Use your story

Use your story. What you have done with your life thus far is a remarkable feat, and admissions and financial aid will view it as such. Don’t be scared to go straight to the top – ask to speak to the Dean, for example, if the underlings aren’t able or willing to help you. I got my financial aid family contribution waived by a yearly meeting with my Dean, where she checked up on how I was doing and reviewed my case.

Your story may sound fantastical to white bread America. If you find people disbelieve you, there are plenty of us willing to vouch for the hardships you have gone through to get to where you are.

Staying safe: women

There are good genuine people out there, and I hope you find them all. But there are a lot of terrible things that can happen if you don’t look out for yourself. Don’t go to unfamiliar places by yourself and at night. If you must travel alone at night text a friend or family member that you are en route or keep them on the phone with you. Do not listen to music while you walk, put your hair up or wear your hood/hat, and adopt a masculine gate. Keep your head up and your vision wide. There is no shame in crossing the street if you are scared and maybe speed walk if you can.

Contraceptive (avoiding pregnancy) is on you. Get on the pill or get an implant and carry condoms with you. It’s your body, so don’t trust its health to anyone else but you. If your sexual preference is to go out and sleep over with people you recently met, have a survival kit in your bag: The morning after pill, condoms, vaginal wipes, comfy shoes, toothbrush, portable phone charger, and emergency cash.

Learn to trust your gut! If something doesn’t feel right, get out of there and put a stop to it. The worst thing that can happen is you are wrong. There is no shame when it comes to protecting yourself. Be aware that in this culture it’s better to watch out for yourself first and be vocal about your opinions. Subtle sexism is a thing, and when you’re programmed to be seen and not heard it’s difficult to get respect.

Think what you – YOU – want, like, feel etc. You do not have to ‘fit in’ by going into bars, clubs, etc. That might be too harsh a learning ground. You can look at joining an athletics club, yoga, swimming etc. There are ALL SORTS of ways to begin to integrate into the outside world without compromising your own good judgement and taste.

Loving a leaver

For any significant other of a recent leaver, you should understand that they will be in the middle of a major culture change for many years. Try to learn as much as you can about where they come from and stay in close touch with how they are feeling. You may be close to your family and be confused about why they have limited contact. They often have conflicted feelings about relationships, sex, marriage. Rushing into a commitment in the middle of this process may be problematic. At least have your eyes wide open.  Many have found it problematic entering a serious relationship with a recent leaver.  Others have done it well.

Raising a family


There is no right or wrong way to raise a family. There are strategies that are more toxic or unhealthy than others, but it’s your family, your life, and you need to learn what your way is. There are parenting books and websites/articles out there that may match exactly how you want to make your journey, or the books will describe exactly what you don’t want. Pick and choose, create your own way. Once you and your significant other decide you are ready to add to your family you should discuss your personal dos and don’ts and must haves. The promotion of communication is vital in all parts of life.

Try to avoid having children before you intend to.  It is shockingly easy to become a parent.  And shockingly hard to be one.

Getting connected

“Stay away from social media!!!!” Last I heard that was the warning given to young people on the hof. “Don’t relate to this person or that person, they are bad!”

You were raised in community and while the hof may not be the place for you, you may still need community to find happiness. Reach out to people around you, join a group of people doing good things. Yes, you can fall into the wrong group and need to be careful of that. Many of you will be easily influenced.

But the truth is that the only people who truly know what you are going through are people who have left the hof for one reason or another. And the easiest way to find them is on Facebook. Search for specific names or just search for the group Afterhof on Facebook. There you will connect with hundreds of people who have been through something similar and are eager to reach out a helping hand for whatever you need to get you through this difficult transition. If nothing else you can message the admin for this site and we will connect with you.

If you are ever in a bad situation, whatever it is, reach out and ask for help.

The hof has a help line and they have helped many people with documents, connections and occasionally money. Some have found them judgmental but I have it on good authority that they do not intend to be so and others have found them very helpful. The contact information for the Resource Office is [email protected], 1-800-325-8849.

Some ex-hof folks have set up a non-profit group to help. You can reach them at or ask the admin here and we will connect you.

You will always have to use good judgement when choosing who to relate to but don’t bring too many hof assumptions to the task. There are good people all over who care about you and will go out of their way to help if you ask.

