Moving out into your own space is a scary and exciting part of adulthood. Not only have you spent months looking for the right apartment and interviewing potential roommates—but you also didn't realize until that first night alone just how many shadows were lurking around the front door. What was that noise?
Somehow, you remember your parents' house feeling safer. Right?
Well, it's not time to move back yet. Luckily there are some pretty simple things you can do to feel safer in your new apartment. You'd be surprised at how a few simple steps can really put your mind at ease.
First, consider the lights in and around your new space. Is there a porch light? If so, see if your landlord can install a motion sensor. This way as soon as you get close to it, the light is tripped and your way is made brighter.
Do you have lamps in your apartment? If you do, consider buying timer switches. Programming your lights to turn on and off throughout the day not only gives those looking into your windows the sense that the apartment is occupied, but it also ensures that you will have a light on when you need it.
It might not take too much convincing to get your landlord to install a home security system—especially if you live in an area where there are break-ins. Try making a deal with your landlord that you will pay the monthly fee, which is usually around $25, and they can pay to install it. Then split that $25 with your roommates. There are lots of great security systems on the market, and if you do some legwork for the landlord, they might be willing to provide this extra sense of security for you and anyone you live with.
Nighttime may be one of the scariest times whether you live alone or with roommates. If you have to park your car in a parking garage, or anywhere far away from your door, the dark may have you on edge. While walking from your car to your back door, do not look at your phone. Stay alert! Keep looking at your surroundings, and walk quickly and confidently. Attackers are much less likely to prey on someone who looks confident and aware.
While walking alone, on campus, or to your apartment at night, carry pepper spray with you. Another trick is to put the keys on your keyring through the fingers of your hand (picture Wolverine in "X-Men"). Making a fist and hitting someone with those keys sticking through your fingers could injure an attacker seriously enough that it might give you time to run.
Remember too that there is strength in numbers. Text your roommate if you're coming home late and alone so that they can watch out for you. Be sure to get acquainted with the people and places around your new apartment. Introduce yourself to neighbors and get to know them. This is helpful especially if you live alone, but even if you don't. Being surrounded by a sense of community can ease your mind and help you feel safer. Ask your neighbors to keep an eye out for your apartment and tell them you'll do the same.
Be sure that the locks on your new home's doors and windows work properly. If you don't have a ball-and-chain latch for your front door, ask your landlord if you can install one. They're cheap and easy to install and can add security to your home–the added protection of the chain allows you to screen visitors and acts as a backup latch on your door should someone get in. Get in the habit of locking the doors when you are home and ask your roommates to do the same.
If your apartment allows it, consider getting a dog. Dogs make excellent burglar alarms and can provide comfort and company late at night. It doesn't need to be a large dog to help you feel secure. Even small dogs have been shown to be excellent deterrents against crime and home invasion. Get a sign that says "Beware of Dog" (even if you don't have a dog) and hang it near your front door.
Living on your own for the first time can be exhilarating, but also a little scary. You don't want to live with your parents forever though, right? So it's best to put a few safety measures to work, stay alert, build a community, and lock your doors. Then relax and breathe. Enjoy peace of mind and your very own space. You've earned it!