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the benifits of 20 people sharing a home

paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15041
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
When the idea is tossed about, I suspect that 99% of the people being presented with the idea have a shock of fear run through them.  After all, we see many examples of two people that cannot seem to share a home. 

I would like the focus of this thread to be on the up sides.  Pretty please with sugar on top.

So, assuming that 20 people share a home and get along just fine, what are the perks?  As opposed to say, living in twelve houses or 12 apartments.  (I'm figuring that some folks will be families, and some live singly, and some are couples - I'm assuming 20 adults)

To me, the most important thing is money.  It will cost less in multiple ways.  Rent/mortgage is less.  When the drain plug in the sink wears out, it's as if I get a 95% off coupon.  And there is a 95% chance that it mysteriously fixes itself without any intervention from me. 

Food costs less.  Not only because it is purchased in larger quantity, but since I cook 20 times less often, people can take more time and care in the few meals that they do prepare - so there are less pre-processed purchases.  Food is also more likely to get used before it goes bad.  Less waste.  In living in a household of 10 where all food was shared, the cost per person per month for all organic food (including meat) was $108. 

Heat costs less.  A house for 20 people isn't much bigger than a house for 10 people, which isn't much bigger than a house for five people.  So the amount of space to heat might be bigger than a three bedroom home (typically occupied by two people) but it is divided by 20 people.  So the square feet per person is really small.  Plus, the bigger heating system can be more efficient.  On top of that, people are heaters.  So much so that most skyscrapers have tiny heaters and massive air conditioners.

So, saving money is the #1 thing for me.  A close second is: people/community.  And this is probably the #1 for most others.  I like sharing meals with lots of people.  I like to watch movies with others.  I like to sometimes play cards/games with others.  I like to hear jokes.  I like to learn about stuff.  I like to share.

#3 for me:  better stuff.  Huge, awesome kitchen.  Huge/awesome living room.  Huge/awesome library.  Huge/awesome dining room.  Huge/aweome fireplace.  If living by myself in a house or apartment, chances are that the rooms/features would be small and/or lame.  And if they were huge/awesome, but it was just me using them, it would seem so wasteful that I would be ashamed of myself. 

#4 for me:  better food.  I like a home cooked meal made by somebody who knows how to cook.  When living by myself, 80% of my diet comes from food that can be prepared in under a minute and is primarily a single course. 

I would like to think that this list would have at least a hundred things.  Can you add three things?




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Joined: Oct 23, 2011
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Shared responsibilities, child care being a top one. 

The size of a garden with 20 people working on it could be huge and amazingly productive - again with waaay less individual labor.

Accountability for projects.  If you talk to yourself about making the amazing thing you thought of, but never do it, what's the point?  If multiple people get excited about that project, chances are there will enough energy and motivation to follow it through to the end. 

This also gets into the fact that people have multiple skill sets and intelligences, and when a diverse group of people gets together, it can be really fun. 

My man just said "dang, hand picking another 18 people to live here might take awhile...." haha.  I'm one of those people who have a twinge (not a shock, just a twinge) of fear with this idea....mostly because I've been in lots of shared housing situations, and not all of them have been good (a couple have been horrible).  But, like you said, we'll keep this thread 'up.'

I see that people talk about a desire for community, so they buy land collectively and live there together, but then they all go build individual housing structures!  Which eliminates nearly all these benefits right away! 
Jami McBride
volunteer

Joined: Aug 29, 2009
Posts: 1779
    
  10
Your right Paul, I would swap #'s 1 & 2 - so #2 becomes '1' and 1 becomes '2'.

After that, I do not agree with your #3 - I plan on building myself all the things you've listed even if I'm alone.  Although I'm never alone, I find it fairly easy to live with others and people seem to enjoy my company - so I foresee sharing as a life choice.

I believe people would move toward specializing and even competing when areas of interest overlap, so I see collaboration taking on a different form - not better or worse just different when the people live together.

One benefit hinted at but not stated flat out is the mental and emotional ease that comes when it all doesn't land on your shoulders alone.  Even if no one is helping you directly there is a huge peace and confidence that comes in knowing your not alone, some other human is in agreement with you even if it is just in spirit.

And I would add the benefit of others having your back:  Should you fall off a ladder while amending that green roof <grin> you know others will still be harvesting the crop before it's to late (human insurance).

As for my spin on this idea - I love the idea of a lodge (central eating, playing, library space) large with all the great do-dahs.  And cabins (a large yurt style)  placed with enough space in between for uniqueness and individualism.  Each cabin would have it all but in much smaller versions.  So when someone needs privacy, space, down time or someone needs freedom to do their own thing - it's designed into the set up.

People can take their meals with others or do their own cooking in their cabin.  People can share a game or join in on a puzzle, or work alone on some craft in their cabin.  People who don't want to debate politics can easily avoid the group that does  and on and on.

I have read it put this way - that some people are energized by others, they need group interactions to be happy, while others are drained by people and need alone time to re-energize before reengaging.  I am the later.  It is vital that you know which you are so you can manage your needs and be a blessing to others at all times.....

paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15041
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
With 20 adults sharing a home ... and this is just my imagination, so I can think of anything I want .... 

I imagine that there might be three families with kids (so, six adults), five young adults (under 30), five adults 30 to 50 and four that are 50 or older.

I can see a family with a sitting room and two bedrooms that is just for them.  I can see another family that has just one large room.  I can see an adult with a sitting room and on the other side of the sitting room is a bedroom.  I can see another adult with just a simple bedroom.  I can see two of the young adults sharing a small room (to save money) and I can see another young adult with a really tiny room. 

The thing I am trying to say is that different folks have different styles of living.

So, somebody could have something that is almost a standalone apartment.  And somebody else has something that is little more than a bunk.

And some folks spend most of their time in their private space, and some folks spend most of their time in the public space.

Jami McBride
volunteer

Joined: Aug 29, 2009
Posts: 1779
    
  10
I get what you are imaging.... and having rooms and suits in the lodge is part of my ideal, but having independent housing is too.

