For the past three years, my husband and I have lived in community. For two years we had two housemates. This year we moved out to the country and have five housemates. We rent a house together, share household tasks, tend to a garden, and cook and eat together as schedules allow. And we have four sheep.
They’re a bit skittish but will get closer for some yummy sheep feed. We used to have chickens, but you probably know what happened to them.
One of the reasons we choose to live with others instead of just as a family (my husband, myself, and our son) is frugality. By sharing a house and groceries, we all save a lot of money. Another reason is that none of us have extended family in our town. So in many ways we try to be family to each other during this post-grad transitional phase for all of us. This has been particularly important for us this year after having our baby. If we didn’t live with friends, we probably wouldn’t have any. Hiring a babysitter on a regular basis isn’t really in our budget and so after 8pm we are home to stay while most of our pre-baby friends begin their evenings.
Although living in community has been a great experience for us, due to several factors none of our living situations have been the ideal communal living experience that we would someday like to have. Often it just feels like we have housemates rather than live in community. This is probably due to several things. One of which being that some of our housemates came into this situation with different expectations and demanding schedules which makes it difficult to maintain community living. To be a community and not just housemates, intentional time and energy have to be spent on cultivating relationships with your community and contributing to the maintenance of the household. It is a commitment that some people are ready for in their 20s and some are not. Also, it’s hard to get settled and commit to participation in a temporary community. None of us planned on settling or putting down roots with this household and it’s difficult to invest when you know you’ll be moving in a year. Also because we have always been the only married couple, responsibilities often fall to us by default. We are usually in charge of collecting rent checks, writing checks for utilities, chore schedules, house meeting planning, etc. Maybe some people enjoy that sort of thing but we are not those people. So that can honestly be incredibly frustrating. Another ideal of living in community would be for our household to have regular daily prayer together. But due to many very busy schedules and only some of our housemates being interested, that hasn’t happened. My parents gave us a beautiful St. Benedict’s Prayer Book which we have been praying with as a family and we have really enjoyed doing evening prayers with a couple of our housemates (and an honorary housemate who often joins us for dinner).
Yet even with some disappointments, living in community has been a wonderful experience for us and is certainly a way of life that we would like to continue in the future. Particularly the time spent preparing food and eating together has been really beautiful. We have enjoyed all of the folks we’ve lived with and are still friends, which says something.
Speaking of household maintenance, have I mentioned that I have a new laundry assistant?