Living on your own, at any stage of your life, can be empowering, liberating, and exhilarating. Today, some 31 million Americans, comprising 28 percent of all households, live alone. And of those 31 million, the majority – 17 million – are women.
Turns out we’re good at living alone. Women are more likely to have strong social networks that sustain us, and less inclined to feel fearful or threatened when home alone. But, that said, women living on their own can also be targets for burglars and other criminals. Women who live alone needn’t dwell in constant fear – but they should exercise some commonsense precautions when it comes to safety.
Here’s a rundown of simple steps that can make living alone feel safer.
- Lock doors and windows. This might seem to go without saying, but it’s so important that it bears repeating. And remember that locking your door means doing so at all times – even if you just run down the hall for a minute. Use a door chain when at home – it’s simple and low-tech, but it makes it difficult to kick the door in. Of course, you should never open the door to a stranger.
- Make sure your windows are covered. Flimsy curtains won’t cut it; window treatments – be they curtains, blinds, or shades – should be sturdy enough to block an outsider’s view entirely, even if you’re not on the first floor.
- Keep a nightlight near the front door, and leave it on, so that your home won’t be totally dark when you enter at night. You could also put a light on a timer, which helps to make your place look occupied.
- Get to know your neighbors. In case of an emergency, you’ll want to be able to knock on a nearby door for help. And it’s important to get a sense of who belongs in the neighborhood – and who doesn’t.
- Depending on your situation, you may want to invest in a home security system. For women living alone, a system that includes a panic button, which sends out an alert in case of trouble and brings help fast, could be especially useful.
- Don’t let it be known that you live alone. Of course, it’s fine to tell family and trusted friends, but with more casual acquaintances, keep the details of your living situation on the down low.
- Consider taking a basic self-defense course. Such classes can teach you effective strategies for dealing with threats and intimidation, and can help prepare you to recognize and avoid potentially dangerous situations. Self-defense courses for women are often inexpensive or even free; check with your local gym, Y, or women’s organization. You might also carry a small pepper spray in your purse for emergencies.
- Check in regularly with a buddy. One potential safety concern in living solo is that if you hurt yourself or get sick, no one will know. Set up a daily check-in system with a friend or family member (a quick text should do it), so that if that person doesn’t hear from you, he or she will get in touch to make sure you’re okay.
- In apartment buildings or complexes, the common areas – such as the parking lot, mailboxes, or laundry room – may hold particular dangers. It’s easy for intruders to enter these spaces and catch you unawares. Avoid the parking lot at night if you’re alone, and be cautious around strangers, even if they seem friendly, in the laundry room. Consider enlisting a neighbor to walk you to the laundry room if you’re concerned. When entering or exiting your car or apartment, be sure to have your keys at the ready; fumbling in your purse may make you an easy target.
- Get a dog. Canines are great companions, and they can also help make you safer if you live alone. Even a small dog can alert you to danger by barking at anything out of the ordinary. If owning a dog isn’t feasible for you, you could put up a “Beware of Dog” sign instead, which might be enough to ward off an intruder.
- Make it look like there’s a man in the house. Place a man’s jacket and/or shoes somewhere strategically near the door – it helps send the message that you’re not alone.
- Vary your schedule. If you go to the gym and the market every day after work, try mixing it up a little bit. Making your movements too predictable could leave you vulnerable, should someone be keeping track of your routines.
Of course, much of this boils down to common sense. Be alert, be prepared, be careful – and you can be confident in living alone comfortably and safely.
This post was written by Kevin Raposo, a blogger for SimpliSafe Home Security. Kevin covers issues around home security, crime, tech, and safety. When he's not writing, he usually feeding the bears he volunteers at, and enjoys playing music with his friends. SimpliSafe is a leader in the home security field.