Communes: the pros & cons of intentional community

My fiancé and I are curious about commune living, community co-ops, or intentional living communities for our future living arrangements — but we need advice. What should we know before we decide whether to take the dive into this world?

Oh, do I ever have the inside scoop on this one. See, my mom runs an intentional community called Sacred Groves on the property where I grew up. For those who have read my book, our wedding reception happened at Sacred Groves, so all the shenanigans that took place that night were hosted by the Groves.

That in mind, I decided to bring in my mom to answer this question. Take it away, Ma!


Intentional Communities

By Therese Charvet, of Sacred Groves
Setting up for one of our ceremonies in the Round HouseLiving in community is as old as the human race. Our modern lifestyle with singles, couples and single-families living in isolated housing units is relatively modern, and uncommon in much of the world. Conventional houses and apartments offer much privacy and reduce the hassles of sharing, but they can also breed isolation, loneliness and can put a strain on marriages. Intentional Communities, Communes and Co-housing situations offer an alternative to this model, one more akin to our traditional roots.

Bro-ga
Andreas doing a community yoga class at Sacred Groves
Every community is different but the basic premise is that you live in proximity with a group of people with whom you share the use of certain common facilities, and things are set up in such a way as to promote connection and familiarity amongst the residents. Generally speaking, this is the definition of "Intentional Community." Dozens of models of intentional communities exist, some with only a few people, some with hundreds, some with a charismatic leader, others with a commitment to consensus.

There is quite a movement afoot in the U.S. toward community living. In fact, a national organization exists and a national directory of intentional communities is available for people looking for housing. For more description and definition of Intentional Communities, see Wikipedia and/or the website for The Fellowship of Intentional Communities.

Sacred Groves
The log cabin
I raised my daughter Ariel in a single-family dwelling, a tiny log cabin we built ourselves. Ariel and her father David were both only-children that enjoyed their privacy, and the house was small, so I put my desire to live in community on the back burner for twenty years. However, I always yearned for community, so I tended a thriving network of friends and comrades.

In late 2005, my current partner Tere and I decided it was time to make the land where we live, Sacred Groves, an "intentional community." We transformed the downstairs of the log cabin (with kitchen, bathroom and dining area) into "common space" and used the upstairs rooms plus three nearby cabins as private space for residents' bedrooms. A couple women friends who happened to be looking for housing at that time decided to join our experiment and the four of us formed the first rendition of a Sacred Groves Intentional Community.

Sacred Groves
The round house, in a rare quiet moment
Since that time, we've had a dozen renditions of our community, as people have come and gone. In 2007-08 we built a beautiful new home, the "Round House" with two bedrooms, two nearby round cabins, a new cabin near the log cabin and another new cabin on its way. We currently have eight adults and five children living here, an age range of 7 months to 60 years old. We've evolved "Community Agreements" to guide day-to-day activities, share a "food fund," community dinner cooking schedule, chores for keeping our common spaces orderly, a "community fund" for gardening supplies, regular "Community Councils" for talking over business and our lives. Five of us adults (plus four kids) share the kitchen and bathrooms in the Round House.

It is nearly always heart-warming and sometimes very challenging to live in this way with people. Some of the challenges include getting enough quiet/private time, figuring out chores, working out disagreements in a functional way, staying out of each other's business. Each of us has to deal with our personal control issues regularly; community living does not make it easy to be a control freak. It flushes out what you are attached to, that's for sure! But the rewards are worth the effort! These rewards include spiritual and personal development and participating in the evolution of human consciousness toward a more cooperative society. That's big work, work the world really needs right now.

The children of the Groves
A few of the children who roam the Groves
The success of a community depends on a combination of personality factors and the functional infrastructure. Ideally the community has a clearly articulated mission and goals, so those coming in will know what they are getting into. Systems for paying expenses, buying food, keeping the house clean, keeping the property tended need to be equitable and clearly articulated. Written agreements and policies are helpful, especially with big groups. The personal qualities that work best in community are open-ness and curiosity toward others, willingness to share resources as well as the skill to claim personal boundaries when indicated. A good communitarian is willing to work through conflict and drop judgments, to look at one's own foibles, control issues and blind spots, is committed to creating a better world by doing the interpersonal work of learning to live cooperatively and happily with others.

