Five Ways to Ease the Transition to Independent Living
January 10, 2023
By: Pam Blanton
It’s finally happening …You’re ready to move into your own home after months or maybe even years of planning. Having worked with many autistic young adults and their families over the years, I’m happy to share my ideas for making this important transition a smooth one.
Moving to a new place, whether you will be living on your own or sharing a home with roommates and/or caregivers, is a major life event. And like all big events in our lives, this one comes with lots of excitement, lots of boxes, and a fair number of challenges. All the planning and effort of making this change in your life will be worth it once you’re settled into your own place. These five tips can help you make a smooth transition to independent living.
When faced with a big project like a move, a visual aid can be helpful. You can use a calendar that counts down the days to moving day or a white board that helps you visualize how much time is left. Sometimes it helps to create a vision board with photos of your new place, pictures of your new roommates or neighborhood, and even ideas of how you’d like to decorate your new place. This can help you picture yourself in your new home and settle in quickly.
While you’re probably excited for your move, take the time to make a gradual transition. Spend some time exploring your new neighborhood, finding the local grocery store and coffee shop. If you will be living with roommates, try to spend time with them before the move if possible, getting to know them and how they like to spend their time. Make sure you spend time with your caregiver too; this will create a solid bond of friendship before moving day.
If you have access to your new place before move-in day, consider moving in some of your favorite things and setting up your room a little at a time. This will make move-in day more manageable and will help you feel at home more quickly. You might want to plan some sleepovers in your new place before you move in full time.
It’s important not to rush this transition time; making a gradual transition to independent living can help manage stress and ease the workload.
Every shared home has rules to live by. Before moving day, talk to your housemates about things like privacy and personal space, quiet hours, rules around having friends and family over, shared mealtimes, household chores, and social activities. Remember, you don’t have to do everything together, but you do need to be respectful of each other’s needs.
Be clear about setting boundaries that work for you. If you like to wake up slowly in the morning, let your housemates know that you will be pretty quiet before that first cup of coffee. If dishes in the sink really bother you, set some boundaries around kitchen chores. Throughout the transition, keep the lines of communication open so things can be discussed before they turn into problems. It can be helpful to have a monthly house meeting.
Moving into your own home is a major change; there are going to be some stressful moments. Make sure you are taking good care of yourself during this transition time. Be aware of your stress levels and use the coping strategies that work best for you. You might try:
Ask for help when you need it. Everyone has moments when things seem a little out of control. If that happens to you, reach out to a friend, your roommate, a caregiver, or a family member. Sometimes the simple act of sharing how you feel will help you feel better immediately.
Your beautiful, more independent life is about to begin. Embrace it! Have fun making choices about what goes into your new place. Enjoy the little moments, like choosing the color of your bath towels, or getting some house plants for the kitchen window. This will be your home soon, a place to make your own.
With some good planning, a lot of self-care, and open communication, the transition to your new home can be a time of excitement and pure joy.
Pam Blanton is the founder and CEO of Partners4Housing, which helps families of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) find roommates and set up shared housing solutions. Her career has spanned 30 years in special needs housing, and she is an acknowledged expert in her field and a Friends of Housing Award honoree. She has an in-depth working knowledge of how to help people navigate supplemental security income (SSI), Social Security disability insurance (SSDI), state residential support, Medicaid-funded personal care services, supported employment income, and Section 8 housing subsidies.