Everytime I see one of those fancy new apartment buildings in Cantonments, Labone, Ridge, Abelemkpe, or really anywhere in Accra at this point, I feel a mix of anger, frustration, and confusion. Who exactly do they expect to live there at those prices? Why do they keep building more? Does anyone actually live there? When am I finally going to move out of my parent’s house??
I’ve been living in the same house basically my entire life and I’ve shared a bedroom with my sister that entire time. It’s not that I don’t love my sister, because I do, but sharing a room isn’t always easy. My sister is away getting her Master’s degree so I’m alone in the room for now, but it’s still nothing compared to the freedom I had before in college. When I went to college and finally had my own space, it was like a whole new world had opened up. I swear I heard angels singing. It was heaven. I could go to sleep with the TV on! I could try on five different outfits before going out without feeling like an idiot! I could listen to music without earphones on! And then, RIGHT when I was really flourishing as an independent young adult, I moved back to Ghana and back into that exact same bedroom.
In an ideal world, I would pack up all my stuff, move into a fancy 1 bedroom apartment and host casual dinner parties and Game of Thrones viewing parties every week like the adult I (think) am. But, this is Ghana. I can’t really afford an apartment on my own close enough to my job and within my traffic tolerance level. It’s not that common for young adults, especially young women, to move out of their parents’ houses before they get married, and so it doesn’t seem like the real estate market has taken the desires and budgets of young adults into mind.
So I’ve pretty much accepted, very very reluctantly, that I won’t be moving out anytime soon. But even though I can’t afford my own place, I’ve still tried to carve out a little bit of freedom to make my living situation just a little bit more comfortable. If your situation is anything like mine, maybe these tips will help.
- Renovate your space and make it yours: Chances are, your parents won’t let you paint your bedroom a crazy colour or knock down the walls to put in giant windows and a skylight. My parents definitely wouldn’t. But that doesn’t mean you can’t put some work into your space and turn it into a place in which you enjoy spending time. When I moved back into my parents house, I found the room suffocating because it was filled with childhood stuff (toys, books, and even clothes) that I had no use for anymore. It was difficult to find space for the stuff that I actually liked and used, and the stuff that was cluttering the room didn’t reflect the person I am now. Even though it took an entire weekend, once I cleaned out my room and packed away the stuff I didn’t use anymore I felt a lot better about my bedroom. I also bought my own bedsheets in a colour I liked and put up a few posters. My parents had never allowed a TV in the bedroom when I was a kid, but now that I don’t have to study for exams and do homework, I finally have a TV in my bedroom. There are still a lot of changes I wish I could make, but for now these small and inexpensive changes have made it a lot easier to feel comfortable and happy in my bedroom.
- Negotiate better terms and boundaries: I think for most people, the worst part of living at home is feeling like you’re trapped. Your parents probably still treat you like a teenager (does “You’re living under my roof, so obey my rules” sound familiar?) but you feel like you should be given more freedom and autonomy. If you’ve recently moved back into the house after being away for a while, it will take some getting used to for both you and your parents. Have an honest, polite conversation with your parents about setting rules that benefit everybody. Maybe in exchange for removing or relaxing a curfew, you can offer to contribute to the grocery or utility bills. If your parents are always complaining about how messy your room is, agree to tidy up once a week or so instead of telling them that it’s none of their business. To prevent the “Where are you? When are you coming home” texts and calls, I tell them “I’m going out now, I’ll be back in a few hours” before I leave, and text when I know I’m going to be late coming home from work. Set some boundaries; require that they knock before coming into your room and that they don’t eat your leftovers, and you do the same. It’ll be easier to negotiate if you offer to do something in return, so you might have to make some sacrifices too.
- Get independence where and when you can: You don’t necessarily have to paint your room neon green and move out to feel independent, unless that’s what you’re into. Give yourself a couple of little tests to see if you’re really ready to live alone and be self-sufficient. Have some friends over for a quiet game night once in awhile. Once a month, buy your own groceries and cook a meal for yourself. Could you survive if you only ate what you bought and/or cooked, did your own laundry, and cleaned up after yourself? If you drive but your parents pay for your fuel (there’s absolutely NO shame in that; fuel is expensive!) try filling up your own tank once a month. If you can prove to yourself and your parents that you really can survive on your own, then you’ll be that much closer to being truly independent and start feeling like a real life independent adult.
What’s the hardest part of living at home for you? Are you counting down the days till you move out?