I can 'imaging' some singles, or older couples would prefer the lodge suite style of living, and it would work out great, while young families with newborns needing naps - up all night with feedings would welcome some level of privacy.  I would just want all the options available so everyone could fine their comfort zone. 
Ken Peavey
steward

Joined: Dec 21, 2009
Posts: 2167
Location: FL
    
  54
Back in college I was in a fraternity.  I'm a Crow.  40 guys in 3 houses.  Front House, Back House, Snyder House.

Front House
It was in the front.  Basement had massive bar, furnace room, laundry room, tool/storage room.  1st floor had living room, dining room, pantry, kitchen, storage, card room, office closet, phone closet.  Upstairs was 10 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms (2 toilets, 2 sinks, 1 shower in each).  2 bedrooms were singles.

Back House
Been a while, maybe 8 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, furnace in the basement.  It's been town down since my time.  Another neighbor, an alumni and professor sold his house to the Building Association.  This is Taylor House.  It has been converted to housing and has the computer center

Snyder House
Given to us by a guy name Snyder way back in the day.  6 or 7 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms. 

Outdoors had some space for throwing footballs, a big BBQ, parking, a dumpster, a garage used for storing bikes and my 1958 Chevy Biscayne for a few months.

It is impressive how well organized a bunch of drunk college kids can be.  I'll go over a few things.

On your own for breakfast, kitchen equipment is available.  There were food items available on Sign Up-take a bagel, put a hash mark next to your name beside Bagel

A hired cook prepared lunch and dinner.  Lunch was simple fare, soup and sandwich or goulash, salad and bread always available.  Come into the kitchen, load up your portion, eat in the dining room or in your room, put the dishes in the dish station.

Dinner was a more elaborate event.  We took turns as waiters, 2 at a time.  Waiters follow the instructions left by the cook for heating the meal.  Tables are set, salad and bread put out, SHIFT is called when the meal is ready, and it better be ready at 6PM.  This featured was created decades before when the house and dining room was smaller and only half the guys could be fed at a time.  The guys wrestle for seating, any announcements that need to be made are made at that time.  Waiters bring out the food and the feeding frenzy begins.  If a table runs out of milk, someone calls WAITER, the waiter brings another pitcher of milk.  Towards the end of the meal, the waiters brought coffee to those interested.  When done eating, each diner takes his dishes to the dish area.  The waiters scrub the pots and pans, do the dishes, clean the tables, chairs, floors, put away the food.

If you missed dinner, a plate would be wrapped and held in the oven.
Waitings were at lunch, dinner (2), and midnight.  Leftovers were "on wail" but non residents had to mark it on the Sign Up and it was not available until after 9 PM.  You could bring a guest to dinner, lots of guys had a date or a buddy, but you had to tell the cook before lunch and mark it on Sign Up.

Besides the meals there was food available.  Milk, coffee, tea and punch were free.  Sign Up food included granola bars, cookies, popcorn, fruit, crackers, chips, frozen pizza and the like.  The Meals guy would do the paperwork.  Say $50 was spent on 100 cookies but only 90 cookies were on the sign up.  Those 90 are charged for all 100.  It was the only means of policing the honor system available and worked well enough to keep it going. 

Housekeeping
40 guys can make a hell of a mess.  Bedrooms are the responsibility of the occupants.  Each resident was responsible for an area, be it a bathroom, hallway, or the porch.  Sweep, mop, vacuum, scrub walls, whatever needed doing to keep it tidy, clean and safe.  The House Manager was responsible for inspection.  Failure to keep your area clean resulted in being told, being told again, then brought before the Judicial Board.  J-Board had the ability to fine you a few bucks or evict you if it came down to it. 

Maintenance
If you break it, you fix it or replace it.  The House Manager inspected the structure and grounds regularly.  If something needed replacing or repairs immediately, he had a budget to work with.  If it was a bigger project, say a busted door, it went to the weekly House Meeting.  Serious problems were the realm of the Building Association which owned the property.

Supplies
The Steward handling purchasing and receiving of supplies.  Everything from toilet paper to dish detergent to frozen pizza.  Upon delivery, waiters and anyone handy put it away.

Committees
Each resident was assigned to a committee.  Social, Bar, Meals, Neighborhood, Grounds, Operations and more.  These committees were responsible for handling the affairs of the house.  Operations took care of the mail, went through the phone bill, kept an eye on the furnaces.  Social took care of planning parties or socail events.  Bar took care of keeping the beer fridge full and billing the beer sign ups (this was my job).  Meals handled complaints, worked with the cook on new menu items, billing for food sign ups, stocking the Sign Up Pantry, keeping the punch full.

Offices
President directed the weekly meetings, Secretary handled legal paperwork, Treasurer wrote the checks, made deposits, kept the books, J-Board was I think 5 guys who handled issues, House Manager and Steward did their thing.

Meetings
Every Sunday at 8 PM, don't be late or you answer to J-Board.  Run through the offices with their reports, run through the committees with the chairman giving their report.  Discuss issues and needs.  Then run through each person.

I remember the old TV was crapping out.  At the meeting we went through the committees to find ways to pinch pennies.  We all decided to forgo a few things, added a dime to every beer, made an effort to take shorter showers, turn off lights, pack the trash bags extra full to scrape together enough money for a new TV.  It took a couple months but we pulled it off, got a 27" Sony for about a grand.  This was 1986. 

There were unwritten rules of the road as well.  If you hold the TV remote, you had control.  Watch whatever you like.  At the end of your show, if you don't surrender box control, we pounded you.  If you have had control by yourself for more than an hour and someone enters the room, they assumed box control.  The TV was OFF during dinner.

Work Parties
Mandatory participation, J-Board enforced.  Ever few weeks the house manager would come out with a list of assignments.  Essentially a Honey-Do list.  Paint the hall, rake the lawn, trim the shrubbery, fix the fence, trim Mrs Grimley's shrubbery.  Usually a party at the end of the day.  The 1st week of each semester was a work party every day.