In closing let me say that I love this lifestyle and hope to live in community until old age. I don't understand those 90 year olds who want to live alone in their own house until they die. I love living around children and young adults, it keeps me flexible and up to date, it gives me a place to share my stories, my skills, my time and my gifts. It makes me smile to hear the children laughing uproariously as they jump on the trampoline. Life is good!


If you're interested in learning more about my mom's community, you can see photos of Sacred Groves on their website or on Flickr. Oh and my mom tells me they miiiiight have openings for new Grovesmates in the coming months. Click here if you're interested in that sort of thing.

I'd also love to hear from Homies who may have had experience living in community. I know from my times out at Sacred Groves, that it can be a challenging and rewarding experience for folks who are suited to that kind of living. Anybody got any stories to share?

  1. Intriguing. My friends and I half-joke about starting our own commune that is a kid-centric matriarchy.

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    • I hear that!

      My friends and I have been half-jokingly formulating this plan to collaboratively buy a huge plot of land in the upper peninsula of Michigan, away from the hustle and bustle of things, and having our own commune up there. Maybe someday we will actually go through with it – I hope we do. I love my group of friends and would be very content living amongst them in the beauty of nature.

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      • You could do it in the UP (land is cheap enough) plenty of natural resources (fishing, hunting, farming) for food. But… the Winters are ROUGH. lol Good luck.

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  2. When I was in college I lived in a shared-living community called the University Club. It was unaffiliated with the college (Moravian, in Bethlehem PA) I went to, having been started as a place for young Bethlehem Steel clerks to hang their hats in the early days of that company. The club owned a large and gorgeous Victorian mansion in the heart of the historic district. Rent was dirt cheap ($300/month) and included basic food staples like coffee, bread, eggs, etc. House members would elect officers each year to run the organization. The only requirement for living there was that you have or be in pursuit of a bachelor's degree or higher, and current residents got to vote on whether newbies made the cut, personality wise (usually after only meeting prospectives briefly at a monthly house meeting). It would have been a great arrangement, but there really wasn't enough in common between the residents for me to be comfortable there. A couple people I adored, a few were nice but just not on my wavelength, and one was downright hostile and eventually drove me to seek my own living space elsewhere. But, the experience did teach me a lot about living happily in close quarters with others, which has served me well as I've moved from home to home through NYC and Philadelphia.

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    • “It would have been a great arrangement, but there really wasn't enough in common between the residents for me to be comfortable there.”

      This is why I’ve never really gotten to know any of my neighbors. Sometimes I feel like this is a moral failing on my part, but…I don’t have much in common with them, and I’d rather invest my limited social skills in relationships that seem to have more chance of becoming deep and meaningful.

      There’s something to be said for our “modern lifestyle”. My mom lived in a very small town with lots of community. Your neighbors knew what you had done, what you were doing, and what you were going to do before you knew yourself. She was the seventh of eleven children in her family, and before she was born the family had a reputation as social undesirables that she could never shake. She HATED her town, and left as soon as she could.

      That said, I loved spending all day with other students in my major in college, I loved living in the honors dorm with the other nerds (except for wanting my own kitchen and space for craft projects), and I love spending all day with other medical students now in medical school. I think an “intentional apartment complex” could be great for me if it were based on deep common interests. But, then, how would one create such a place without being exclusive and potentially elitist?

      By the way, I agree with the post author that intergenerational socializing is a fantastic thing. I adored the belly dance drum jams I used to attend in my last city because it was so much more interesting to socialize with people of all ages than to go to a club where there was only one generation.

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  3. I basically live in an intentional community, but we are a polyamorous family. There are four adults and three kids between us all. We bought a house together last year and have lived together now for about two and a half years. I attribute our success to communication and organization. We have weekly family meetings where we figure out menus, shopping lists, and talk about anything we may need to discuss as a family. We try be as open as we can about how we are feeling and we make sure we all get time together and time alone. It's been wonderful so far!

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  4. I clicked expecting to not really relate to this article but as I was reading it occured to me I had lived like this, for two non-consecutive months, but never really thought of it in these terms.

    A few years back I volunteered for the Atlantic Whale Foundation in Tenerife. All their volunteers live in a converted farm house and take turns doing the house work in between research, tour guiding etc.

    Even for someone like me who values their privacy it's a fun experience. Every day tasks like cooking and cleaning are much more enjoyable when they're a group activity and when I wanted to get away from it all it usually wasn't too hard to find a private spot for a bit. Definately easier than finding company when you live alone!

