Welcome to The Journey
A news magazine created to connect, inform & inspire
Issue: February 2023, Living, Inspired with IDD
Background: A white wall to the left, a textured gray accent wall center and right, a low-back sofa with Robin's Egg blue slipcover behind subject. Foreground: A green, large-leafed houseplant at the bottom left of the frame, a stack of books slightly to the right of the plant, and a rolled up gray rug to the extreme right. Subject: A smiling woman with tan skin and long, dark hair is sitting on a brown moving box holding a white coffee mug. She is wearing tan, laced work boots, warm grey pants, and a loose, cream-colored, long-sleeved, button-down shirt.
Pam Blanton
Partners4Housing CEO

This article first appeared in the Organization for Autism Research’s newsletter in January 2023. We appreciate their permission to reprint it here and share it with you.

It’s finally happening …You’re ready to move into your own home after months or 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.

5 tips for a smooth transition to independent living

1. Create a vision board for your new home

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 whiteboard 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, even ideas of how you’d like to decorate your new room. This can help you picture yourself in your new home, and help you settle in quickly.

2. Don’t rush it

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.

3. Discuss the ground rules

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’ll 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.

4. Remember to take care of you

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:

  • Going for a walk to clear your head
  • Putting headphones and listening to your favorite music
  • Doing some deep breathing
  • Journaling, to help sort out your thoughts
  • Spending time being mindful, in prayer, meditation or simply sitting in silence and listening to how you feel.

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, caregiver or family member. Sometimes the simple act of sharing how you feel will help you feel better immediately.

5. Embrace the journey!

Your beautiful, more independent life is about to begin. Embrace it! Have fun making choices for 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.

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