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Meal Preparation/Other Household Chores

Just as you need a realistic, balanced budget before setting out on your own, you need to make a thorough and realistic list of all the tasks that come with managing for yourself: personal hygiene, taking medications, preparing and cleaning up after meals, doing laundry and housecleaning just to name the basics. You have to be able to handle these tasks with the help on hand in order to stay healthy and presentable. And these don't include the unexpected, like dealing with a plumbing problem or power outage.

Getting a place with one or more roommates may be a good plan. Not only does it allow pooling money to pay the bills; it also brings more hands to bear on household tasks. It is important that everyone does his or her share, so you may need to build a team whose strengths compensate for others' weaknesses. Be realistic about the compatibility and reliability of the personalities involved and have a backup plan. If someone decides to bail out after a couple months, the lease won't just disappear. What will you do?

A group home with some assistance and support is more practical for some people with disabilities. You still have a degree of independence out from under the wing of the family and it may be only a transitional phase as you gain the skills to manage more on your own.

Shopping

Getting the things you need into your home is another seemingly mundane area for which you need a good plan in advance of moving out on your own. Groceries are bulky and heavy. If you can't just go to the grocery, drug or discount store any time you want and buy and bring home whatever you need, then you need to plan ahead, be organized, have a workable alternative and prepare to manage on your own for a while if the system breaks down.

No matter whether you can shop for yourself or rely on others to bring in the things you need, it's a good idea to have a master shopping list of all the things you need on hand, not just food staples but cleaning and other household supplies. You can mark a copy of the list whenever you notice you're running low on something or use it to check for needs before a shopping trip. This system can cut down on unpleasant surprises halfway through making a meal and needing to run to the store when it just isn't practical.

Time Management

We often don't realize how time-consuming some tasks are until we do them ourselves, and a lot of routine activities take more time for people with disabilities, even those who are relatively self-reliant. We get only a certain amount of time, and—especially when you are living independently—some tasks can't be put off or skipped. You have to eat and sleep to keep yourself going. You may have school and/or work schedules with transportation time added in. What about having fun and doing the things you'd really rather do? You have to be realistic about what you can squeeze into a day, decide what is necessary or really important and apply some maturity and self-discipline. This doesn't mean all work and no play; it just means saving time for fun the same way you'd save money for a treat or something you really want.

Independent living isn't complete freedom—it's freedom to make choices. But to stay independent, you have to make mostly smart choices.


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