I never thought I could make my home my own until I was a ‘grown up’ and had bought my first property. I don’t know why, it was just this unknown rule that I couldn’t decorate or buy my dream L shaped sofa until I eventually moved back home, which… I had no intentions of doing anytime soon. During a conversation with a friend about said sofa, he asked me why I couldn’t make my dream home here in Singapore? The excuses coming from my mouth initially argued; there was no point in spending the money on somewhere I wasn’t sure would be home for long.
At the time I was 1 year into expat life, living with 3 random housemates in a shiny gold condo with an all inclusive package; bills, furniture, cutlery, cleaning services…the lot! I was in a dilemma about whether to find a cheaper room in a flatshare with a friend or to go solo and commit myself to a 2 year lease, higher rent, therefore a bigger deposit and a hefty Ikea shop to furnish the place. What sounds like the easiest option to you?
Me too! A flat-share might have its bad days but ultimately it would give me the most flexibility and save the most cash…which is the reason why I came out to Singapore in the first place. So…why did I decide to go all in on a place by myself and…do I have any regrets?
Celebrating my first night in my very own apartment with wine and pizza!
Fast forward 18 months, post flatpack furniture frenzies, green velvet sofa deliveries and with Bali art and family photographs now adorning my walls, I couldn’t be happier with my decision to live alone and make my home my own. When I look out of the descending plane window and see the familiar lights of the ships surrounding Singapore’s shores, I have that ’feeling’ of home. This is where I’m meant to be, my safe place, my familiar place and somewhere I feel grounded. I now feel more at ease than when landing in the UK! Of course this isn’t solely down to having pictures on my wall but how did I eventually get from expat house share to ‘home’?
At the time of my initial dithering I was approaching 32, so the social pressure to ‘grow up’ was initially there. Also, I believe the older you get, the more selfish you become and less tolerant of things/people that just aren’t for you. I’d also never lived by myself before and just felt that the time was right to at least try. Another realisation was that it wasn’t just about the money. It was the fear of committing to a lease and investing in a location for at least 2 years. Prior to this, the longest place I called home was 2 years in a spare room in Tooting. However, the fact this spare room belonged to my best friend meant there was no formal contract and I could up and leave anytime. Even after 3 years in London, I still managed to fit all my worldly belongings into the back of my sisters ‘Scenic’…albeit seats down! Added with the fact this 31 year old had been single since university, you would have thought she would have been more aware of her commitment issues. It was time for me to stop running away from my fears and at least TRY it!
When you buy some art on holiday but have to ask...how do I get this home on the plane?!
Things that I’ve learnt;
Even if you only have 12 months, things like putting photos on the wall and investing in your fave Egyptian cotton bed sheets can make you feel so much more settled in somewhere so new.
If you’re flat sharing and just have a bedroom then make it yours. Don’t be scared to buy pieces of art on your travels and actually get them framed and hung on your walls. If you have green fingers then invest in some plants and I’m sure your housemates will appreciate them too.
Purchase gadgets/furniture that will really improve the quality of your time spent at home. Maybe that’s a coffee machine or a high end television if you’re a Netflix fan.
If you’re on the fence about living alone, ask yourself if it's only financial reasons holding you back or if now's the time to face hidden demons?
Nothing is permanent in life! Change is the only constant. Sofa’s can be sold or shipped, holes in the wall can be filled in again and contracts can be broken. There will always be a solution.
This chair purchase during quarantine has made my limited outdoor space so much more accessible!
Everyone’s relationship, financial and duration status will be different. However, the above should resonate with anyone and any couple who has faced similar dilemmas in the past, especially if your overseas timeline is TBC. For example, you might hate the thought of living alone but haven’t considered doing anything with your room in a house share? If you’re a couple saving for a deposit, will staying a few moths extra to recover any furniture spending really make a big difference?
No matter your budget, any money you spend on making your house your home will be a priceless investment. Mental health is no different to any other health issue and you can never put a price on your well being. Anxiety and stress levels are particularly high for everyone at the moment but when we do get let outside again...having a haven to come home to will be just as important as making it your safe harbour under quarantine!
P.S. My L shape sofa dreams were short lived due to mould issues and too narrow a living space in my second apartment! But…I'm determined to make it happen one day!