Author Topic: Communal living  (Read 4016 times)


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Communal living
« on: May 21, 2015, 09:05:45 AM »
I've been pondering the pros and cons of my living situation and thought there might be some people here that have been at this point and might have some advice.

Since leaving my parents' place at 18 I've always lived in communal situations either in a dorm or an apartment shared with  people around my age. For the past six years I've lived in a nice six-bedroom house with 2 1/2 bathrooms, two kitchens, a backyard with a firepit and grill, with a revolving cast of five other adults and I've never seriously considered moving. I'm quite good friends with most of the people I live and have lived with, we often cook together, host parties, play music, etc. We're not formally a co-op but it's somewhat in that vein.  I find this more satisfying on an emotional level than I imagine living alone or just with my partner (who's also been living here for the past year) would be. And, obviously, it's a lot less expensive.

While I could imagine maintaining this situation indefinitely, it seems that most of my peer group (I'm 31, my SO is 36, we live in the Northeastern US) doesn't consider this setup their ultimate goal. Most people seem to prefer to live with their significant other and/or kids exclusively. So, I'm starting to wonder what makes me an outlier and whether there are drawbacks clear to others that I'm not seeing or taking seriously enough. I'm interested in hearing from others who have either considered this more communal lifestyle and changed their minds, or faced some of these (or other) challenges and overcame them. Here are some of the concerns I have:

1. Kids - seems like the most obvious one. People don't want be around other people's kids 24/7, and they don't want other people around their kids 24/7. Especially when you're raising young kids (and potentially working a full time job as well), you don't have much time/interest in also socializing with your housemates. My SO and I aren't planning on having children, but I wouldn't necessarily mind living with people that do. It might be tough to find people with kids that feel this way, though.

2. Age of roommates - because people are less into communal living as they get older, the age discrepancy between me and the other people here has been getting bigger as time goes on. Living with younger people doesn't really bother me (I've found maturity is not that closely correlated with age) but this might not hold vice versa (i.e. it might become harder to find roommates when I'm 45 and my SO is 50).

3. Conflict - managing the personalities and living styles of two adults living together can be tricky enough; things get way more complicated when 6+ people are sharing kitchens, bathrooms, etc. We have been pretty successful at this through frequent communication and explicit expectation-setting, but there have been a few times when we've decided to part ways with a roommate that wasn't planning on moving but wasn't a good match (not a pleasant conversation to have).


  • Magnum Stache
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Re: Communal living
« Reply #1 on: May 21, 2015, 09:26:59 AM »
I think the term you're looking for is "co-housing" - has some info.

In general, the sustainable communities in that realm tend to have smaller individual houses and a lot of large, shared community space (possibly including a community kitchen used for meals).


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: Communal living
« Reply #2 on: May 21, 2015, 09:43:53 AM »
I'm new to this community, but I have always felt the same as you. In the Army, it was common to have multiple men to a room/tent, even in a garrison (ie, non-deployed) environment. When I left the service and went to college, I shared a house with, as you said, "a revolving cast." I am still in this situation now, years later, and I am quite happy with the financial aspects (306/month! Awesome!), but have had a few lousy roommates over time. That said, I have had some great relationships and I do enjoy living with a group more than I would living along. Certain experiences have likely made people like us more prone to enjoying this kind of living.

Toward your point, I have considered purchasing a house myself and continuing this lifestyle. As an owner-occupier, I would have more responsibilities, but also the freedom to choose my roommates (thus mitigating some of the concerns over age difference.) I'm currently with all graduate students, which rocks, but I've had teenage roommates in the past and that was not awesome. There are surely downsides to the idea I'm kicking around, however, especially if you live in an area where potential roomies are not abundant.


  • Magnum Stache
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Re: Communal living
« Reply #3 on: May 21, 2015, 06:20:39 PM »
A group of 4 people I know bought a house together. With very complicated rules on how to get your money out if you want to. Thet also have rooms for two renters if they don't want to buy shares. Chores/ house maintenance are very formalized. They also care for chickens, bees, and a garden. It's been about 5 years and 3 of the 4 are still there. The 4th plans to move back I think. It takes a lot of planning to live this way but they prefer it. Some people are just social like that. They also have weekly dinners and committees.
 I prefer to live in a co-op where we each get are own place, but we make decisions about the buildings and shared spaces communally.


  • Bristles
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Re: Communal living
« Reply #4 on: May 21, 2015, 06:33:31 PM »
Communal/co-housing is the norm around the world. Americans on the other hand, guard their personal spaces but probably suffer more loneliness and alienation than anywhere else.  It has always made so much more sense to share your house with others. Not only is it cheaper that way but it is less lonely and you get people to share the drudgery of housekeeping. It's also great for children because it makes the burden of child rearing easier (assuming that the people who share your household are extended family like aunts and grand parents).

Sid Hoffman

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Re: Communal living
« Reply #5 on: May 21, 2015, 06:40:22 PM »
I'm stunned the words "noise" and "quiet" aren't listed.  I for one am extremely sensitive to noise, so even apartment living doesn't work well for me because I dislike the fact I regularly hear all kinds of noise at all hours of the day and night.  If it works for you though, why do anything else?  Like you said, it's more affordable for sure.  Over 50% of my monthly spending is just on rent because I wanted to live alone, so I certainly see the great financial value in arrangements like what you've got.


  • Handlebar Stache
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Re: Communal living
« Reply #6 on: May 22, 2015, 08:49:01 AM »
Epicurus thought that because friends make us happy, we should live with our friends instead of limiting ourselves to infrequent contact. Mainline American culture discourages this, because it's a signal for lacking material wealth.

Parents of young kids would benefit the most from this sort of arrangement, even if they didn't get any childcare out of it, because it's either difficult or expensive to socialize when someone has to stay in the house with your kids every night. If your friends are already there, wow, that sounds great. Please could my kids become self-sufficient already so my wife and I can go do things without having to hire a babysitter.