What to do right after leaving

First things to establish when you leave are:

“Home” address to use for job/school applications.  There are several resources out there that can help families or individuals who are in need of housing. You can search through the internet, reach out to other people you know who are already out (best found on the evil facebook), or advertise on noticeboards, craigslist, or newspapers saying you are looking for temporary housing till you get your feet under you. If the hof has put you somewhere that you are unhappy with, you don’t have to stay there.  Reach out to the admin here for solutions.

New photo ID so you don’t have to carry your passport everywhere because they are a lot more expensive and more trouble to replace if lost or stolen.

If you are a careful person who never loses anything, a passport will serve you well enough. However, passports are extremely difficult to replace, so it is a good idea to invest in acquiring a government photo ID. Visit your local DMV and fill out an application for a driver’s license or a Non-Driver Id, depending on your skill level/ability to take the driving test. Price for these varies by state.

Cheap cell phone. You will need a phone number for prospective employers/colleges to contact you. A cheap temporary flip phone is easy enough to acquire if you don’t have the funds for a long-term phone. A temporary, prepaid flip phone can cost as little as $10 if you can get to Staples. If you have the means, it is easier to just get a more temporary phone from the start instead of buying 2 or 3 temporary phones.

Take time to get used to the enormous difference in the way things are in this world. Try to get in touch with any of us on this site, Facebook, the Facebook Afterhof group or if you know someone, so they can answer questions you might have, and help through the adjustment period. Just remember: you are not, and now never will be, alone. Be gentle with yourself, for as you treat yourself, so you will treat others.  You were raised to need community eve n if the hof is the wrong one for you.

Find work, any work. This buys you time to then stabilize yourself mentally before setting off in whichever direction you want to go. Your work ethic is probably excellent, thanks to your background. This will help you a lot.  Be early to work, clean (shower every day and use deodorant) and always do more and better than expected.

“Since you and I come from a highly judgmental/critical religious background, the danger exists that we will impose critical former, deeply ingrained attitudes on those around us.”  Don’t.

Take the time to find yourself – by that I mean – what will make you happy in life, what do I want to do with my life – jobs, relationships, place to live. At this time don’t think you must have a life plan. Take life day by day and discover what is around you, make new friends but don’t do bad stuff to make people like you. This is a tough time for most leaving a place where you knew everyone and now they are not there for you. Know that you might be very sad, or depressed and that is not unusual at all. Talk to someone, take a walk – know that you are not alone.

Social Etiquette for Men (And Also Women):

Let’s start with a hot topic recently regarding sexual contact: If she or he says no or is not into it or stays completely silent or is incapacitated by drugs or alcohol – don’t do it. Men and women can be guilty of rape or have it committed against them and in order to avoid this it’s important to always communicate with a potential partner and ensure that everyone involved is comfortable. It is also important to know your limits in terms or drug and alcohol use. Many raped and rapists don’t remember because they blacked out, so it’s a good idea to avoid that state of inebriation in general.

Basically, be careful not to do anything that, if it were to happen to someone close to you/ a loved one, you would be furious. Treat others the way you want to be treated kind of deal. Like catcalling, for example, if someone started yelling crude sexual profanities at your sister or your mother how would that make you feel? Not great I’m betting so maybe don’t do it. “Try not to be a misogynistic twatwaffle.” Not all of this is necessarily limited to men, however.

Let’s not get too heavy handed with the gender roles. “Keep your eyes on a woman’s face and pay attention to what she’s saying.” This is not limited to purely male-female interactions, it is in general good to listen to whoever is speaking to you and to be actively engaged. All sexes and sexualities should strive to not view another person as admirable body parts or a “piece of meat.”

“The community does not teach respect for women, and that is something many guys have to *work* to learn after leaving. Inherent in The Life is a disgust for and degradation of all things inherently female (i.e. this is so sacred we can’t talk about it – periods, birth, the hormonal roller coaster that is many women’s lives, etcetera). This culminates in the purity culture and patriarchal power structure with which we are so familiar. Realize that this approach is twisted and certainly counterproductive to any kind of healthy social interaction. Those that fail to learn will probably fail to have meaningful relationships.

Your worldview needs to include women as individuals, with opinions, feelings, needs and desires that you can’t assume you know anything about. The key to successful interactions is respect!”

