Sharing Resources in an Intentional Community

flower garden

In 2005, I moved to an intentional community. My best friend’s husband calls it a hippie commune. That’s not quite accurate, but it’s getting warm.

The Fellowship for Intentional Community defines this type of community as:

An inclusive term for ecovillagescohousing communities, residential land trusts, communes, student co-ops, urban housing cooperatives, intentional living, alternative communities, cooperative living and other projects where people strive together with a common vision.

A new-agey church with an eastern bent runs the intentional community where I live. Now before you start thinking “cult,” this church focuses on yoga and meditation. It’s not the zombie-sex cult as a local paper once described it (too bad—zombie-sex cult sounds fun).

Although my kids attended the church’s school, and I live in the community, I’m not a member of the congregation. As a recovering Catholic, I can’t fathom under what circumstances I would ever join any church, as wonderful (and benign) as it may be. Never happening. So if I can live in a spiritually based community, then you know it’s pretty laid back.

I love, love, love living here. It’s been great for my kids and for me. It reminds me of living in a college dorm. Almost every time you walk out your door, you’ll find someone to chat with, someone with whom you have common interests.

In addition to living with a bunch of friends, I benefit from sharing resources with the other residents, and that helps us all reduce our footprint.

Some of the resources we share:

Community gardens. The community started a CSA (community supported agriculture) a few years ago for residents who want to purchase a weekly box of organic produce during the growing season (about May to October). I don’t order the box, buy my boyfriend does, which means I get a lot of the weekly box.

vegetable garden
The vegetable garden
The orchard
The orchard
hoop house exterior
The hoop house extends the growing season
hoop house interior
The hoop house interior

Community compost. This may sound like a little thing. But with working full time, driving kids around, cooking—and blogging about it—I’m awfully busy. I really appreciate someone else taking care of the compost bin.

compost

Community dinners. Volunteer residents cook vegetarian meals in our community kitchen four nights a week. People take turns cooking and cleaning (if they want to) and receive a discount on the already inexpensive food. My older daughter will cook in the kitchen later this month for about 25 people. I’ll try to help her make it a zero-waste meal (and milk it for a future post).

New ranges in the community kitchen
New ranges in the community kitchen

Childcare. When my kids were little, what would I have done without the other parents to watch them from time to time? We parents help each other out a lot with this, and can pretty easily find childcare at the last minute from another mom or a willing tween or teen in need of cash.

Carpool. We moms have arranged a carpool to our kids’ school. This saves me at least an hour on each of the three days a week I don’t have to drive. It also cuts down on gas and wear and tear on my car (yes, I have a car 🙁 One day, I won’t).

Pet care. I don’t have to put my kitties in a kennel when I leave town. They would hate it and in the Bay Area, cat boarding can cost $50 a night! I pay my lovely neighbor (who gets down on the floor to play with Baby Cat and Bootsy) a fraction of that and it helps her out too. When my next-door neighbor needed to find a home for her cats, I took one of them in (Bootsy, the little black and white one below).

Bootsy and Baby Cat
Most of us at the community get along better than these two

Equipment. This doesn’t vary much from any apartment complex. When a large group of people live together, each of us does not need our own lawnmower, washing machine and dryer, ladder, garden tools and so on.

Random stuff. I need a huge pot to make my homemade detergent (I base my recipe on this one). Now, I could go out and spend my hard-earned cash on a huge pot that I would use half a dozen times a year AND try to find space for it in my 960 square-foot home. Or I can just borrow it from the community kitchen. Of course, you can borrow stuff from neighbors, but when I lived in my house before I moved to the community, I didn’t know my neighbors. Not even their names. People hid inside their houses.

An intentional community may not be for everyone. I do have a large but overwhelmingly shady yard, so I can’t grow much out there. I can also forget about raising chickens for now. And I miss the fruit trees I planted at my house. But I’ve reaped so many benefits living here.

20 Comment

  1. Nice blog. I would love to try your home made detergent. 🙂
    Amara

    1. Thanks Amara! It works really well. I can give you some to try the next time I make it 🙂

  2. juliatimpson says: Reply

    Would love to try making your detergent as well. Maybe you can teach it to a group of us? Another great benefit of living in community, learning from each other! 🙂

    1. Sure, Julia. I would love to do a demo in the community room of the detergent and some of the other things MK and I have been making (deodorant, lip balm, dish detergent…and of course food). I’ll mull it over and put something about it in the newsletter.

      Yes, learning from each other is another big benefit. There are so many. I could have written a much longer post 🙂

  3. Sounds like a great place to live! One of the things I don’t like about New York City is the anonymity and disinclination to meet and talk with others that comes with it.

    1. I felt the same way about Silicon Valley before I moved to the community. The workaholic, no-time-for-anything, must-accumulate-more culture here is probably similar. Now I live in a little oasis 🙂

  4. I love the idea of community and sharing. Nice to read your examples of how it works. Good blog!

    1. Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed the blog 🙂

  5. Thanks so much for visiting my blog (http://teabylamplight.wordpress.com/)! There are several eco villages and intentional communities here in Portland. Who knows? We might get our name on a waiting list one day. In the meantime, I’ll follow your blog for all the wonderful ideas and sharing. 😀

    1. You’re welcome. Thanks for the follow! I hope to live in my community for a long time, but if I do have to leave one day (Silicon Valley gets more and more expensive with each passing stock market bubble), I’ll definitely search for another one.

  6. Reblogged this on Transition Tales and commented:
    So much to like here!

  7. I love the idea of an intentional community. One thing that has been a disappointment to me, being out in the country, is the lack of community that I had hoped for. Where I live it’s really just an extra-spread out suburb instead – everyone keeps to themselves. Which is a shame. I’m a bit of a hippie at heart and also love the idea of knowing everyone around me.

    And $50 a night for cat boarding! That’s outrageous!

    Glad to have found your blog and look forward to reading more of your adventures.

    1. I love it here, but with cat boarding at $50 a night, you can imagine how much we humans pay to live in the Bay Area! I’ll stay as long as I can though.

      That is a shame everyone keeps to themselves out in the country also. I had thought it was just a city thing. If I do have to leave one day, I would like to find a farm community in the country. Or maybe start my own, but it sounds like a pretty huge undertaking.

      Thanks for the comment. I’m glad you like the blog 🙂

  8. Wow, these gardens look fabulous. What is the name of the community? I skimmed, and didn’t see it. Do they have a blog? Thank you!

    1. The gardens are lovely. No we don’t have a blog. I have talked to the woman in charge of our CSA about her writing one but she is too busy.

  9. Reblogged this on vaskaxtumir and commented:
    In France, a group of women have established a co-op/commune for the elderly, with a section that integrates some university students into the community. In Britain, communal living projects are also going mainstream — a slowly growing phenomenon in many parts of Europe, in fact.

    1. Thank you so much for the reblog. I really think intentional communities are the way to go. They’re like an antidote to rampant consumerism (among other societal ills–isolation, loneliness, dwindling resources, rat race in general…). I love the idea of intergenerational communities, like the one you mention. It’s an enriching experience for kids to grow up with their elders, and vice versa.

  10. How does one go about living in a commune? Also, how come you guys can’t have chickens?

    1. I wish we had chickens 🙁 I don’t know why we don’t have them. I think some people here thought they would be loud and smelly. The community now owns a farm in Half Moon Bay though, with LOTS of chickens. I get my eggs there. If you want to find a commune, go to http://www.ic.org. You can find all sort of communes all over the world there! If I have to leave here (Bay Area prices!), I would love to go live in another community.

Leave a Reply