THE MONEY
The Building Association owned the place.  Alumni can vote.  I've not been there but once in 20 years and I can vote if I attend a meeting.  The BA pays the mortgage and taxes, sets the rent which the Chapter pays.  The Chapter charges the residents up front for the school year, most pay up front but there is a process to make payments.  The room and board fee for the residents covers rent, food, utilities, cable, phone, social, and whatever else is determined by the Officers and committee chairs.  There is a slush fund to account for snow plowing, maintenance, misc expenses and unexpected costs.  Surplus is spent at the discretion of a general election, with some amount held in reserve.  The TV is an example of this.  The room and board fee covers all the needs of the resident for the school year.

Summer Boarding
In summer, most of the guys are gone home.  The place is a boarding house.  On your own for food, utilites and TP are covered.  Open to any student on campus.  I paid $30/week in the summer of '86.  Lord, it was a party every night!!  I had a job washing dishes for $3.35/hour.  Rent, food, beer, gas.  Ate a lot of spaghetti that summer, drank a lot of beer and bought an old car.  I moved on but the car remained for a few more years.  I sold it to another guy, he sold it when he graduated.  I understand it was finally sold out of the house for about what I paid originally.  That old clunker barely ran.

---

Sharing the place for housing worked out well financially.  This is why the fraternity system exists in so many college campuses.  The room and board was usually less than the dorms.  I think it was 3800 for 9 months back then, included everything but personal hygiene products.  An apartment was anywhere from 400-600/mo plus utilities and groceries.

We had 1 lawn mower.  2 food refrigerators, 1 chest freezer, 2 beer coolers, 3 furnaces, 1 kitchen, 1 cable bill, I think 4 phone lines, 1 dumpster.  The efficiency gains reduced the housing costs per person.  Toilet paper came in by the case. Spaghetti came in 25 pound boxes.  Sauce was in #10 cans.  We also gained time with a reduced workload chasing chores.

There were some hassles.  Sometimes there was a 20 minute wait for a shower.  You go to do laundry, the machines are full for a couple hours.  What was on TV when someone else had the box was what was showing unless you had your own tv in your room and the roommate might be sleeping or studying.

There were some rules as well.  Had to maintain the place in a manner conducive to study.  Quiet hours from 11-7, no load radio, no smoking dope upstairs (yeah, I went to college and I've grown up since).  Much of this was common sense and consideration.

---

In a setting outside of college, this would be a boarding house.  I had a buddy who rented a room.  He had a room, shared a common bathroom, shared a common kitchen and fridge.  If you left it in the fridge, it was gone the next day.  Someone was always raising hell, there was no common living area, there was no common connection.  It was BS-warehousing for people is all.

---

I want to get my own farm going.  The things I want to do I can do alone, so I'll need help.  I'm way to cheap to pay people so I need a way to get free help.  Interns is a fine start, but there is a fair amount of turnover.  I would prefer long term help from people with a long term interest in the place.  Locals also improve community standing, marketing potential and knowledge of the area/climate/resources.  The answer I'm come up with is trading room and board for labor.

I have my experience in the fraternity to use as a template to duplicate what I'd like to develop.  But its not necessarily the ideal.  I can find some local people willing to work in exchange for room and board.  Singles, couples, retirees, even families are a possibility.  In this economy, people are losing their jobs and homes every day.  I would be able to offer a home and a chance to preserve dignity.

Looking at a house, there are the utilities and systems, bathroom(s), and kitchen.  Everything else is just a box to which furniture is added.  Bathrooms, laundry, kitchen and living room can be shared.  I can see doubling up with interns.  For the longer term residents, a private room would go a long way towards dignity. 

Here's a side story...

A couple years ago I worked in a restaurant during slow periods or off weekends at my full time job.  The yard was impossible to keep up with and I'll admit-I'm no housekeeper.  I offered my camper to a guy working in the kitchen: no rent, no bills, no groceries, just a place to stay if you keep the lawn mowed and the houe tidy.  This also meant someone was around to keep an eye on the place when I'm out of town.  A lot of good that did.  For the first few weeks, the guy mowed the lawn and kept up the kitchen.  Over time his effort petered off.  I noticed things started to disappear when I reached into a cabinet for something and the Gin that was there a couple of months ago was gone.  When he took the gin I have no idea, but he got the vermouth as well.  I confronted him about it, he admitted it, promised to replace it.  Where there is smoke there is fire so I started going through things.  Seems while I was out of town, things were being gone through as well.  I was missing prescription drugs, chocolate bars, some food, and $128 in rolled coins stored in my nightstand.  The guy was living in a hotel an hour later. 

Misplaced trust?  Stupidity on my part? his?  Victim or Sucker?  I took the pinch, learned my lesson and moved on.  The point of this story is that not everyone is going to work out.  I hope the experience I had was the exception rather than the rule.  I intend to press forward with my plans, using my experience to make adjustments for the better.

Bringing people into my home is not something I want to repeat and not practical in my current house, and I don't have a farm yet anyway.  Nonetheless, my situation will change and I intend to make it happen, so I've given this a fair amount of thought.

In a situation where I exchange room and board for labor, there are some basic needs that must be met.  Sanitation, potable water, palatable food in appropriate quantities/nutrition/diversity, shelter with heat and ventilation, access to a washing machine and shower, soap and cleaning supplies, and a warm dry bed.  This would be the barebones minimum I would expect of someone if I was working for them.  Oh-and some electricity for clock/light/phone/computer/radio/tv/what have you. 

As with many things, you get what you pay for.  If I'm offering the minimum, I would expect the minimum.  In the minimum scenario, there is no vested interest and no incentive to perform.  Moving above the minimum, the most critical need for a good worker is Dignity.

Dignity has tangible as well as intangible aspects.  Tangible things would be walls and a door for privacy.  Enough space to stand and move around-a room rather than a bunk.  The ability to turn on a light without waking someone else up.  Ideally, a couple of rooms to call home. 