    As far as sharing work goes I think the fact that it was also a job made things easier. Everyone was assigned days on site and chores to do while there and you did it because it was part of the job you'd volunteered for. I can imagine in a more informal setting without a clear schedule you'd need very good communication skills and a desire to make the system work to avoid arguments over house work.

    But it's definately an experience I'd recommend to anyone. If nothing else you learn a lot about yourself when you're suddenly sharing your living space with strangers! (Who quickly become friends.)

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  5. i dream of this. i have talked with several friends about it but… well, we are all young families and it is (a) cost prohibitive in england to buy such a big property, (b) we all live in different parts of the country already, (c) we each like some aspects of the commune but not all and (d) my husband and another of the 'partners' are not of the same mind regarding this.

    i want to be able to share house and child care with my friends, have community dinners, and raise my children to be close with other children and adults. but i cannot navigate the logistics and balance it on my own. it is something that goes round and round in my head. how can we make this work?

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  6. This could not have been a more timely post for my life. My great-grandmother passed away at the end of last year, leaving behind ten beautiful acres up in Minnesota. My college roommate and I are currently planning on developing an intentional community up there for artists, writers, and maybe some survivalists/homesteaders to be inhabited after we graduate. The land is dirt cheap (haha), but he's been expressing some doubts as to the practicality of it all. "People don't really DO this," he's been telling me, "they only dream about it." I'll be sharing this with him directly.

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    • We live in southern Minnesota :) Update us if you do start something!

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  7. My husband and I just moved into a fourplex where we already know the two guys below us and the couple across the hall with the hopes of intentional community. We lived across the street from people before to be in intentional community, but I'm hoping that being in the same building will help. I'm excited to see what all this will mean for us, as well as a little nervous based on previous community living situations. It's really interesting and helpful to hear how other people have do intentional community

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  8. Not exactly the same thing, but there were a few years spent living in a small apartment complex where all but one of the 6 units were rented by friends (and the 6th person was friendly, but frequently gone). We pretty much never locked out front doors during the day and everyone just kind of migrated through the place. It was nice. We were all bound by being gamers (mostly Live Action Role-Players). We even had weekly games in the large communal basement area.

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  9. My husband and I live in an intentional community of about 80 people, plus 20-50 additional people at any given time staying for the weekend or a month in retreat. I really love it and it makes a ton of sense for us in a lot of ways, not just emotionally but practically.

    Major upsides:
    -We work for room and board and everyone dines together, so we don't have to pay rent or worry about food staples.
    -We are able to work at a number of different jobs that would probably require an advanced degree or specialized training to obtain in the 'real world.’ There are also dozens of other people to learn from, who have all sorts of training and experiences under their belt.
    -There are shared vehicles, solar-heated water, a huge vegetable garden, and people within the community to do construction, electrical work, fix cars, provide medical care, etc. so all in all the environmental impact is a lot lower than it would be if we were all living independently
    -When my husband or I get in a fight, we can escape from one another and find someone else to talk to, gain perspective, or just roam around alone for a bit. It has been really helpful for us to see, intimately, how other young couples deal with the same challenges we do, what works for them and what we’d do differently.
    -There are tons of kids running around at all times; it’s a safe place for them to gain their independence, but there is always someone close by to help if they need it. We also have a number of older people in their 80s, who are still socializing and contributing and valuable to our society.

    Biggest downsides:
    -Everyone once in a while I get a burst of possessiveness when I really yearn to have my own stuff… this usually gets expressed in stupid ways, like arguing over something very small, like someone used my mug at the office or over my shoe rack in the hall where the housekeepers don’t want it…
    -You can avoid, but not escape, the people with strong personalities or habits that rub you the wrong way. But like Therese said, you learn to either confront problems head on in a loving way or you learn to accept and let go of your own preferences.
    -My parents think it’s weird that we live here and I think worry constantly, even if only at a subconscious level.
    -We have a no alcohol policy and I really want to try brewing my own beer!

    For those people thinking of starting their own community projects, I strongly recommend this book, Creating a Life Together . It is extremely practical and points out a lot of the logistical things that don’t immediately jump to mind. My in-laws are using it to buy a house with some friends that they will grow old in.

