What Living Out Of A Suitcase Taught Me About My Style (And Myself)

lauren caruso


When I went through a life-changing breakup in 2019, I found myself worrying about living alone. While I enjoy alone time, I absolutely hate being lonely. I thought living in solitude would all but guarantee that. (But at least I’d have my own closet.) I quickly came to find when you pick out a credenza without having to compromise, it's like an immediate shot of serotonin to the brain.

Before the breakup, we’d fought over the coffee table. Of course, it was never really about the coffee table. I moved into his space three years earlier and finally convinced him to let go of the locker-style TV console, so I figured I’d try my luck with the shiplap table. I chose a trio of Milo Baughman glass nesting tables and a Cold Picnic rug to lighten up all the other hardwood tones, and he hated it. They’d become a point of contention. When I moved out, I promised to give myself a house that felt like home. In the end, I guess it was about the coffee table.

When I signed the lease to my first solo apartment, I was floored. It had three huge closets and zero hard-wood finishes. I was excited to decorate with my singular vision; knowing I didn’t have to make a single joint home-decor decision. It took exactly four minutes to buy my brass-trim credenza at Dobbins St Co-Op, and I made an offer on the Giandomenico Belotti Spaghetti chairs at Dream Fishing Tackle without so much as a second guess. I rearranged my closets six times in two weeks, eventually using my kitchen cabinets as storage for my handbags—to the dissent of no one. I took a lot of photos.



At first, the best thing about living alone was the freedom. I could try on outfits for three straight hours and leave the rejects hanging over The Chair (you know the one) for as long as I wanted. I could swap out a side table three times in just as many weeks until I found the perfect option. I could take 400 photos of my outfit in the mirror without judgment. Still, it was specifically freeing for my home to finally reflect me. I know everyone says it, but your space is an extension of your style, and the satisfaction that comes when the two align is unmatched. It was so exciting to see a friend walk in and immediately understand it—it’s the same jolt of satisfaction when someone likes your outfit. It's creativity in practice. I came to miss that feeling when hosting became an impossibility. 

Eventually I decided the absurdly high rent was no longer worth it. Living steps away from the subway I didn’t take, the coffee shop that closed, and my friends’ apartments before they’d decamped to L.A. kind of sucks. I resolved to move back in with my parents. While it’s an absolute privilege to have a place to go, I knew living at home would have its challenges: The big, important things aside, I thought some of those challenges would be lack of access to the clothes, shoes, and handbags that brought me so much joy—frivolity be damned. After more than a decade in the fashion industry, I’m generally more sentimental about my stuff than most—a fact I’d come to learn when I cried four times in a three-hour span while packing and deciding what to take with me. I attempted to predict whether I'd need access to a dress for New Year's Eve or five more sweatsuits.

Before I lived by myself—and consequently, before I had to give that up—I didn’t realize how much my style poured out of my closet, extending to my surroundings.

I spent the first two weeks getting dressed just to feel something—until that didn’t work anymore. I certainly did not foresee getting worked up about my childhood furniture being too earthy (???) or my bedspread being too colorful or my newfound lack of a full-length mirror. Before I lived by myself—and consequently, before I had to give that up—I didn’t realize how much my style poured out of my closet, extending to my surroundings. Since moving out, I’ve had more than a dozen dreams of sitting in front of my credenza in an apartment that felt like me—feeling supremely content. My clothes were nowhere in sight. 

Not only do I miss my candles and stacks of books and my mid-century modern furniture, but with all the satire about millennial decor, I realized I feel wholly less like myself when I'm not in a space that reflects my style—even if I'm wearing an outfit that does. While I could technically replace the bedside table my parents picked out specifically for my return, it wouldn’t feel right. Instead, I’m filling the time I used to spend hunting for decor tsatskis with "Schitt’s Creek" reruns.

It’s an absolute privilege to live rent-free with my parents—a luxury that so many don’t have—and logistically, there’s no reason for me to rush to get my own place. Even still, I can’t wait to unwrap my credenza and just sit in front of it, feeling supremely content.

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