Intangible things are more important to the spirit.  The freedom to leave that private room to use a common area during quiet hours.  Freedom to come and go during off duty hours.  Regular days off.  Access to the fridge in the middle of the night.  Work breaks with shelter from the heat or cold, cool water, something to sit on, a place to wash up.  A decent cup of coffee.

How people are treated is probably the single most important aspect with regard to dignity.  Exclusion, secrecy, and dominance, while sometimes necessary, are no way to promote the spirit of someone you will be living and working with every day.  This gets into social skills and management practices which would be an entire forum by itself so I'll stop here.

Next on the dignity list is the money.  A man with a few bucks in his pocket is a man with hope and some amount of control of his environment.  It is a reward for effort above and beyond minimal support and offers the ability to choose.  Even 20 bucks a week is something.  If I can't afford 20 bucks a week, I got no business bringing people in to work for me. 

How much effort should be demanded of these interns and laborers?  Looking at apartments and jobs I can compare the value of room and board with the value of labor.  A decent apartment with all utilities runs about $150/week around here.  I'm giving them less than a full apartment but covering food and some supplies, some cash too, it makes a generally fair comparison.  Looking at wages I would expect to pay for the work I expect to get, 7-8 bucks an hour.  After that its a math problem.  20-30 hours/week in exchange for room and board and a small stipend is a fair deal, in my opinion. 

An incentive to perform is an important ingredient in my farm plan.  Combined with dignity, incentives promote honesty, integrity, a strong work ethic, lifts spirits and does the job of furthering efficiency and productivity.  You give me more, I'll give you more.  Incentives come in many forms.  Friday night dinner could be meatloaf or sirloin steaks.  How about early quitting time once in a while.  Bringing in the sales should bring a piece of the action.  If money is the incentive, it is important to be consistent. 

This is getting long winded and its getting late so I'll stop here, let some comments drift in.




Seed the Mind, Harvest Ideas.
http://farmwhisperer.com
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15041
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
Ken, that is a lot of real good info.  I see several threads in what you wrote - maybe you wanna start a new thread or two?  I would especially like you to start a thread about your crow experience.

What would you say are the upsides of so many people sharing a home?



Ken Peavey
steward

Joined: Dec 21, 2009
Posts: 2167
Location: FL
    
  54
The fraternity was a home to all of us, some for just a year or two, some for several years.  A lot of this had to do with curriculum, plans, grades and of course some guys had lives of their own to lead.  Being we were all young and in school, the future was bright.  Lots of energy in the place.  Graduate brothers returned now and then.  We were brothers.

By comparison, my friend in the boarding house was in a group of people who had bottomed out.  They had nothing, were not going anywhere, drinking was an escape.  The boarding house was where they ended up.  Self-respect was low, respect for others was even lower.  There was no social activity, no organization, no common objective, no pride of ownership, no vested interest in anything or anyone.  Everyone kept to themselves.

In the House, everyone looked out for each other.  At holidays and breaks, some of the guys had no money, no way home.  Sometimes it was possible to hitch a ride home for the holidays.  I was going from Albany NY to Bangor ME.  Another guy lived north of Boston but could not afford a bus ticket.  It was 15 minutes out of my way-get your bags.  Those who could net get home still had a family at the House.  A couple days after Christmas there would be an event.  Guys who could make it back during the break would show up.  We had a tree, get the fireplace going, exchange gifts of every sort, usually gags and drinks.

Furniture for college students is tough to come by.  We were all mostly broke most of the time.  Every now and then someone would hear about a couch or bed being thrown out.  A few guys and a truck, it was there in 5 minutes.  We scored an entire living room set when the mother of one of the brothers decided to renovate her living room.  Another guy got us a free piano. 

I worked at a restaurant washing dishes then as a short order cook.  If a job opened up, I announced it at dinner, got a couple of guys jobs that way.  One time the place changed its dishes to a different style.  I was able to get the old dishes for the House.  Mugs, bowls and plates-enough to keep us in dishes for years.  Scavenging was money in the bank.  One time Sam came back from a party trip to another college with a trunk full of pool cues.  He found them the next day, no idea how they got there but we put them to good use.

Many hands made light work.  The work party days were expected, scheduled weeks ahead of time and always had a party afterward.  Everyone showed up, even some Grads.  The grads brought their experience and sometimes much needed tools.  There were guys working the yard, guys on the roof, guys in the kitchen taking stuff apart, putting it back together, guys painting/pounding/nailing/lifting/moving/hauling/dumping/unloading/wrenching/drinking/scrubbing.  If the job was falling behind, when someone got done with what they were doing, they moved on to the next job to finish it up.  The bar did not open until the house manager agreed all jobs were complete.

Personalities were as distinct as they were diverse.  Everyone brought something to the table here.  All of it added to the experience.  Sometimes one of the guys would surprise you.  We had a problem with the drain in the basement at the bar sink.  Out of nowhere Betzenberger and softy came up with a 5 gallon bucket, some toilet parts and a piece of hose and built a pump.  Probably still in use.  It was an engineering school.  It was decided once to build a brick BBQ in the back yard.  I think it was Stork who designed it.  Talk about AWESOME. the thing will hold a hundred hamburgers at a time.  The first time it was fired, the flames shot a good 20 feet in the air.  Back to the drawing boards.  After some study and measurements it was determined the air flow was excessive for the amount of fuel.  Link came up with the solution of stuffing the vents with bricks, all was well after that.  I visited the place a year ago, the BBQ is still there.

Everyone had a nickname.  Bam-Bam, Stork, Heck, Softy, Delta, Manunit, Chowie, Face, Space, Rags, Shreds, Booger, Odie, Link (as in 'missing link', Gator, Snuffy, Phooey, Chunks, BooBoo.  There was a story behind all of them.  Some of them took so well their real name was lost.  I had a couple of nicknames: nRT (nert), came from the ideal gas law PV=nRT, and Fitz, which I won't explain in mixed company. 