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    • If you don't mind me asking, what's the name of your community?

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    • id really like to know too. something like this is exactly what we are looking for

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  10. I grew up a part of a large family (I'm one of 6 in addition to several nehpews, a niece and dozens and dozens of cousins) We weren't all in one spot, but everyone was within 15-20 minutes of each other. We didn't need babysitters or daycare. There was always someone to help in any emergency situation. And family gatherings were held every weekend. Money was usually tight but with so many people and beaches and parks nearby, we never knew it. I guess you could say we really lived the adage "It takes a village to raise a child". This is one thing I'm having a hard time with while expecting my first and being so far away from family. We do plan to move back where family is, but it's still about 2 years away. I really want to give my kid(s) that sense of community, family and an over abundance of love.

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  11. My husband and I live in a different "style" of intentional community. We have our own apartment, pay all of our own expenses and generally look after our own "stuff," but we are part of a group of people who have intentionally chosen to live in an extremely marginalized and stigmatized neighbourhood to build solidarity with the people who have been forced to live here. There is an amazing dynamic where we come together ("imports" and "native residents" alike) for spiritual gatherings, meals (LOTS of meals!), birthday parties, children's school concerts, etc. Because we all use the same neighbourhood resources (grocery store, community centre, library, playgrounds, etc.) and many of us don't own vehicles, we are constantly bumping into our neighbours, spending time at each other's homes, seeing each other's kids playing outside… I have lived in suburbs for three years and never even SEEN (let alone had a relationship with) the neighbours. In our community, it is rare for me to go anywhere without seeing at least one or two people I know!

    This lifestyle has its downsides, for sure. We have regular pest infestations in our home. There is an emotional burden when you live in an environment that sees a lot of violence and police presence. But there is also something wonderful about getting to know and be part of a group of people who are living out lives of peace!

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  12. I lived in a large student cooperative (about 800 people) and sat on its board of directors for two years. Though it probably isn't 100% comparable to other cooperative or intentional communities, there are likely similar benefits and drawbacks.

    For socially-minded people, it's great to have a community of others going through what you do. The affordability aspect is great, as well, and the safety/familiarity of having room-mates rather than just faceless neighbours.

    That being said, I would say that it's fundamentally important to have a solid management/communication structure in place, otherwise the living can be dominated by certain individuals who may not represent the best interests of the community, or members can be or feel silenced. Also, I think all people really need to be intentional about living there. In many co-ops, people are interested in cheap rent, and not so much in the values of the movement or the best functioning of the community. So that can lead to issues of people not providing the basic committment of time and participation, while benefiting from the advantages.

    Whether rural, urban or suburban, though, I think there is tremendous opportunities for future community building through cooperatives and intentional communities!

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  13. I find MBA's lifestyle choice interesting. I don't see it as gentrification, because they are living fully in the community, becoming friends with their neighbours. It is similar to a historic form of social work: see "settlement house movement". It would make for a much healthier society if people with different income levels mixed more often.

    1 agrees
    • A mixture of the classes is wonderful, in theory.

      But when "average-income" people start buying up half of the "low-income" houses to mix in with the "low-income" people, that other half of the "low-income" people are left without affordable housing. They can't just choose to go to the "average-income" housing.

      It's a noble idea, but in a lot of cities it can do more harm than good.

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      • Cortney,
        You are absolutely right – once a "poor" neighbourhood becomes a "trendy" neighbourhood, the original residents often get forced out. There is no economic justice in that kind of scenario, and unfortunately it is something that our neighbourhood is battling with right now as developers with sketchy motives are coming in. The approach of the group I belong to is not really about making the neighbourhood "nicer," and I think we avoid some of the pitfalls of gentrification. Rather than buying up new condos or renovating old buildings to increase their value, most of us are just renting out the same crappy apartments that everyone lives in around here. Many of us have chosen a simplified lifestyle that means we are living on (sometimes extremely) small amounts of money. If there is a change that we are hoping to be a part of in our neighbourhood, it is more about healing the damage caused by racial and economic divisions rather than about making the area wealthier.

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        • Maybe it is because I am from New Orleans, but I do not understand this. Why does improving a few houses in a "low income" neighborhood push out the lower income people? Here almost every neighborhood is fill with blocks that have a rundown shotgun next door to one that has been completely remodeled. I know we think backwards in NOLA but I was wondering if yall could explain that a little more.

