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Sara Pauff: What to know before leaving home

How do you know when it’s time to leave home?

If you’re lucky enough to find a job after college, that time can come right after graduation. Others stick around home longer, either by choice or necessity.

But beyond finding employment, how do you know that you’re ready to swap out your childhood bedroom and your mom’s home cooking for a place of your own? Everyone’s different and you’ll never be 100 percent prepared for everything life throws at you. But here are some small things I think are helpful to learn before you leave the nest:

Know how to sew on a button: This skill is especially useful if you work in an office and have to wear dress shirts. Tossing out a good shirt just because you lose a button is wasteful and ridiculous, especially since most shirts come with extra buttons. Sewing loose buttons back on shirts is easy and takes less than 10 minutes. And men, before you say “Well, my wife/girlfriend/mother/dry cleaner will just do this for me,” consider this: Don Draper, the whiskey-drinking, womanizing, main character of “Mad Men” knows how to sew on a button.

Own a toolbox and know how to use the basic tools inside: One of my high school graduation gifts was a toolbox with a hammer, a set of screwdrivers and wrenches, pliers and a tape measure. At the time, I thought it was an odd gift (I was expecting money). I’d be living in dorms and apartments for the next several years. I wouldn’t be doing any home improvement projects and the on-site maintenance people would fix anything I broke, right? But these basic tools go a long way when you need to put together your own furniture, change the brake lights in your car, turn off the water when the shower knob suddenly breaks off in your hand or retrieve a lost earring from the drain.

Keep track of your money, even if you don’t spend it wisely: I’m not the most vigilant person when it comes to balancing my checkbook, but I know how to do it. There are computer programs that can help you or you can be retro and use a pen and the ledger in your checkbook. You’ll feel more at ease when you go shopping if you know how much money you have (or don’t have). Keeping track of your money also makes it easier to save up for vacations, concert tickets or a new TV to put in your recently acquired bachelor/bachelorette pad.

Master a dish that reminds you of home: Takeout is easy, but eventually you’re going to miss meals like Mom used to make. Since you can’t go home for dinner every weekend, it’s helpful to know how to cook one of these meals yourself. I made sure I knew how to make homemade spaghetti sauce and pizza from scratch before I moved out on my own, because those were my two favorite meals as a kid. When I make these meals now, it’s just like mom’s home cooking, but in a place of my own.

Contact Sara Pauff at 706-320-4469 or Read her 20-something blog at