With such a group there is the occasion for friction.  In all the time I was around there was one fight.  It went to J-board, then brought before the entire House at a Sunday meeting but could not be resolved.  One guy had his Room and Board refunded for the remainder of the year and was asked to leave.


Kathleen Sanderson


Joined: Feb 28, 2009
Posts: 969
Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
    
    1
An upside -- I know that I get a lot more done if I have someone to work with.  It helps to have someone to bounce ideas off, someone to help figure out solutions to a problem, someone to hold the board in place while I'm cutting it (or vice versa), just someone to say, Let's get going and get this done when I'm tempted to take a longer break. 

As a long-term thing, I think it would work best if the people involved are family or as close as family (members of a close-knit church or organization, perhaps).  It's hard enough even then.  People NEED some private space.  They also need to have ownership of something, even if it's only a bedroom.  I've seen a situation -- a church group -- who had a set-up similar to one mentioned above, with a central dining hall/kitchen/meeting place, and some group-use buildings, and yet most of the families had their own cabins where they slept.  When they first got the land (in Alaska) they built the community building first and all slept in small rooms on the second floor, but that was never meant to be a permanent situation.  They said they'd had as many as two hundred people living there, and as few as eighty; I think they were somewhere around one hundred twenty when we visited them.  The community, at that time, had been in existence for over twenty years.  Some people had particular jobs -- one lady was in charge of the sheep, a couple of others taught at the community's little school, for example.  But a lot of jobs were shared in rotation, such as the kitchen work, with one person in overall charge of the kitchen, or the garden work and harvesting with someone in overall charge of that.  They had gone from having all their meals communally to having at least one and usually two meals a day in their own homes -- said that the family life, and the children, suffered from too many communal meals.  They still had supper together when we visited, and sometimes lunch, but breakfast was fixed in the private cabins.

For me personally, with my autistic daughter, I wouldn't want to be in shared housing.  I love my daughter dearly, and she does much better now with the medication she's on, but she still has times where she's extremely crabby -- and loud -- to the point of having a temper tantrum.  I wouldn't mind a situation of private cabins around a community gathering place, but MUST have some place to retreat with DD when she is having one of her difficult moments.  (And if we are ever NOT able to get her medication, the difficult moments will become daily occurrences again, I'm afraid.)  This could apply to families with babies and young children, too -- if you have shared housing, *everyone* is going to suffer with the parents through colic and teething and fevers.  I think that would make everyone crabby at times (it's hard to interact pleasantly when you haven't gotten enough sleep).

On the plus side, even with private cabins, someone might be able to give the new parents a break, help with nursing a sick toddler, watch the handicapped child while the parents went to work, and so on.  In a sense, that's how DD and I are living now -- sharing my grandmother's house, helping her, and she helps me by watching DD while I'm at work.  In our case, we don't know how long this situation will continue to be viable because of Grandma's age (she's 96) and because she's starting to get frail; she's been having a little trouble with her balance.  Someday, it will get to a point where I can't leave DD with Grandma for fear something will happen to Grandma while I'm gone, and DD won't know what to do to get help.  (And no, DD can't be trained to call me or to call 911 -- when given the opportunity to push buttons, she pushes random buttons, and she doesn't talk on the phone -- she functions like a three-year-old for the most part.) 

Eventually my mother may be added to the household, too.  We've been talking about how to manage that if it should become necessary.  I think ideally a couple of tiny houses on the property (under Oregon's 200 sf limit) would probably be the best way to go -- give Mom one, and DD and I take the other, and we would share the main house facilities.  We could add several more family members this way if necessary.

Kathleen
Jami McBride
volunteer

Joined: Aug 29, 2009
Posts: 1779
    
  10
Interesting information about the group you visited Kathleen.

I agree with what you've said.  I too have an autistic son (DS) - however he does not have temper issues, he does blast his Disney music - Hi Ho Hi Ho can be heard all over the house if his door is left open    He is seventeen and loves his music.  I work from home because of my children, and all my friends are very cool and supportive with my son.  Like you I would love to have my family in a close-knit, supportive (spirituality & emotionally) small community setting.

But this thread appears to be more about a frat-type living situation, which my temperament would not enjoy.  So maybe a new thread for living with space would be a good idea....



Ken Peavey
steward

Joined: Dec 21, 2009
Posts: 2167
Location: FL
    
  54
Going through my notes a bit...

The removal of redundancy offers a great advantage.

I have a lawn mower, my bother has one, all my neighbors have one.  Most people use a lawn mower for an hour or two every couple of weeks.  The rest of the time it just sits there.  My neighbor keeps hers in a lean to, I keep mine under a tarp.  My brother has a shed.  20 people have 20 lawn mowers and several structures all for the sake of mowing a crop of grass to keep up appearances.

Would it not make sense for 20 people to get together and buy a lawn mower in order to share the cost and use?  I paid around $300 for my mower, its electric and does a fine job for my small yard.  My brother has a riding mower and a much bigger yard, must have paid a couple grand.  Doing the math, at an average cost of $300 for a lawn mower, 20 mowers costs $6k.  20 riding lawn mowers at $2k comes out to $40,000.  I paid less than that for my house.

20 people pitching in could buy a couple of riders and a couple of push mowers, for $5k and a shed to put them in for another $1k.  This is $300 each, the cost of the push mower, but it also puts access to a riding mower in their hands.

These same 20 people all have washing machines.  Do their laundry on laundry day, the things take up space in the laundry room, back porch, in the basement or wherever.  I do a couple of loads a week.  The rest of the time it just sits there. 

If I want to cook up a big pot of spaghetti for a group, I need a big pot that comes with a big pricetag.  My neighbor would need to do the same.  I've got a skil saw, my brother has one, my neighbor has one.  We are all spending a fortune on tools, appliance, equipment, yard machines and a slew of other products that we don't use all the time.

