Editor’s note. We would like this to be a community guide. If you have additions, please send a comment. We’ll add the ones we like best, sometime soon.
You are old enough to live on your own. You’re young enough to hate asking how to do anything. You’ve ignored all the instructions your parents gave you over the years (mind was elsewhere at the time?).
Here’s your survival guide, in no special order:
Toothpaste: a good idea but wipe the mirror after.
Cooking abbreviations to remember: T = tablespoon and t = teaspoon, in American recipe parlance.
Popcorn: cheap, nourishing, filling. Even dieting women can eat it, and it burns the pan BLACK if you don’t know what you’re doing and you don’t have a microwave handy. Here’s the stovetop recipe. 2T oil over high heat, lid on pan, 3-4 kernels of popcorn in pan. Don’t leave the room. Repeat, don’t leave the room. When the kernels pop, pull the pan off the heat, count to 20, add 4T regular (not microwave) popcorn, put lid back on and put burner heat on medium high. Keep shaking as it pops. Salt when finished, not while cooking.
Bed linens (the things on your bed): some people change these twice a week, some people once a week, others once a month. More often and you’ll have fewer dust mites. If you sleep in the buff or partly so (see pajamas, below), what a man who runs a cleaning company in Capetown once called skid marks can add stripes to your sheets. Undesirable. Aim for at least once a month to change sheets.
Pajamas: If you think these aren’t cool, and you wear t-shirts, you’ll smell better if you put on a clean one in the morning.
Dust bunnies: the rabbits that live under your bed if you don’t have a maid. They aggravate allergies and visiting mothers.
Roommates: the good thing is you can borrow their clothes, music, girlfriends and boyfriends. The bad thing is they can borrow your clothes, music, girlfriends and boyfriends. The key to making this work is to never ever say something you might regret later. Even after all is forgiven you will remember that you said something you shouldn’t have. They will remember what you said.
Overnights: take a toothbrush and offer to make the bed.
Being a guest: clean the bathtub after you use it, make the bed you sleep in (pull up the covers, smooth them), offer to help setting the table and doing the dishes. If there is maid service, you’re off the hook on all these. Special note to young women: when the host says no, you don’t have to help, they really mean it. Do NOT feel guilty.
Cooking: boiling water means it has bubbles in it. For the rest, buy a cookbook or try passionateaboutfood or the reluctantgourmet. These are not really basic enough, so another option is to learn the hard way, take notes and send GenevaLunch your "Guide to boiling water and other kitchen chores." If you don’t get past opening packages and cans and heating them, just remember that when in doubt, refrigerate food before you cook it and after, if you have leftovers.
Fish, pork and most other meat: if the refrigerator breaks down, throw them away. Tough on the budget. Food poisoning is worse.
noses and ears should generally not be picked in the presence of other people, a criminal offense because people don’t want to know what you have there, even if they have the same.
Nails should not be bitten, which at least one person has probably told you if you do it, but this is a criminal offense of a lower order.
Air escaping from behind (too many labels for this): a cultural issue, so when in doubt, find a reason to go outside. If you live alone and think this doesn’t matter you are wrong: someone is knocking on your door right now and THEY WILL KNOW! A little guilt is good for you.
Banned substances: Depends a bit on who is doing the banning.
Meat: if it is your parents, and you want to eat meat, go ahead. If it is your friends and you want to eat meat, don’t let peer pressure take away your pleasure. If it is you and someone is still trying to make you eat meat, make a political speech about your principles or glare at them, or make sympathetic noises, and gently push the meat aside. Nations have fought wars over this.
Cigarettes: this is a tough one, a cultural and political and family bomb. Don’t ask if people mind – some do, some don’t. Smoke if they are smoking, don’t if they aren’t. If you really want to and someone is telling you not to, go ahead (I didn’t really say that, did I?) but do us a favour and read how to stop smoking. If you don’t want to smoke and someone is trying to make you, accidentally burn a hole in their favourite piece of clothing and explain that you’re too clumsy to manage cigarettes. Or wear a neck brace saying you hurt your neck while trying to talk on your cell phone and light a cigarette at the same time.
Alcohol: you want to and someone doesn’t want you to? Convert to green tea with Chinese ceremonial pot and washing utensils, insist they drink with you. Or leave them at home. You don’t want to drink booze and someone insists you do: offer to make the drinks.
Drugs: seriously, you are still reading? There is hope for you! Just say no (not original but not copyrighted).
Or call home.