Don’t get involved with any criminal activity, minor or major. I know, it sounds stupid, but for some people who just left the Commune with a chip on their shoulder, the temptation to push the limits is there. (It was with me, for sure.) Getting caught for something dumb like shoplifting or using drugs can come back to haunt you in this Internet Age. It could land you in jail and could cost you a good job down the road.

Be patient with yourself, learn to love yourself, and learn to really understand yourself.

Sexual Education

For some, maintaining a chaste approach to sex is right.  For the rest, you need advice.

The most important part of being safely sexual active is to learn about the different types of birth control out there. Condoms are the most popular method as they both protect against pregnancy and STDs. For ladies there is also the option of pills, implants, or vaginal rings to name a few. Never be afraid of the internet, try looking up any questions you may have. Take the answers with a grain of salt since some people may not give serious answers, but explore around a bit.

Now that you are protected physically, learn to protect yourself emotionally. Take time to consider your boundaries, like what do you need from a partner to feel safe? Sex does not have to be this big serious thing, it can simply be fun, a way for you to explore your body and your boundaries or, if it is how you feel, sex can be sacred and given to the few who deserve it. “ Intimacy means a deep knowledge which facilitates understanding and connectedness. In order to establish healthy intimacy with another person (interpersonal intimacy), it is absolutely vital to have a healthy level of self-knowledge (interpersonal intimacy).”

You are obliged to do nothing if that is what you choose. It doesn’t matter if they buy you a drink, if you have been flirting all night, if you are dating, no one can make you do anything you don’t want to. If they cannot respect that, and you, this person is a waste of your time and affection. Remember: just because they desire you, does not mean they value you. Protect yourself emotionally and physically, and stay smart. If something feels wrong, speak up.

You are not obliged to marry the first person you have sex with!!!!

Staying Healthy

When going through a difficult transition or a rough time it is easy to sacrifice your health regime first. Eat as healthy as you can, the key is everything in moderation. You are coming from a low-calorie world into a high calorie world and there is a danger of over indulging in food if you can afford it.  Of course, you can have some of your favorite loaded-with-candy/toppings ice cream, just pay attention to the serving size recommended on the packaging. When serving yourself a meal, take a smaller portion, you can always go back and get more later if you truly are still hungry. Remember: it takes at least 20 minutes for your stomach to catch up and realize it is full. Start every meal with a full glass of water before you eat a bite.

Get exercise every day, even if it’s just a walk. If you ride the subway or bus, opt to stand rather than sit. We as humans spend too much time sitting. YouTube videos are a major source for workouts of all kinds, or if you are truly passionate join a gym. Research the facilities before you sign up, make sure they have the aspects you look for in a gym. Often gyms will run specials around holidays (especially New Year’s) and those are good times to take advantage of a reduced rate. If you really aren’t that much of a health nut try to make time during the day for some walking and a thorough stretch. Stretching when you wake up is a great way to jump start your system and get the blood pumping.

Limit your screen time to 2 hours a day. You can quickly drown in everything there is to watch and do online and all of that time is wasted moments you will never get back. Some is fine for connection, catching up with the outside world and entertainment but control it or it will control you. Everything in moderation. Realize that what you watch will shape you. Just like putting bad food in your body affects it, so does bad information.

Respect yourself. Be a bit selfish. Remember you are as important as anyone else. You must learn to love yourself first. Always putting everyone else first can cripple you. Spend some time getting reacquainted with yourself. You are worth it. You are stronger than you ever imagined.

Learning how to truly listen to yourself and follow your own counsel or “inner wisdom”” will be one of the biggest life lessons for you. For many people taking 30 minutes a day to sit quietly, clear your mind and/or think will be very helpful.


When looking for an apartment figure out how much you can afford.  Look at your monthly income. Experts recommend only spending between 25%-35% of your after-tax income on rent and housing. So, let’s say your pay after taxes is $1,500 a month. Ideally, you shouldn’t pay more than $525 a month on rent. You also need to consider that you may be responsible for some of the utility costs of your rental. So, you’ll need to figure in another $100+ to cover those costs. Keep in mind that some apartments have income requirements that will put you out of the running altogether. If you can’t find a place within your budget, consider getting a roommate. Create criteria for your ideal apartment.  What are you looking for in an apartment? Do you want a studio or a single bedroom? Maybe you want to rent a small house? Do you need the apartment to come with appliances, including washer and dryer? Do want it to be close to school or your work? Do want it to be within walking distance of retail, like groceries or coffee shops? Are you willing to live in a neighborhood known for its crime levels?