For $1000 I can get a mower, a big pot and a washing machine.  If I want tools, a truck and cargo trailer, wheelbarrel, I'm saving my pennies and going without until I get what I need. 

Does it not make sense for a group of people to get together, pool their money and resources and share ownership of these high price, low use items?  20 people working together, everyone pitching in $1000 will gain access to $20k in tools, appliances, equipment and yard machines.  Everyone just picked up a whole lot of stuff for cheap. 

Things break down, need to be repairs, serviced and replaced.  Rather than everyone having to go out and buy another lawn mower, it would be practical for everyone to pitch in on the cost of a replacement.

My line of thinking leads to a situation where a starting investment is made followed by monthly dues.  Call it a neighborhood Co-op if you like.  For the sake of discussion, 20 people cough up $500 each up front to get the project going, plus another $100/month.  That's 10 grand to get started, $2k/month to add on more shared equipment and take care of the stuff already on hand.  In the first year, the group has $34k to work with.  That's a whole lot of stuff.  Probably enough to afford a big shed to keep it in.  Each member of the group is into the project for only $1700.

Consider what can be made available to all the members of this group in just the first year.  Most every hand and power tool that would be needed around a typical home, mowers, trimmers, edgers, blowers, lawn and garden equipment, ladders, scaffolding, shovels, picks, maybe a pressure washer, some extra trash cans, a small cargo trailer, a carpet cleaning machine, paint sprayer, table saw, grinder, portable generator, rototiller, maybe even a nice gas BBQ grill.  Keep it up for a few years, the goods available can grow to be impressive.  How about a truck? 

You can go anywhere with this sort of idea.  In addition to the money, how about adding 4 hours of labor each month for work parties.  Clean up the neighborhood, paint someones house, get some handyman work done.  This is 80 hours of work in an afternoon. 

Cooperation and teamwork offers tremendous advantage.  There are some problems that need to be accounted for and usually easy ways to solve those problems.

A bunch of people have a bunch of stuff and they all want to use it when its most convenient.  The stuff has to be kept somewhere, someone needs to maintain it, and the stuff has to be brought back in good condition.

Ground rules will need to be put in place.  Everyone involved needs to understand the rules and be willing to compromise and be flexible.  There is an amount of effort that has to be expended by everyone to make it work.  Finally, each member of the group must assume a level of responsibility for the shared property.

Living in today's world, liability concerns demand structure and prudence.  Forming a corporation, be it profit or non-profit, is the simple solution.  File some papers, open a bank account, register and insure the truck.  Insurance can be a drag on the project, but if the project gets big enough, its really the only way to protect the shareholders and members.

The next prominent issue is location.  While a small group sharing a few things can cooperate easily, a larger group with a bunch of stuff will need a place to hold the goods.  A fenced area, a shed in someones back yard or even a garage may work fine for small projects, but if it gets bigger and busier, it may become a burden upon an individual, even with the best intentions. 

A small group may be able to work out an arrangement for a fenced area in someones back yard.  A larger group may find it practical to put in a portable shed somewhere.  In a neighborhood of people involved in such a cooperative project, it may be possible to purchase land for the purpose of serving the needs of the group.  Storage of equipment and shared property, space for maintenance, an office for organizing and paperwork, even a meeting space become practical possibilities.  Something of this magnitude may not work for 20 people, but with dozens to a couple hundred, it becomes cost effective. Beyond a couple of hundred people the project would take on an identity of its own and the distance begins to get out of hand.  There are practical limits to the size of the group, but I've not thought that out. 

A small group can be effective in reducing costs.  A larger group really starts to add ability.  If a group is able to add members, it is not out of the realm of possibility that it could grow from 20 people to 200.  Using the same figures, $100/mo each is $20k/month, $240k/year.  In 4 years, these people put together $1M.  Thats more than enough to cover a hired manager, maybe a couple of workers, a property for storing and maintaining equipment, garages and workshops.  How about a swimming pool with a lifeguard? 

Take the next logical step in organizing the people.  Instead of just tools and equipment, working together offers group purchasing power.  There are ways to get good prices on bulk foods.  One trip to Sam's club to get a pile of stuff.  Use the kitchen in the community house to portion and repackage goods into sizes suitable for use by the members.

There are lots of ways to go with this idea.

Ken Peavey
steward

Joined: Dec 21, 2009
Posts: 2167
Location: FL
    
  54
The fraternity served it purpose back in the day, but I would not want to live there now, and its not suitable for a family environment.

Before I bought my house I was a property manager.  38 2 BR townhouse apartments plus a duplex.  The population would vary as people moved in and out but was usually in the area of 100 people.  Every unit had a small balcony and a patio with some yard in the back.  Water and sewer were included in the rent, tenants were on their own for electrical, which served hot water, cooking, cooling and heating needs. 

There was a community center built for the place but over the years it was converted for laundry, mail, and a tool room/workshop.  There was a swimming pool with no lifeguard.  Ample parking was lit up with 3 streetlights at night.  A single dumpster handled all the waste. 

The place was efficient and cheap.  Rents were around $400, about $550 now.  You had a light bill, phone bill, cable TV bill.  The tenants did not need tools.  I had 1 hammer and 1 toolbox, did all the maintenance, mowed the lawn, checked the chlorine in the pool.

The apartments were compact, about 800 sqft.  The galley kitchen was small, 8 feet of counter and a stove on one side, 3' of counter, fridge, water heater closet/pantry on the other.  Adequate space for preparing meals for 1-4 people, but barely enough for 2 people to get by each other.  2 bedrooms and a bath upstairs.  Living room, small dining room and kitchen downstairs.

I've thought this sort of housing set up would serve especially well in an intentional community.  Given the resources, the setup would be awesome included in my own farm.  What if several different ideas were combined?

First, instead of apartments, give the people ownership.  Sell the apartments as condominiums.  For interns or more transient help, it is still useful for housing with some renovations.

In a condominium or homeowners association there is a monthly fee for maintenance.  Keep the places up, by all means.  But what if you also added that hundred bucks a month for the cooperative effort I talked about above? 

