I wake up in a cold sweat. It’s 2 a.m. My son moved out the day before and I suddenly realize I failed him. He’s settling down in his new place without me having shown him how to replace the vacuum cleaner bag. Did he learn everything he needed to before moving out? Am I being overprotective?
Maybe but I’ve seen what happens when someone vacuums without both a bag and a cover. The dust shoots out of the vacuum and into the room like confetti out of a canon. (And the person — who shall remain nameless, just kept cleaning and didn’t even notice.)
Which made me think. What practical skills (beyond vacuuming) do you really need to possess in order to consider yourself an adult?
And what skills do you need as proof before your parents can ease up on their suffocating verbal embraces?
Here’s a list of 9 things to learn before moving out (with extra credit for overachievers).
1. How to feed yourself
Okay, so I know you know how to eat but do you know what to eat and how to prepare it? The primary reason for eating is not only to ease hunger but to deliver nutrients that will keep body and mind functioning properly.
Take small steps. Start with making a sandwich (No, PB, and J’s don’t count.) Add salads to your repertoire. Learn how to scramble an egg. Being able to feed yourself is one of the most important things to learn before moving out on your own, so start as soon as possible.
Buy some salt, pepper, and some olive oil. Make sure they’re visible to your parents. The image will subconsciously have an effect on them.
2. Pay bills and set a budget
Nothing will make you feel more adult than setting up and sticking to a budget. Not only will the sense of control minimize stress, but it’s also a great confidence booster. As you stick to a budget you’ll prove to yourself that you have the ability to delay gratification.
The ability to regulate impulse control is a major component of becoming an adult. And taking hold of the impulse to spend will place you right at the gates of adulthood. There’s no faster way to get there.
Learn how to file your own taxes.
3. Read the small print
Understanding the importance of reading a contract before signing is a great sign you’re an adult.
Keep track of receipts and important papers. There’s no use understanding what you sign if you can’t find the information when you need it.
4. Stay organized and non-hoarder like
Which brings us to the next point. Staying organized and keeping things clean are great time savers and stress reducers.
So what does this actually entail?
Wipe down the kitchen counters with something clean, do your dishes, and wipe up spills daily.
Disinfect kitchen sponges and wash kitchen towels frequently.
Clean the refrigerator. Food poisoning is no fun so dump leftovers after three or four days (because moms everywhere and The Mayo Clinic say so).
Wipe down the bathroom sink and toilet every three days.
Don’t wait for the trash to overflow before you take it out. Trash smells — and no, air fresheners are not a good substitute for manually removing the bag and wiping down the can.
I have one (okay two) more words for you: dust mites. (Warning: the link is not for the squeamish.) Vacuum, dust, and change the sheets every ten days at least. And wash blankets and pillows regularly.
Buy a bathroom rug and wash it before you think you have to.
Keep a toilet plunger and toilet bowl brush in the bathroom and learn how to use them.
Air out the place regularly. And if you have to open your windows to see the outside world, wash them.
Speaking of smells. Do your laundry. Nothing says adolescence as dirty, wrinkled clothes.
6. Purchase a toolbox
And nothing says adult like a hammer and nail owning human. Add a screwdriver, a pair of pliers, and a tape measure, and your parents will be as proud as if you just graduated from Harvard.
7. First-aid kit
Here’s the cheapest, most visible way toward reaching adult status: buy a first-aid kit. Those white boxes with a red cross is a sign of you having fully developed preventative thinking skills which in Momese translates to “our child will be okay”.
My own mother saw these little boxes as the ultimate symbol of responsibility. She even brought an emergency kit along as she went to watch my brother skydive. Because nothing cures a failed parachute deployment like a some Neosporin and a Band-Aid.
8. If you own a car
Keep your registration and insurance current, and don’t leave home without your license.
Now imagine yourself stranded on the road with no cellphone service. Let’s hope it never happens but if it does, you and those closest to you would feel so much better if you knew how to change a tire as well as check oil and water levels. And don’t ignore engine lights because replacing an overheated engine is expensive.
If your car looks like a mode of transportation rather than your living quarters you’re on your way to entering the adult world.
9. Basic etiquette
There are few confidence builders as effective as knowing basic table manners and there’s nothing that makes you feel more out of place than realizing that your manners fall short.
Too often we take family behaviors for granted, not even realizing there are other ways of behaving than the way we were taught through osmosis. But a huge part of becoming an adult means to expand on the family way of doing things.
So if you want to go beyond the basic elbows off the table, no chewing with your mouth open, and waiting for everyone to finish before leaving the table youtube is there to hep you learn what your parents never taught you before moving out.
Learn how to iron your clothes, tie a necktie, sew on a loose button, and polish your shoes.
The fastest way to become the adult you always wanted to be is to consciously work at creating a life you can be proud of.
And your parents? They will probably still wake up in a cold sweat from time to time, thinking about the many lessons they failed to teach you along the way. Be patient. Moving out will is all part of the long process and will force you to learn on your feet. Becoming a fully independent adult takes decades. And becoming a parent with the ability to sleep through the night takes a lot longer than that.