Write down whatever comes to your mind. While you might not be able to get everything on your apartment wish list, it will help in narrowing down the possibilities. With your list of criteria in hand, hop online and start searching for apartments. Google brings up a map that pinpoints apartments or homes for rent in your city. That map makes narrowing down potentials easy because you can see if the apartments are close to work or school, near grocery stores, or are in safe areas of town. Once you narrow apartments down by location, check to see if they have the things you’re looking for in a rental, i.e. appliances, number of bedrooms, etc. Most big apartment complexes have a web page where you can look at floor plans, the amenities they offer, and the cost of rent.  Smaller units might only have a phone number. Give those apartments a call and ask about their vacant units and cost. Don’t just limit your search to Google. Make sure to hop on Craigslist to find homes or apartments that might be for rent by individual owners as opposed to bigger companies.

When you visit a potential apartment, the landlord or apartment manager will be evaluating you just like you’re evaluating them. They want to make sure the people they rent to are reliable, courteous, and easy to get along with. Your first impression starts with the phone call to set up the appointment. Be polite and speak clearly. When you go visit the apartment, dress for the occasion. While you don’t have to wear a shirt and tie, you shouldn’t come rolling in to your appointment wearing sweatpants and a crummy t-shirt. Nice jeans and a polo will work well. Be on time! If you show up late to your appointment, the manager or landlord could take that as a sign you may be late in paying rent. When you meet the manager or landlord, offer a firm handshake, a warm smile, and thank them for meeting with you. As you look at the rental unit, keep your comments positive and your possible complaints close to your vest. No need to spout off a list of upgrades and requests before you’re even offered the place. That will just scare landlords away from you. Wait to bring up your concerns until after you’ve been accepted as a renter. As you walk through the apartment, check the following things, but again, don’t broadcast your concerns right away:

Look for signs of mold, mildew, and insect infestation.

Open and close all the doors and windows, and check that the locks function properly. Flush the toilet and run the water in the sinks and showers. Pay attention to water pressure and temperature. Look for obvious damage like broken fixtures, holes in walls, broken tile, etc. Check for wear and tear in the carpet. Ask question! While you should keep small concerns to yourself about the unit while looking at it, feel free to ask the landlord or apartment manager any questions you might have that will help in your decision. Here are some possible questions you may consider asking: What’s the monthly rent? Are any utilities included with the rent? How much is the security deposit? When is rent due? Do you have auto-pay? What’s the make-up of the other tenants? Are they mainly younger students? Married couples with families? Older folks?

Have you had any break-ins in the past year? Are car break-ins a problem?

What’s the parking situation like? Do you pay for a parking spot?

Do you take care of small maintenance issues or am I responsible for some of the repairs in the apartment? Am I able to re-paint the walls or make other modifications?

Again, be friendly and polite when you ask these questions. No need to be combative.

Ask current tenants about their experience. Online apartment reviews are worthless in my experience. It seems the only people who leave reviews are folks who had a terrible experience with the landlord or apartment manager. And when you read the reviews, you often get the sense that this person is a little unhinged and probably had a hand in creating the problem they’re griping about in the first place.

To get a better idea of what it’s like to rent at a complex, it’s best to ask current tenants. When you’re visiting, and don’t have a person from their office by your side, ask any tenants you may run into about their experience living there. Is the landlord easy to work with? Are they responsive to repair requests? Do they feel safe living here? Are the neighbors quiet and friendly?

When you find a place you like, you’ll likely have to fill out a rental application. Landlords and apartment managers use the application to screen potential renters. The application will ask about your employment and monthly income as well as your rental history. You’ll also be asked to sign a consent form giving permission to the landlord to run a background and credit check. Be completely truthful when filling out the application! Any fibs on it will likely be discovered during the background check, resulting in your application ending up in the trashcan.

And to be clear: submitting a rental obligation in no way obligates you to anything. If the manager approves it, you’ll then be asked to come into the apartment office to sign a lease.