In the housing arrangement with a full time property manager, there is no real need for everyone to have all the tools.  How about a community center instead?  Library, video/movie library, computer/internet, and gym come to mind as adding value. 

A common kitchen for meals is an option to explore.  3 meals a day, a few people working in there gives everyone more free time and reduces the grocery bill while adding variety and nutrition.  Such a kitchen in a farm setting allows its use for processing meats and produce.  If the food being served was grown by the group, the costs rapidly drops.  With each family unit having a small kitchen, private dining is still available.

The tool room worked well, how about adding an auto shop, a wood shop, and a store.  That $100/month per family can put together some impressive equipment in short order.  The group gains the ability to follow cottage industry on site.

Its a thought experiment, but there is plenty of potential if enough people can be organized and are willing to cooperate.
Kathleen Sanderson


Joined: Feb 28, 2009
Posts: 969
Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
    
    1
Ken, there's a lot to what you are saying.  My grandmother says that back when her parents were farming, in a tight-knit neighborhood in the Coast Range of Oregon, one family might own a hay rake, another owned the sickle-bar mower, another owned the disc cultivator, and so on.  As an item was needed, it was rotated around the neighborhood.  This way, someone had ownership of an item and was responsible for it.  Everyone had a stake -- a piece of equipment -- and some motivation to take good care of the other equipment as it came through their hands.  It might be more efficient to do it the way you suggest, but I suspect that in most neighborhoods it would be more likely to work the way Grandma's neighborhood did it. 

One problem is that neighborhoods often have new people who aren't well known, or someone who isn't really trustworthy.  And then there is the issue of basically forming something like a homeowner's association -- most of us who love freedom would never voluntarily be part of anything like that.  I can see the advantages, but also the potential problems.  It could work, but would have to be carefully worked out, with nothing left to chance -- human nature being what it is, someone would be sure to take advantage of the situation.

I think something of a barter economy might be one way to do it.  I'll keep goats, you keep chickens, and I'll trade you milk for eggs.  Or, I'll keep a chainsaw, while you keep a mower, and we can either borrow equipment, or help each other as needed. 

The social example that I favor is that of a village.  Everyone has their own home, and their own business.  If you look at old villages, self-contained ones, not bedroom communities, there was a pretty standard set of occupations that were needed in order for the place to function.  If the blacksmith died, his apprentice stepped up; likewise with the miller and the carpenter, and so on.  If there wasn't an apprentice, then word would go out to the surrounding area that there was an open slot in that village, and eventually someone would come to fill that opening.  There was usually a community building, often the church, and frequent holidays or feast days where everyone ate together.  If someone needed help, the neighbors knew about it and pitched in.  But they all had some private space, too. 

Nowadays, so many small communities are bedroom communities that it's hard to tell if you have a viable assortment of the necessary occupations or not.  It's also hard to get to know people if most of them are gone from dawn to dusk. 

Small communities, and I think that would include the communal living that Paul described, do have one major problem, one thing that I very much dislike, and that's the village gossip.  Seems like there are always a few people who can't seem to find anything to do but talk about everyone else, usually bad-mouthing them.  In a larger community, at least you can avoid those people, LOL!

Kathleen
                    


Joined: Oct 23, 2011
Posts: 0
Wow, that's a lot, Ken.  Good experiences. 

I think two thinks that make shared housing "work" are

1) similarity of lifestyle in the people that live together - families with small children live with other families with small children, frat boys live with frat boys, and so on

2) answering to some higher authority when faced with behavior problems.  This could be as decentralized as a democratic vote among the group, but I think it's worth noting in Ken's case that answering to "j-board" can be effective in keeping stragglers in line.  A "guru" or older mentor who everyone respects could also fulfill this role. 

I have this vision for shared housing in a rural area.  The building would be really long with sections of individual spaces -  kind of like row homes in philadelphia (where some of my best and worst co-housing memories were created).  Shared walls (thick walls from some nice sound insulating natural building material for privacy), and radiant heat throughout the floor of the whole thing, with one large boiler.  That way no one house has four outside walls. 

The problem with a bunch of separate small structures is that the infrastructure has to be drug out all over.  Each of those cabins at the very least probably needs a stove and a corresponding chimney, plus a sink and the pipe to get the water in and out.  All of that starts to get expensive or a hassle to locate for free, not to mention the far-er-flung eco stystem damage from digging individual building foundations, burying all that water pipe, and creating paths and roads that connect everyone's space. 

You could compare it to living in a large house or a small house.  When everyone is located apart, visiting a friend or two could mean walking up the side of a mountain and then going back down by the river.  With the party wall housing, they're right next door.  I have only been in rural ecovillages where everyone has a little home of their own, and you end up walking around a lot to find people, and the land gets chopped up with a lot of roads and paths. 

What situation would get a roof over everyone's head faster:  Everyone single handedly working on their own little cabin, or the group working together on one large living structure?  One building doesn't mean that there's one giant room with no privacy.  The design of a shared building, like others have said, can offer both private and social spaces. 

I read an article in this neat book called The New Agrarianism, and I don't remember the name of the author of course, but he was writing about "the commons."  The idea is that when the footprint of people is confined to a small area, the rest of the land is commonly owned and used as a habitat for wild animals and a nature/park/garden space for the people who live close together.  People who are dedicated food growers have large areas of land that they use to feed the rest of the community. 

When people decide to live close together, privacy can still be found in all the areas that aren't occupied by anyone.  When everyone gets their own acre, it's very easy for everywhere to be someone's personal space. 

I love all the talk about shared tools, etc., been wishing about that for a minute now.  The closest I've come to this idea is renting equipment locally from my neighbors that own the machinery I need to use sometimes but don't want to buy (or pay to have it hauled up from the nearest city center).  Things can get dicey when an expensive machine breaks while it's being lent out....best to let the guy who fixes the machine also operate the machine.  (that's our policy whenever possible anyway)

I also like the ideas of centrally located and commonly used rooms - a kitchen obviously, but also a bath house, a library, a dance/movement room - owned by everyone, for everyone. 

