My Declaration of Independence

Things I have learned by living on my own.

This year, I struck out on my own. I am now living in an apartment for the first time in my life. Having never rented an apartment, the experiences I have had this year have been terrifying and empowering simultaneously.

The photos to follow show an apartment that needs some loving. I hope to get permission to do some work on it, but for now, I have to live with what I have. I love this place.

I can put stuff together.

A friend gave me the dining set in the first picture. I summoned the courage to put it together. It took three hours or so, but it was finally built, and now it still sits in this spot in my kitchen. (My kitchen… that still sounds weird to me.)

Although you cannot see it, the bed frame that supports my bed is one I had to build. It took a while, but when it was done, I was very proud of myself.

When the TV stand came, courtesy of another friend, I was certain that when I put it together, the TV was a “goner.” However, it’s still standing, and I am grateful for that. I was quite nervous.

Next to the TV stand in the third picture is the DSL modem. When it arrived, I had to figure out how to install it. Finally, I had to call Verizon to help, and it turned out the issues I was having were not my fault. I celebrated! The technician came out, made a few changes at the network interface, and I was connected. (As an aside, I use Sling TV instead of cable, and I love it.)

When the lawn mower in the fourth picture arrived, I was dismayed to find I had to put it together. I envisioned cutting my hand off with the blade. However, it was assembled in half an hour, and off I went to cut the lawn.

Finally, just yesterday, I installed the apartment-dweller’s screen door in the last picture. Since I cannot install a proper screen door, I decided to put up this magnetic screen door. That took about 15 minutes, and now there is the potential for a cross breeze in this odd place I call home that will not allow buggies to enter. (Please ignore the towels hanging in the background. The door to the deck leads directly into my laundry area.)

I don’t have to live with torn screens… or much else.

When I first opened the windows in my apartment, I noticed the screens needed repair. Well, instead of waiting for someone to repair them, I purchased the replacement screens, as shown in this picture. They are working well.

The screens represent one of the first decisions I made to not simply live with something I found unpleasant because I thought I wasn’t worth the expense. Since then, I have made frugal yet practical decisions to improve my living conditions. I am worth it.

Putting an air conditioner in the window isn’t as scary as I thought.

Last week, there was a heat wave. I was forced to put the air conditioner in the window. I was afraid it was going to fall out of the window, onto the porch roof below, and do some serious damage, but it didn’t. So far, it’s still in place. Gorilla tape has become my best friend. Yes, it looks a little odd framed in black tape. I don’t care. I will have to paint the woodwork and use Goof Off to get the adhesive off, but I don’t care about that either. I will do that.

You may be wondering: “Are those clothespins holding up the curtains?” Yes, indeed they are. As part of my attempt to conquer the heat wave, I went to Walmart and purchased curtain rods that were the wrong size, along with other items. Well, I can use them in the loft, since the windows are smaller, but I did not want to spend more money on curtain rods. So I took the clothespins I use for laundry and hung the room darkening curtains I purchased.

Yesterday, the heat wave had passed, and I wanted to pull back the curtains. So, I took 3M hooks and shower curtain rings I had on hand to create makeshift “pullbacks” for the curtains. For right now, they will do.


Each time I figure something out, I send a photo to my family and caption it with “In today’s episode of #makedo…” I have been trying to use things I already have, or that are not that expensive. So, the picture of the curtains came with the following caption:

In today’s episode of #makedo, what do you do when you don’t want to spend more money on curtain rods, don’t want to climb on a chair again, and want light to come in on a nice day? You use shower curtain rings and 3M hooks you have on standby as makeshift pullbacks.

It’s been fun to figure things out and send photos with #makedo captions. I think the family likes them. My mother says I am channeling my grandmother. Grandmom, thank you.

Doing laundry is an act of affirmation and empowerment.

When I first moved into my little apartment, I went to the laundromat for the first time in my life. I liked it there, but realized I could spend my time wisely if I invested in a washer and dryer. The expense was (and still is) out of the question, so I purchased a portable washer instead.

The washer arrived while I was visiting my mother, so we drove back from her house to get it from the neighbor’s front porch and into the apartment. Since then, I have done at least one load of laundry daily.

It’s an act of empowerment. It reaffirms my independence. I won’t go into why, so please just believe me.

Using the washer required a few adjustments. I purchased a short garden hose to hook up to the spigot in this room, and an attachment to keep that from leaking. That is because the hose that came with it does not fit the spigot, which is common. Additionally, I have to drain into a bucket, which then goes into the sink in the kitchen. That isn’t a big deal either. Each time I lift the bucket, I fill my vessel with positive, empowering energy. For an hour, I’m not thinking about much aside from doing the laundry. It’s like laundry yoga.

I also had to learn about using the right amount of detergent. This portable washer requires much less detergent than a regular washer. If I use too much, I have to clean out the suds, and that is not fun.

Oh, and if you have never tried cleaning vinegar, I highly recommend it. It softens the laundry, and no, your laundry does not smell like vinegar.

The spinner on this washer does a brilliant job. The laundry is practically dry when it comes out of the spinner. I hang items on the drying rack in the kitchen using the clothespins mentioned earlier. When I launder the sheets, I have taken to hanging them outside. I have never hung laundry outside before. It’s a pleasant experience.

As this home evolves, it reflects upon my emergence from a dark place.

The progression from a place to live, to a safe place in which I am happy, reflects on my development as a human being who wants to not only live, but thrive. When I moved into this apartment, I was in a self-imposed darkness, a cave I had found and crawled into. I wanted the world to leave me alone. I was afraid of everything, especially finding myself destitute and homeless.

A friend said to me that I should — and eventually would — realize that time in my life was not only an ending, but a beginning. Intellectually, I understood that. Emotionally and psychologically, it took time. As the seasons changed, I learned how to live in the moment; be good to those who want me around; be grateful for my family, friends, and guides; and to let the past guide me toward a better future, not to cling to it to further my self-imposed and well-cultivated misery.

What I have done to make this place a home is my declaration of independence.

Happy Independence Day to the United States of America.

Originally published at on July 3, 2021.

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