Check your credit history before submitting a rental application. Landlords are allowed by law to check the credit histories of potential renters to screen for people who are or aren’t likely to pay rent on time. If they see that you’ve had trouble paying bills on time, that’s a red flag that they shouldn’t rent to you. It’s good to check your credit history before applying so you can correct any mistakes that may adversely affect you in the rental process.

Be ready to pay a rental application fee.  Landlords can charge you an application fee to cover the cost of the credit check. The fee should be in the $20-$30 range; anything more, and you’re probably getting ripped off. If you’re submitting multiple rental applications, the credit check fees can quickly start adding up. To curtail those costs, you might consider getting your credit report yourself and making copies of it to give to landlords. Some may insist on requesting the report themselves, out of worry that you may have doctored the copy to make it look better than it is. But you may be able to persuade a few to accept your copy, thus saving you some money. It doesn’t hurt to try.

Have a list of references ready. You’ll be asked to provide a list of personal and professional references. Have those ready and make sure to tell your references they should expect a call from a landlord.

After your rental application has been approved, the landlord will ask you to come to the office and sign a lease. This is where you can bring up any concerns you had about the rental unit, as well as negotiate for better terms or perks. You need to be on your game during this time, because once you sign your name on that dotted line, you’re pretty much stuck with the terms written in the lease.

Have enough money in your checking account to cover the security deposit and first month’s rent. When you sign your lease, the landlord will usually ask that you pay a security deposit as well as the first month’s rent. Make sure you have enough money in available (they may only take cash, money order, or debit card) to cover both amounts. The security deposit will be stored in a savings account during the term of your lease. If you terminate the lease early or leave the apartment in disrepair, the landlord will use the security deposit to cover those costs. If you leave the apartment in the same condition as you got it, you can get your security deposit back. More on that later.

Difference between a lease and a rental agreement. Leases and rental agreements are pretty much the same thing except for one thing: time. Rental agreements typically go from month-to-month, while leases last for a longer period, usually a year. Landlords are free to raise the rent at the end of each month when a rental agreement expires; leases lock in the rate of rent for an entire year.

If you know that you’ll only be in the apartment for a brief period of time, ask for a rental agreement; if you plan on staying in your place for at least a year, get a lease.

Read the lease or rental agreement before signing!  Don’t sign anything until you’ve read through the lease line-by-line. You want to know exactly what you’re getting into when you agree to rent from a landlord. Make note of anything you find disagreeable, and ask questions about what you don’t understand

Before you take possession of the apartment, the landlord should give you a Landlord-Tenant Checklist that lists all the rooms, fixtures, and appliances in the apartment. Inspect the apartment and make note of the condition of the assorted items on the list. If you notice any damage, make sure to photograph it, and point it out to the landlord or manager. Be as thorough as possible during this inspection. This will protect you from forfeiting your security deposit for damage that already existed before you took possession.

In addition to the provisions in the lease agreement, many states have statutes on the books listing the responsibilities of the renter.

Keep the premise clean, safe, and in good repair. This is the most common responsibility you’ll see listed in statutes. Basically, you’re required by law to take care of the apartment while you’re a tenant there. Not too hard.

Reimburse the landlord for any damages you may cause. If you don’t keep the apartment clean, safe, and in good repair, you have the responsibility of reimbursing the landlord to make the apartment clean, safe, and in good repair again.

So your lease is up and you’re ready to move on to greener pastures. How do you get that $500 security deposit back? In my experience, most landlords will try to do anything to ensure that they don’t pay back your deposit.

First, clean your apartment as well as you can, including carpet cleaning, if possible (landlords will often clip you on this). Second, get your Tenant-Landlord Checklist that you filled out when you first moved in and run an inspection again with your landlord. You can’t be charged for ordinary wear and tear that comes with living in an apartment, but you can be for damage and excessive filth.

If they try to charge you to replace something when a repair would be sufficient, object. Also, if you paid a cleaning a fee before moving in, your landlord can’t deduct your security deposit for any cleaning. If the landlord does have to deduct from your security deposit to replace and clean your apartment, you’re entitled to an itemized statement that explains the purpose of each deduction. If you think any of the amounts are excessive and unwarranted, push back and make your case. If your landlord won’t change his mind, unfortunately your only recourse is to take him to small claims court. Make sure you have everything well documented, though, should you choose to do this.