When I teach workshops about building community I make sure I talk about some of the small details that can turn into huge problems. Many people don’t even think of these things when they are getting started. These can destroy friendships and even marriages. And when it comes to living with housemates you may not know well these small problems can easily become amplified. If you’re considering sharing a single household with several other people here are the 5 biggies that you should consider.
Just over a month ago, on July 11th, the article in the New York Times was published. I spent the weekend basking in the glow of the new attention being paid to the Women for Living in Community movement.
But that all changed on Monday.
I woke up to neck and arm pain so excruciating, I immediately thought it may be a stroke or heart attack. My pain was similar to the warning signs of women in my age group. The more I writhed around on the floor in intense pain the more I realized that I needed help. Because of my shared household, help was only 5 feet away in our common kitchen where my housemate was standing.
Recently, my city of Asheville was listed in a Yahoo Finance article about the 10 cities where ordinary people can no longer afford homes. There are major changes in the real estate market, especially considering that just a few short years ago individual home owners weren’t able to sell their homes without taking a loss or needing to consider a short sale. It just goes to show how quickly things change.
While the article talks about the increasing mortgage rates across the United States it doesn’t seem to indicate the other factors that make these particular cities less affordable. Could it be pay inequality or the higher cost of living? In any case, it may be time to reconsider the way American’s buy homes in the first place.
I have a radical idea for individuals who want to buy homes in these areas: Community Living.
Here is a call to action: We, at Women for Living in Community, want to hear from you! It is your time to share your stories with us. We know you’re out there and we know you’re reading so it is time to step out from behind the curtain and face the audience!
So, now that I am done with the lecture I need to explain myself a little better. I’m not being the bad guy. I’m not trying to put people on the spot. However, what I am trying to do is shed a light on the subject of community living. I want people to see the benefits, understand the issues, and learn more about why this is a viable option for so many people looking for alternatives to the current way we stack old people up in homes and forget about them.
We are the pioneers! The trailblazers! We are the future of community!
One of the most common questions I’m asked is “how do I start a community like this?” I thought I might share just a few quick rules and tools that can help you get started on your path to building community as you age. These 10 things are just a sample of the kinds of things that you will need to establish before considering shared housing.
- Agreements. The very first step in establishing community is to determine the shared agreements for individuals living within the household. Are you expecting to live with friends or will you be sharing your house in an unknown roommate situation? Do you own the home or is there a landlord? Leases and agreements should be detailed and will be legally binding once signed by all parties.
- Exit Strategy. Each housemate should have an understanding of what would happen when they leave the household. There should be plans in place for breaking a lease early and for providing notice to the home owner. It may also be important to know what to do in the case of a toxic roommate.
- Roles. There are many ways to share a home. Each housemate may be very independent and only responsible for themselves and their space, or there may be a desire to share household roles such as cooking or cleaning. This should be established prior to someone moving in.
Click below for the rest of the rules and tools you need for creating your own community.
My primary focus has always been on women developing community to support each other as we age. Much of this comes from my own perspective as a baby boomer living in shared housing with other women near my own age range.
It seems that multi-generational living is currently on the rise. Many factors are contributing to this trend. Adult children are moving back in with their parents in record numbers. Economic realities make shared living situations more affordable for all family members. A generation of aging boomers who saw their parents hidden away in nursing homes is looking for alternatives.
Can families, whether chosen or by blood, foster community that disregards age and creates a situation for graceful aging?
In August of 2012, the AARP blog shared a two part post about the rise of multi-generational living. They shared some important tips on multi-generational families that I think are crucial to consider before establishing a household.
Click below to read more.
I see three key components for creating community in your life.
1. Who are the people you most want to live with?
2. Where is the place you see yourself living?
3. What are key interpersonal tools you’ll need to get along with your housemates?It is critical to begin with a clear vision for yourself of why you want a community component in your housing. Is it economic? For social connections? For health reasons? Or all three combined?
What tools will help you?
I assist groups and individuals to get started by focusing on what I call “My Why?” Ask yourself: Why do I want to do this? When the process gets difficult, you’ll find it helpful to refer back to why you were inspired to create a community in the first place.