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  14. Though it doesn't identify itself as an intentional community, I lived at Arcosanti (http://www.arcosanti.org/) for a year (then went back to visit every few months for another year while my boyfriend- now husband- was still there).

    The premise of Arcosanti is that the project is an 'urban laboratory' experimenting in alternatives to suburban sprawl. To live there, you have to take a 5 week workshop, then be employed in one of the departments (ranging from Architecture to Maintenance to Agriculture to Ceramics).

    The year I spent there was one of the best years of my life and permanently altered my concept of how I want to live. It was great to be a 30-second walk from work and all of my friends. There was practically a ready-made party set to to go any night. I was introduced to so many different concepts and skills. I met my husband there!

    But it was also one of the most frustrating years of my life. People still act like people anywhere you go, but when you are living in such a tight community, personalities and tensions get amplified. Additionally, when people have no real sense of ownership (which at least was the case at Arcosanti), they tend to not take care of things as well or want to invest in the long-term.

    Arcosanti also ran as kind of a company town, with the big fish enjoying running their little pond, and not much room to grow career-wise, etc.

    With a bit of tweaking, and more allowance for people to 'buy-in' to the place and/or work outside of the company while still being able to live there, I would have stayed long-term.

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  15. I lived briefly in a student co-op while I was an undergrad. While it had a lot of potential, my experience with this particular living situation was for the most part very negative.

    -There wasn't a lot of strong leadership, and no one took responsibility for cleaning shared space. The kitchens and bathrooms were in a grossly neglected state.
    -Group projects were poorly researched, leading to things like rat infestations from compost piles.
    -It was in the middle of a city, and people were coming and going all the time, having visitors over all the time, and so on. The outside doors were rarely locked, and there were incidences of theft from strangers coming onto the property and taking bikes or whatever. I never felt safe.
    -Most of the people there were interested more in the idea of the community rather than the execution of a successful, functioning community.

    Thought I'd share my story and offer more of the cons- hopefully it can be helpful to someone checking out a communal living environment.

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    • these issues describes Arcosanti pretty accurately as well!

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  16. I have no experience with this kind of living, BUT I just wanted to say that our small group of 'family' (all friends) has been talking about doing something like this for 4 or so years now…so THANKS for re-starting that fire in me! Especially because now we all are having kiddos…and lets face it that would make life SO much EASIER!!!!

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  17. The "Offbeat" sites never cease to be relevant to my life. (Thank god.)

    My husband and I have been developing the idea of an intentional community for the past year or so. The initial goal was similar to college roommate living – being around people we liked more often than just visiting. Reading "The Ethical Slut" gave us more thought-fodder – I love the idea of raising kids in an environment where they are cared for and have access to many adults, not just parents.

    We've explored different working models of community living. Large common space on lots of land doesn't resonate with me, as I prefer suburban areas. Zac met some people who own three adjacent houses – they knocked out the fences between the yards and raise chickens, and wander relatively freely between the houses.

    If I were to guess, we'll probably try to combine the several-houses idea with -plex living. While touring houses, we saw a fantastic century-old duplex with three staircases. It was like a fun house: we ran around with the realtor opening doors and winding up in different parts of the house, giggling and getting hopelessly lost. In the end, we had trouble finding the door through which we entered.

    We're young so we don't have the finances to do it yet, but in two years we should be able to buy a place that will suit a community's needs. Meanwhile, we're continuing to formulate a plan and talk to friends about it. Thanks so much for this article!

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  18. I lived in a situation that started as roommates but after our first night of bitching about things we hated about other roommates and reminiscing about our love for youth hostels we turned into a creepy community of 5 people (4 boys, one girl). We lived in a kind of a warehouse space (poverty style, not cool art space style) that was one room.
    The BEST rules were with regards to shared expenses (Food, Utilities, Gas)
    Everyone went to costco together, split the bill five ways and then divided food in 5ths and was placed in color coded bins in the fridge/cabinets. If you wanted extra/special/weird stuff you just bought it and put it in your bin.
    9 minute showers. We averaged our shower time during the first week.
    Shared shaving bucket so as not to use boat loads of water
    Whatever you just used, wipe it down
    One color coded dish kit per person
    Errands were narrowed down to a specific list and done weekly. If you drove you didn't buy gas.
    First person up makes coffee
    last person in closes and locks the outer door
    No sex at home

    This system worked SOOO well. Instead of waiting for crap to happen we proactively decided that we weren't going to have the same bullshit fights. We had other arrangements in place that were more communal, but so specific to our needs that it didn't make sense to share.

