The Recluse Option

Why the solitary lifestyle merits more consideration.

Posted Oct 24, 2014

working and living solo

Note: I'm planning to write a book on people who choose to spend most of their time by themselves. If you might like to be profiled in the book, would you email me at Thanks. 

Most people wouldn’t dream of becoming a recluse. After all, we’re said to be social animals, not to mention sexual ones. And there are more specific reasons:

  • Many people like living and working with others so they can be benefit from each other.  
  • In these tight economic times, two incomes may be required to afford decent housing.
  • Many people want children, and kids generally do better if raised by two parents.
  • Most people find friends and family a net pleasure.
  • Living with others boosts the chances that someone will take care of them in old age.

For such benefits, many people are willing even to accept marriage’s serious constraints. For example, if you’re one of the 50 percent that divorce, you may suffer years of dissolution war ending with your being forced to give lots of money, for years, to the one you now hate.

Indeed, for most people, the desire to connect with a romantic partner, friends, and family is foundational.

Yet the freedoms afforded by the solitary lifestyle are many and under-considered, hence this article. Reclusiveness’s advantages span from morning to night:

  • Waking. You awake when you want, slowly reentering the world of the living rather than suddenly being roused by your partner’s alarm clock or by your child jumping on you. And because, recluse that you are, you’re self-employed, you can, in many cases, sleep as late as you like.

You needn’t, while half-asleep, make spouse’s or kiddies’ breakfast or fight with them to get dressed and ready for school. You can leisurely make your coffee and breakfast, enjoy it over the morning news or music, or merely in peace and quiet.

  • Working. When you’re good and ready, you begin work. And because your income need support only you, you’re more likely to get to do the work you love, even if it’s not very remunerative. For example, many people would love to be artists, performers, or writers but feel forced to be accountants, marketing managers, and factory workers because they need to provide for their family.

Because you’re self-employed, you don’t have to spend the time every day to get dressed up in expensive work get-ups. There’s no gridlocked commute, no misguided boss, no backstabbing coworkers, no convoluted processes or unworthy products, no interminable meetings resulting in CYA tepid plans. You’re the CEO of whatever business or non-profit you want.

Sure, if you’re one of the many people that need the structure and support of an organization to keep you productive, fine. Get a job. But the freedoms of being your own boss are nonpareil. And as long as you keep your expenses down and your business simple, you may well be able to avoid being among half of people whose businesses go out of business within the first few years.

Need help? Hire someone part-time, temp to handle the stuff you can’t or don’t want to do. That exception to your reclusiveness may well be worth it…or not. I used to have a housecleaner. She did a fine job except that she expected to chat with me for 15 minutes as soon as she came over. I decided I’d clean my own house: Not only would I save that time and the money, I’d clean my house in drips and drabs, inserting needed activity into my sedentary lifestyle.

Speaking of breaks, work for yourself and you can usually take breaks whenever you want. Feel like taking a long hike with the dog in the middle of the day? No problem. You can make up the work in the evening or whenever.

  • Sex.  Of course, as stipulated up-front, some people cohabitate in substantial measure to facilitate ready and regular sex. But, of course, like everything, that comes at a price. For some it’s worth it but the recluse decides that masturbation and perhaps brief sexual encounters are, net, better. For example, many people have a sexual appetite different from their partner's, which can be difficult to compromise about. In the solitary lifestyle, no compromise is needed.
  • Spending. People vary enormously in materialism. Some crave a designer-label address, car, clothes, and college. Others think that’s absurd.
  • Recreating. What TV show to watch? What movie to see? What to do on Saturday night? Where to vacation? Some never want to vacation while others love regular getaways to fancy places. Live solitary and there’s no issue.
  • Sleeping. Reclusiveness even helps your sleep. The room is precisely the temperature you like. Sure, couples can sleep with different blankets, Sleep Number beds, etc but it ain’t the same. And if s/he snores?!
  • Friends and family. Reclusivity is a continuum and may include some friendships including with family members. But the full-fledged recluse believes that friends and family are, net, more trouble than they're worth. Yes, it's selfish but recluses decide it's fair: They're not imposing on others and they don't want others imposing on them. When they need help, they will buy it or, if indigent, rely on assistance from government or private charity.

Actually, a case can be made that spending little time with friends and family is generous. It is generous if you instead spend the time on things that would more help humankind. For example, does it do more good to listen to your troubled cousin whine yet again than to sell worthy products or services, whether for- or nonprofit? To write an article or create a YouTube video that would help people?

In the most extreme example of reclusivity as generous, philosopher and ethicist Michael Scriven argues it's the height of ethics for a person, when, in the last, expensive stages of illness, which demand great time and emotional pain from family and great resources from the medical system, that s/he does the ultimate solo act: commit suicide.

Again, these arguments not withstanding, most people will still opt for the benefits of more human connectedness. But while we increasingly accept many non-traditional forms of existence--LGBT relationships, group households, as well as, of course, cohabitation without marriage--the recluse option may be among the most under-considered.

More recently, I've made a short video on the case for mainly living and working alone. HERE is the link.

Dr. Nemko’s nine books are available. You can reach career and personal coach Marty Nemko at

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