to share with family and friends who come to visit.
6. Ask locals to recommend hair salons, doctors and restaurants.
It was a big step moving to a new state: I had to find everything from new doctors to the best restaurants around. The easiest way to do this? Ask your new coworkers, neighbors or other locals. They’ll love to give suggestions, and it helps to start with good recommendations. Having a trusty doctor and a good hairdresser, as well as knowing where the best Italian food and the cheapest gas can be found, are all part of the experience of calling a new place home.