    The unfortunate side effect was that we all jived so well together and rarely had any conflict so we stopped attempting to make friends with what we deemed "the denizens of the hostile west". I think we all might have been more successful in our respective Southern California adventures if we hadn't liked each other so much that we hated everyone else. Maybe not….

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    • These are really good rules. Especially about the food. I think a lot of people think it's somehow hostile that everyone has their own individual food but it saves a lot of disappointed "where's the cottage cheese" conversations…

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  19. Id really like to contact Therese to see about booking the Moonlodge, but the email keeps getting rejected and the phone number is disconnected. Is there another way to get in touch with her?

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    • The email bouncing was my fault — I'm her webmaster, and she just switched email clients, and I didn't have things set up correctly! info@sacredgroves.com is working now. :)

      What phone number are you calling? It's been the same number for 30 years, and it definitely has NOT been disconnected!

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      • Thank you Ariel! I emailed her again and it worked. and i tried calling just to make sure and you were right again :) i mustve dialed the wrong number.

        my mom, my daughter and myself are all going through some tough stuff at the moment. okay, really its some super tough shit…who am i kidding?!?! anyway, i think the MoonLodge may be a great place for the 3 of us to connect as women and as citizens of this earth to be able to get through our shit and move on. thank you so much for sharing this amazing place with us all :)

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  20. Loved this article. I hadn't heard of intentional community before but was definitely thinking about it recently.

    I did a college foreign exchange program for a year where everyone in the program lived in a different house (with other students not in the program) on a kind of student-housing campus (Studentenstadt in Munich!). We all did our own things and had our own stuff, but we ate together quite regularly in various houses and generally there was always something where you could tag along. For me, it was the perfect balance: amazing community with no-guilt opt-out.

    I think the other thing that was great was that everything was very casual. We might be making dinner at so-and-so's, but everyone just offered what food they could contribute and brought it. Usually that also determined what we were having. :-) No calculating, etc. And maybe one day all you had to contribute was a zuccini, but another day you brought cheese, tomatoes, and basil! :-)

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  21. The boy and I really like being all on our lonesomes, but our dream is to have neighboring farms with a few really good friends of ours – that way we can have animals (and they can have kids) and we can still each go on vacation because the other couple(s) would be around to take care of things while the other is gone!

    Having had 6 different roommates in four years of college and two roommates since college (including the boy), I find that living NEXT to people you like is much preferable to living WITH them. Because while you live with them sometimes you don't like each other so much. Especially when your levels of cleanliness differ and/or you can't communicate openly and honestly with each other.

    Yay neighbors! Lol…

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  22. I grew up in a home overseas where we always had at least one unrelated adult and/or teenager living with our family(unofficial foster kids & refugees), along with many visitors . This created a real sense of intentional community. For my parents, who were missionaries, it was an important part of their faith to share whatever they had with those that needed it, wether that was a room, or a job, or the ability to care for a child that was alone in the world.
    Today my parents live in the States and run a community mission through their religious group, being involved in their community and providing food, clothing, and support in countless ways. The mission is now self supporting, with each member of the congregation giving whatever they have (talents, skills, money, time, hard work) and getting in return what they need (a sense of community, companionship, food, clothing, work. Even though these people don't live together, they're an inspiring example of intentional community.
    Because I grew up with that, It's something I've missed. Most of the time I feel lonely and isolated. But I also chose to live thousands of miles from friends and family and I am a deeply private person.

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  23. I lived in an intentional community for two years after college while I did a service program. No doubt whatsoever that it made me a better person. The day I moved out I breathed a sigh of relief to have control over my own life again. It's been three years and I still consider my community mates to be like family. I am feeling the urge to get back into community. It is interesting to pose that topic with friends/family who have never done it, they think you are crazy.

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    • What was the name of your service program? I just compleated a year in a service program where intentional community was one of its core values.

