I’ve been living alone for almost a year now, and although I’ve mostly enjoyed it, I have also learned to take some precautions. While living alone can be very refreshing, it does come with some risks. I often think about how I could go missing or have some sort of accident at home, and it would probably take days for someone to notice. Over the past year, I have learned a few tricks that make me feel a little more relaxed and a lot more secure about living by myself. These things aren’t necessarily just for those who live alone, because I think pretty much anyone could benefit from them, but I do think they can help those who are living by themselves feel a little safer about their living situation.
Before I launch into that, I want to give a little background on the things that are going to make this list, for the lack of a better word, biased. Many of the tips I have looked up online involve having the locks changed, installing a chain lock, and investing in a security system. I rent an apartment, and all of those things are not an option. The locks are not changed every time someone new moves in, I am not allowed to install any sort of lock, especially one that only locks on the inside, and I am not allowed to install my own security system. Therefore, a good portion of the recommended tips are not possible for me and aren’t possible for a lot of people. If you are able to do these things, that’s great! But I will not be including them in my list for the above reasons. With that said, here is my list of tips for living alone.
If you have sliding doors or large sliding windows, put a board in the bottom track. Just about any department store sells some type of board, so all you need is one close to the length of the track. It doesn’t need to fit exactly; just make sure when the door or window meets the board, the gap isn’t wide enough for someone to fit through. You can also use old broom handles, thick dowels, or anything else that is hard enough to withstand someone pushing the door or window against it. Patio doors are actually quite easy to break into and everyone knows windows aren’t the most secure (especially cheap apartment ones), so the board is an added security measure that makes it a lot harder to break in.
If you rent, get to know your landlord and keep them in the loop. If I’m going out of town for a week or longer, I let my landlord know. This way, she has a heads up that my apartment is supposed to be empty and she keeps an extra eye on it. I also keep my landlord in the loop with major things going on in my life. For example, I let her know when my job changed and what my work hours would look like. This way, I have another person who can look out for me and could potentially notice if something seems off. I have also worked very hard to get on her good side and earn her trust, so if there is an issue with the apartment or with someone who lives in the complex, I know she will listen to me and take my concerns seriously.
Make friends with your mailman. If something does happen to you, your mailman may be one of the first to notice that something is wrong. If you suddenly go weeks without getting your mail or there has been a package sitting outside your door for a few days, chances are the mailman will notice. I’ve lived in the same apartment complex for the past four years, and I’ve gotten to know my mailman quite well in that time. When my roommate and I would be gone for summer break, the mailman would notice that we hadn’t been getting our mail and would double check with our landlord, just to make sure there wasn’t a bigger issue. This is also where keeping your landlord in the loop comes in handy. Go introduce yourself to your mailman and get to know them. Say hi to them whenever you see them and be friendly. A little kindness can go a long way, and it’s always a good idea to have an extra person looking out for you.
Tell your friends when you are meeting someone new or going out alone. When you don’t have a roommate to make sure you make it home safely from a date or a night of drinking, it’s a good idea to let your friends in on your whereabouts (I also allow some of my closer friends to see my location on their Snap-maps). If I let my friends know I’m planning to go out alone, they can keep an eye on me to make sure I’m safe or check in with me. If I ever went on a date (maybe someday), I’ll let them know who I’m going with, where we are going, and when I get home. Again, it’s always important to keep people in the loop, especially when you live alone. When I’m out with my friends, I let them know when I make it home, so that they know I made it there safely.
Lock your door when you’re not able to keep an eye on it. I know most people lock their doors when they go to sleep, but it’s also a good idea to lock your door whenever you’re not around it. I lock my door when I have music cranked up or when I’m not really paying attention, when I’m taking a shower or bath, or when I’m lying in bed. Anytime I can’t keep an eye on who might be coming into my apartment, especially when I’m not expecting anyone, I keep my door locked.
Keep your phone in the same room as you. I know most people almost always have their phones on them, but there are times when you go to take a shower and maybe leave your phone to charge in your bedroom, or something similar to that. If you live alone, keep your phone near you. If you have your phone in the bathroom and fall in the shower, you don’t have very far to go to call for help. If someone happens to break in while you’re inside your apartment (which does happen, believe me), you don’t have to go hunting for your phone if you have it with you. You don’t need to have it glued to your side, but it’s a good idea to at least keep your phone in the same room as you.
Give a spare key to a friend, preferably one that lives in the same town/ area. This is so much safer than a hide-a-key, because this way your spare is actually with someone, so there’s less of a chance of a stranger finding it and using it. If you give a spare to a trusted friend, if an emergency situation arises, you don’t have to either figure out how to get them a key or explain where the spare is. I’ve had to leave town for an emergency, and needed someone to feed my dog. It’s so much easier to coordinate this when someone I trust already has a spare key. I feel safer knowing someone has my spare key rather than having it sit under a flowerpot. I also keep a second spare in my house, just in case I need to give it to someone different for whatever reason.
Save your local police department’s non-emergency number in your phone. This is something I never thought I would need until I did. I’ve called this number for a variety of reasons, and it’s paid off every time. 911 is great, but it can take forever to get connected to your local law enforcement; this way, if I need to reach the local police department, I have the number for their specific office. In all the time I’ve lived in this complex, I’ve never needed to call 911 (thankfully), but, as I said, I have used the non-emergency number for a variety of reasons (usually intense fights in my parking lot). Look up the number for your local law enforcement and save it. If you never use it, no harm done, but if the time does come that you need it, you’ll be glad you didn’t need to spend the time looking it up.
Keep a hidden cash stash. Keep a stack of around $100-$200 of cash hidden somewhere only you know. If your apartment ever gets broken into, or if your wallet ever gets stolen or lost, you have access to some money. I once had fraudulent activity on my debit card and my credit card in the same week. Both accounts were frozen because of this, so I had no access to my money. Thankfully, I had some cash on me, but since then, I’ve made sure to keep a secret stash, just in case.
Get renter’s insurance. It’s usually not that expensive- I have mine added to my car insurance and it’s only $6 a month. You never know when you might need it. When my apartment was broken into a few years ago, I didn’t have it and it sucked! I have it now, and while I hope I never need it, I know I’ll be happy to have it if I ever need it again. Most landlords and rental companies only have insurance for damage to their property, so renter’s insurance helps protect yours.
If possible, get a pet. Not only do pets serve as great companions, but they can also add an extra layer of protection. My dog may be a giant baby, but a random person doesn’t know that. He’s big and has a deep, intimidating bark, and he will charge at strangers in the house if I’m not around. When someone attempted to break into my apartment a few months ago and again last week, I’m convinced that it was my dog’s loud bark that scared them away. I also am pretty positive that if I had had my dog when my apartment did get broken into, he would have heard them come in and would have alerted me that someone was inside and probably would have also scared them away. I know some places don’t allow pets, but if they do, it’s not a bad idea to get one. They are great for loneliness too! There’s no way I could live alone if I didn’t have my dog.
As much as we like to think bad things and accidents don’t happen to us, the fact is that they do. My two roommates and I were all home, sleeping when our apartment was broken into. In the year I’ve alone, I’ve had two break in attempts (that I know of). Bad things happen, and no one is immune to them. It’s always better to be safe now than sorry later, because there is no way to know when bad things or accidents might happen. Do what you need to do to protect yourself, and stay safe.