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 ecovillages, cohousing 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.
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.
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).
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).
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.