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  24. I was wondering if anyone had any experience of a urban-professional-not-specifically-back-to-nature intentional community? It increasingly strikes me how isolated we often are in the midst of many – our Western societal structure seems particularly set up to feed this. After a successful 'multiple family holiday in a big house at the beach', I started mulling over the idea of an intentional community of some sort. Most of the examples I could find online however were very 'hippy-ish', for want of a better term… no issue with that at all, but not my personal identity. So maybe this is an unusual thing for a non-crafty, office-bound, career focused, busy urban professional to be interested in, and perhaps there aren't others out there like myself thinking about this (the world's a big place tho!)… but I'd love to hear if anyone has ever encountered an intentional community with some similar souls, and what their experience was.

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    • Great question, and something that really resonates with me, as well. We have a very close neighbor (we share several walls, and can see into each other's condo windows) and the feeling of community we have with him is very important to me. I'm not a rural hippie (though I may have been raised one) but definitely am always looking for ways to integrate communal living into my urban lifestyle.

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  25. It's possible most elderly have no idea what an intentional community is. If there was someway to educate them then maybe it could be a lifestyle reality for them.

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  26. I lived at Summit Avenue Cooperative (http://summitavenue.coop/) for a year a little while after college, and I really enjoyed it. I had 16 other housemates in a beautiful, big house in a nice downtown neighborhood. There was a nice mix of students, professionals and even one retired member who had lived there for decades. The "rent" was really cheap, and the shared work responsibilities weren't too onerous.

    One of the benefits was learning about how to keep up a house before you take the leap into owning one yourself. I learned how to re-caulk a bathtub there, and we got bids on repairing the roof while I was there.

    Fortunately, that particular cooperative was pretty structured and has been running for quite a while, so there were rules and procedures to deal with issues like people not pulling their weight, or serious personality conflicts.

    1 agrees
  27. First of all, Ariel…NO FUCKING WAY???!!!! Sacred Groves is totally on our list of communities to check out in person here because we are planning on moving into a community this year. So cool that it's your moms.

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  28. Christian communes are the way to go! Find god and you'll find happiness and love. There isn't a better foundation for a commune that the bible and god himself!

    1 agrees
  29. I'm planning on doing this with 7 other friends/close family (all around the same age–we'll be in our twenties). I don't know how I'd feel if it were me with a bunch of strangers.

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    • Some of my friends do this. They rent an awesome property made up of 5 little huts each with its own veranda and bathroom then a large open communal shed/ kitchen/ lounge. It is lovely.

      1 agrees
  30. I've lived in community in the past and man, it was just awful. It was just a remarkably dumb experience. It was a small (100ish in the summer, 70ish in the winter) isolated community living very far off the grid. The setting was gorgeous, the work was pleasant and simple, and even the decision-making process was pretty simple because everything was codified in a charter. There were various boards and community councils charged with most decisions. The part that was awful was the interpersonal relations between people.
    I'm sure many communes and intentional communities are able to avoid this in one way or another, but my experience was nothing but strife and petty arguments and bizarre love triangles and shouting matches and jealousy and competitiveness and passive-agressive nonsense and sneaky, behind-the-back scheming and people ganging up on other people and total disregard for anyone's feelings or personal space and often flagrant violation of employment law.
    Part of this was due to the fact that we were a resident workforce running a resort/retreat space, so we not only had to live with all these people but some of them were our bosses or our employees.
    A larger part of the distrust and unrest was based on how people living very far out of society have a tendency to get a little weird. And when I say a little weird, I mean that they often become extremely rude, manipulative people. They become so mistrustful of the outside world that new members are greeted with total suspicion, and, having become so used to directly confrontational communication styles, they seem to lose their ability to speak with tact, act with compassion or view anything from anyone else's point of view.
    This was a pretty hippie-dippie place, many of the people being bodywork practitioners or into shamanism in some degree or another, and that unfortunately turned into a strange judgement on everyone outside the commune and the world-at-large's "backwards" ways. Anything from 'Babylon" was bad, and the only good people in the world were those people "on land" and when people left, they were seen as lost souls, set adrift through some fault of their own- obviously "the land" didn't want them.
    It can turn into violence in a heartbeat, especially over the long, cold, dark, wet, winters. People sleep with other people's wives. People get stabbed. Domestic abuse happens, and it's everyone's problem, and you're appalled by the reactions of your coworkers/neighbors/friends/lovers, but you still have to wake up and look those people in the eye every single day. People are bad at their job but there is no set mechanism for firing them from their jobs, or, if there is, they have themselves been placed in charge of that mechanism and everyone is stuck with them for life. People form weird little alliances based on mutual goals and those alliances clash and people get browbeaten and depressed from the just constant, overwhelming burden of every aspect of every second of every day being shared with and analyzed by the same 200 eyes.
    Just like in the rest of the world, minorities are treated differently, and women can often by ignored or silenced. Just like in the rest of the world, people struggle with various addictions, and when living in such close proximity to everyone's problems, your problem because SO PUBLIC that it just compounds your shame and hurt. Everyone knows everyone else's secrets and dirty laundry and then the dirty laundry is totally fair game for discussion by literally every single person you know, all in a yurt, for hours and hours and hours straight.
    Young, energetic people were viewed with deep distrust and their ideas ignored and shushed by the older folks who had founded the community and are very protective of it, which is unfortunate because they never wrote a retirement plan for themselves and are wholly dependent on the younger members for the future. The children born or raised on land usually leave as soon as they can and never look back.
    In short, many people living in isolated communities go absolutely mad. I don't want to say that this is true of all communities but it's definitely something to watch out for- it's a strange sort of cloistering and without a common goal or dream to bring some positivity, and regular exposure to the outside world, it just turns into anger and resentment at outsiders and then inevitably at one another.

