Rules and Tools: How to Establish Best Practices for Living in 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.

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  • 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.

  • Privacy. It is important to establish rules surrounding off-limits spaces or individual privacy before adding roommates to the household. For more information, see my last blog post on the topic.
  • Kitchen Etiquette.If there is a shared kitchen in the household you may need to establish rules for use. Create a “clean as you go” policy and ensure that everyone has equal access to the space.

    photo credit: Arria Belli via photopin cc

  • Guests. Guests can take on many forms within shared housing. They may include children and grandchildren, out of town friends, dating relationships, or even small social gatherings. It is important to establish parameters for short term and overnight guests and ensure that every member of the household follows them.
  • Pets. Some people like animals, some don’t. Some people are allergic. It is important to keep these things in mind when building community or adding a new housemate. A “no pets” policy may be easiest to enforce or you may encourage individuals to keep their animals in their private spaces.
  • Chores. There will always be chores within a shared household regardless of the established agreements. There are several resources available online to help you divide them in an equitable way. This blog post from gives some great advice.
  • Money. We would hope that money would not be an issue for independent women choosing to live in community, but it is always best to be prepared. While this post is geared toward young adult roommates, the information is still valuable.
  • Noise. Music, television, guests, pets, and any number of other things can contribute to a noise level in your shared home. Different individuals will have different preferences and tolerances to sound. Establishing rules about noise, such as a cut off time at night, will help keep the peace in these situations.

As I mentioned, these things are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to all the things to consider when building community. If you’re interested in learning more about the tools and rules you should have in place, I can help. Contact me for more resources and ideas for building community as we age.

Women For Living in Community