Independent living as a disabled young adult

Two years ago I moved into my first house. Since then, I’ve lived by myself. There’s been a lot of trial and error to figure out how I can do things independently.

You could argue that everyone has to do this to a certain extent. Whether that’s paying bills, cooking or knowing when the bins go out. However, I have mild cerebral palsy and I’m registered blind. This means there are some things that I cannot do. Figuring out how best to do things has meant I live independently.

Learning a new environment

It sounds odd if you’re not visually impaired, but you have to learn the layout of a new place. I have some remaining sight which is shapes and colours within my central vision. While this is very helpful, walking into door frames and misjudging the distance between things happens a lot. I suppose the combination of mild cerebral palsy won’t help…

For me, learning the layout of the kitchen was the hardest. I knew my kitchen at home like the back of my hand. Fortunately, I had been fully sighted when I lived there. I knew all the dials and all the washing machine settings. I underestimated how much I was relying on memory. It was only when I started cooking in my new kitchen that it daunted on me.

Also, the first few times I had a shower, I make sure someone else was in the house, just in case I slipped. I have a shower chair to use, but I was getting used to a different set up. Luckily, my family live around the corner and could pop round if I needed anything. I’m grateful that this is an option as it helped build up my confidence pretty quickly.

Housework and cooking

Similarly, I realised that housework and generally running a house took up a lot of energy. I needed to spread things out and find my energy limits again.

To begin with, it was so frustrating. I wanted to quickly get all the cleaning done, cook after work and keep on top of the washing. But it took a while to find a system that works. At times, I questioned if it was possible. Would I need to further lower my hours at work? Could I afford to do that? Thankfully, I came up with solutions and accepted that sometimes you’re better off resting.

One tip, if you can do it sitting down, sit down. Whether that’s the washing up, cooking or hoovering the stairs! Not only is it safer, it’ll save you energy in the long run. It means you might be able to use that energy to do something you enjoy. The aim is to get to the weekend with energy to spare. While I might not get it right every week, that’s what I aim for.

From an energy perspective, cooking every night after work wasn’t sustainable. Instead, I tend to cook on my day off and batch cook a few things. While this might mean my meals a repetitive, it means I get something out of the freezer in the morning and then microwave it after work. Low energy meals are key!

To help with cooking, I always use frozen pre-chopped vegetable. This has been a lifeline. No chopping involved. From a physical perspective, I’ve always struggled to chop things up, and from an energy perspective it just makes sense. I’ve found recently that more and more things are available. My favourites are mixed Mediterranean vegetables and casserole vegetables.

Make things cosy

There is nothing better than having a cosy space to rest in. I work from home, so spend a lot time in my house. It was important to have somewhere that reflected my personality and felt like a home. This meant having warm colour schemes and lots of blankets!

Considering I live by myself, I own nearly 10 blankets… They all have their uses and are perfect after a long day at work. Similarly, I knew I wanted a comfy sofa. On the days where you aren’t feeling your best, making a nest on the sofa with blankets and cushions can help.

It also felt important to have separate places to work and rest. While I know this isn’t always possible, a good desk set up can help you to transition from working to resting.

Working from home has been crucial to being independent at home. Initially I wouldn’t have been able to get to an office as I used a long cane and struggled to mobilise by myself. Now I have guide dog Dezzie, going to an office is more of a possibility. Yet the energy needed to commute and work from an office every day would significantly impact energy levels and what I can do round the house.

Low energy hobbies

Something I’ve found helpful, is having low energy hobbies. This gives you something to do on an evening or while you’re resting. At the moment, mine mainly include crocheting and playing on my Switch. But I also:

  • watch TV
  • listen to an audiobook
  • do a jigsaw
  • enjoy other craft projects

Have I enjoyed it?

I’ve really enjoyed this new challenge. It’s something I haven’t always thought was possible. So it’s a pleasant surprise to sit here two years later and know it’s possible and sustainable with the right measures in place.

I enjoy my own space and it’s been really nice to pace myself, but it did get some getting used to!

I’d always lived with other people, whether that family or friends at university. It’s important socialise when you can, to invite people round or even speak over the phone or text. I enjoy my own company and space, but it’s important to keep in touch with others too.

I’ve also loved chance to create a space that’s cosy, bright and accessible. For it to be quirky and homely.

However, it’s time for a new chapter. I’m not moving house just yet, but my partner George, has just moved in! While this might be a big change for us both, we’re excited for the next step in our relationship. I’m no longer living by myself, but that certainly is not a bad thing!

Here’s to sharing my house, no longer cooking for one and making new memories in our first home.

~ Chloe x

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