    Here are some resources I recommend:
    The fantastic book Home Comfort: Stories and Scenes of Life on Total Loss Farm is a great collection of short stories, poems, drawings and general musings by various members of an old and well-respected commune, and I cannot praise its accuracy enough in describing the high points and the lows of living in community
    Living on the Earth by Alicia Bay Laurel- if you're dead set on starting a community yourself, this book has a pretty good list of things to consider before beginning. Do we allow dogs? Who is responsible for the children's education? What do we do when the cops come? What do we do when someone dies? Who shall pay for the repairs to the tractor? What rules shall we have concerning visiting strangers? What about underage runaways? What about kicking someone out, how do we do that? etc
    and also this fantastic , if slightly idealistic quote:

    What This Community Needs: A Self-Indulgent Essay, by Ray Mungo
    "The community needs common good and evil. These may be abstract and religious if you're Mike Metelica or Mel Lyman or Mao Tse-Tung, but they must be real to the people involved. They may be material and practical too- good in the leaves and trees and sun, bad in the inclement weather or threat of bankruptcy or the neighbor's absurd and wrong way of living. In the true sense we know that good and evil are but intellectual concepts, they don't exist, "nothing is better, nothing is best," Yet it is absolutely essential to the community to have a common enemy worthy of fear and contempt, we stand united against it; and a common joy incapable of tarnish, we stand together in loving it.
    The community needs trust beyond reason. Trust with reason is good enough for neighbors but not for lovers. One must refuse to believe the worst of his brothers in the face of conclusive damning evidence. Incidents or remarks which might be insulting or hurtful among ordinary citizens must be suffered and forgiven in the community. Every member of the community is responsible for all the others. If you go to Tibet for twenty-seven years, I must believe you are right to do so, and hold your place back home. I must trust you even when there is no reason to.
    The community needs privacy and exposure. The members of the family need inviolable privacy from each other and inevitable exposure to each other. There is no blame in the lonesome heart. The community also needs a certain impenetrable privacy from the rest of the race, a privacy which must prove itself against regular exposure to new people, groups, places. When a new person really joins the community, it is because she or he knows the secret. There is always a secret, and each keeps it in his way.
    The community needs pleasant surprises and disastrous setbacks. A warm apple pie, a sudden batch of chickens, a baby, a storm, a great loss of resources, an illness.
    The community needs freedom from tiresome ideological tracts that leave you right where you started, which is fantastic."

    3 agree
  31. Great post and discussion. I'm starting an intentional community in Atlanta, with the help of a nonprofit I volunteer for, The Action Not Words Project. You have to do a lot of research before choosing to live in a community. I have visited two communities in my area, Lake Claire and East Lake Commons, to see how people live and function. They both seemed pretty good. Residents were friendly with each other and the set-ups looked good too. Since our community will have veterans and senior citizens, we have to have the right type of volunteer residents living there. We have a screening process and also will do background checks to make sure that we have safe people in the community. We already have by-laws written that all residents have to sign. Plus, all residents will have voting power on how the community is run.

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