I highly recommend the “The Blue Print of We.” You can view this free document produced by The Center for Collaborative Awareness at this link. This is a document we regularly use in our shared house in Asheville both, as a contract with our landlord, and as a working document between housemates. Each of us fills out our own part and then we combine sections for a comprehensive document we’ve all agreed to.
Making decisions is one of the most difficult things to do with a group of people. It’s not about someone winning. It’s about everyone being heard and people feeling included in the decision. We use a form of decision making called “Dynamic Governance.”
We also use Non-Violent Communication, a method developed by Marshall Rosenberg. This communication tool enables you to clearly express your feelings and needs and keeps the phrasing to “I” statements, such as, I feel hurt when you ….”. You can access all these documents in the Resources section of my website under “Tools for Getting Along.”
In last week’s blog post, I wrote about the Golden Girls-like home (named after the TV series) where Boomer Women share a house and live together under the same roof. This house-based intentional community has many benefits, including personal privacy, companionship, and reduced daily expenses. On the financial side, you share the rent or mortgage payment, house maintenance and upkeep of common spaces, such as the kitchen, living and dining areas.
As a Boomer Woman, what personal characteristics do you need to successfully live in a shared home? To give you a quick overview, please see me in this one-minute video.
If you’re considering creating or joining a shared household, here are five personality traits to help you determine if you’re a good fit. These insights come from my personal five-year journey to create the Golden Girls-like home I now live in in Asheville, North Carolina and to help reduce the time it takes you to find an ideal housing arrangement for the next chapter of your life.
You’re Social – Enjoy Connecting with People
To successfully live with housemates, you need to enjoy spending time with others. Sharing a home, especially as an adult, requires lots of interaction – both spontaneous and planned – with your housemates. It’s not that you need to be an extravert but, if you are an introvert, you are comfortable having daily contact with housemates.
You Like Living in Close Proximity with Others
Will you feel comfortable being seen when you come out of the shower wrapped in your towel or robe? Can you tolerate someone saying hello before you’ve had your first cup of coffee? Depending on the design of the home and the location of bedrooms and bathrooms, you may be interacting with your housemates first thing in the morning or throughout the day. Ask yourself, “How much privacy do I need?” Will you feel “surrounded” by housemates or will you enjoy the company of sharing a kitchen and dining area with others? If you like having people around when you cook, then this lifestyle may work for you.
When considering sharing a home with other Boomer adults, it’s important to be flexible. People and circumstances change, sometimes with little advance notice. If you’re someone who can flow with the small and large changes in people’s lives – from lost keys to lost jobs – the better your chances of successfully living with others.
You’re Tolerant of Someone Using/Borrowing Your Things
Living in a shared home, almost by definition, requires a higher level of sharing. It’s inevitable that items like kitchen tools, books and other personal items will end up being used (and sometimes broken) by housemates. Your level of comfort around sharing your things will contribute significantly to your success in this housing arrangement. Saying what’s important to you and establishing boundaries can go a long way to making a shared home work after you move in.
You’re a Strong Communicator & Good Listener
Many issues come up when you’re living in a “Golden Girls-like Home.” You’ll be dealing with use of community spaces, finances, guests, activities, pets, standards of cleanliness and more. To successfully navigate through all these conversations and make sound group decisions requires clearly expressing your personal preferences and hearing the needs of your housemates.
A document that our household has found helpful is the Blue Print of We document available on the Resources page of my website.
Finding your ideal housemates and setting clear boundaries about how you want to live together is one of the workshops I offer. Please contact me if you’d like a free 30-minute consultation.
Are you, like me, one of the millions of Americans who learned about the “Golden Girls” house through the TV show hit and loved the idea? Have you been wondering if you could live in a shared home with close female friends one day?
This blog, part one of a two-part series, will answer what a Golden Girls home offers. I personally know about this subject because I have lived in a Golden Girls-like home in Asheville, North Carolina for two years. However it took me close to six years to create my shared house and I’d like to save you some of the time! [Read more…]