Of course, when I talk to city dwellers about my shared housing in the country idea - they're like "But we want to live in the country to be away from everyone!  I don't want to live next to anyone else!"  Sooo....hopefully someday I'll find people who are attracted to that idea, cause there's no way I'm dotting this fourty acres with five different houses hundreds of feet apart.  I've seen the consequences of that, and this land is too special for that.  The human foot print here will remain confined to where it already is. 
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15041
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
Imagine that there are standard bathrooms for taking care of your daily business, but there is one bathroom that has a really nice tub and all. 

Oh yeah:  sometimes where there are two people and one bathroom .... nature calls at the wrong time.  But with 20 people, you might have five bathrooms and yet there is never a wait.  Fewer bathrooms per person and yet there is less wait?

Jami McBride
volunteer

Joined: Aug 29, 2009
Posts: 1779
    
  10
Very good points MJ, I wasn't thinking  of 20 people when I envisioned a main house with cabins.... ha, your right!  I was envisioning me, my children and an intern, friend or two.  Very small scale, maybe two cabins.

Because of all the things written about IC I have never spent time thinking/imagining an IC.  I think that might be part of the point of this thread Paul started.  To get people like me to think about it.....and share their vision.

Retiring onto some land where I could share my skills & tools, lawn mower, drill press, table saw, etc. and have a few like minded folks near enough to share - ideas, holidays, and lend a hand now and then would be wonderful. 

I think people like Ken could pull it off <smile>

But it's obvious to me that one's perspective is relative to one's position, for example if one is the land owner inviting others or if one is the invited.  I can see the invited wanting privacy/ownership beyond a single room, while the land owner, as you point out, is more concerned about the paths and land.  I get both perspectives.  You are right, having like minded folks is key if this situation is going to work for everyone. 

As for me and mine - inheritance is very important, maybe everything.  Not an inheritance of wealth, but that of a sustainable lifestyle, house and land.  I need to build something that supports a family, something I can leave to my kids.  So how would you see IC and inheritance working together?
                    


Joined: Oct 23, 2011
Posts: 0
you might have five bathrooms and yet there is never a wait.  Fewer bathrooms per person and yet there is less wait?


In my experiences with shared housing, bathrooms and kitchens are the biggest points of contention.  I learned early on, sharing a bathroom with three other girls in high school, to time my bathroom needs for the 'off hours.'  I'd take a shower at lunch or before dinner, usually.  Never a wait if you strike when the time is right.

Living with people requires flexibility.  It's easier when there are clear standards for cleanliness and behavior - again a huge factor in the smoothness of what Ken described.  I think it's important to at least like (or ideally love or some nearly equally strong bond) the people you live with.  Co-housers might then be more likely to want to co-operate and make the group happy. 

I lived for several years on the east coast, and it was just about necessary to co-house just to afford the cost of living at all.  But it was also really fun.  I miss the social opportunities and just general interactions, especially in one too-short-lived situation in Philadelphia.  Two row homes (long and skinny with party walls) that shared a really large back yard housed from 6 to 10 people on any given month.  The homes themselves were in marginal shape, built for 19th century textile workers probably (a pile of coal in the dirt basement), but they weren't that hard to heat because of only two outside walls.  The value was ridiculously cheap rent, but the treasure was our back yard.  It felt like we weren't in a city anymore, hidden away in our narnia land of weed trees from asia.  We had weekly dumpster runs to the suburbs with late night sorting sessions, followed the next evening by a potluck with bonfires (they're still going on without me, actually  ), a pretty cool garden (where I really fell in love with growing food), lots of wacky spontaneous art, a huge collection of bikes for loan and to be re-welded into something more interesting, friends who could come hang out in a hammock for a few hours, music shows sometimes, birthday parties frequently.  There were no real rules but we were like a little tribe and there weren't any big issues that we didn't solve by talking.  We helped each other out with basic things, got each other jobs, cried on friendly shoulders. 

The stakes are raised when you're trying to pull off the above on a serious homestead.  For all our urban environmentalist efforts we were utterly dependent on the city support system for our livelihoods.  For me the reality of twenty people sharing a house is generally an urban one, but I like to think that it could be just as fun and amazingly productive a model for living out in the woods.  With the right people of course, and isn't that the catch 22 of the whole thing? 

land where I could share my skills & tools, lawn mower, drill press, table saw, etc. and have a few like minded folks near enough to share - ideas, holidays, and lend a hand now and then would be wonderful.


Yes, that sounds amazing!  Jami - A good book about eco-village (or even small community) creation and organization is Creating a Life Together by Diana Leafe Christianson.  I don't think there are standard solutions for issues like inheritance and how exactly to share ownership of a deed.  I also see my property going more of the family route.  I'd love to have my parents live here, even my sister if she were interested, and my goal is to pass on a viable working farm to the children (and hopefully not only my children) I haven't yet had.  But wow, is it a task to think of how to meet everyone's various needs in one fairly small place. 

I still think the way to lessen the impact of individual structures is to have shared common areas for the things that need lots of infrastructure, namely (once again) kitchens and bathrooms.  But then you invite the can of worms that goes with sharing those areas....The grief I've had over roommates who couldn't do dishes more than once a week - sheesh!
Ken Peavey
steward

Joined: Dec 21, 2009
Posts: 2167
Location: FL
    
  54
I'm back home, taking a moment to review the thread...

Getting back to Paul's OP, 100 benefits to 20 people sharing a home:

by MJ
5 Shared Responsibilities
6 Collective labor reduces individual labor
7 Motivation
8 More skills available
9 More ideas
10 Project completion

by McBride
11 Collaboration
12 Emotional support
13 Reduced burden
14 Human insurance
15 Conversation

by Paul
16 Efficient utilization of space
17 diverse demographic profile

by Ken
18 Delegated responsibilities
19 Organization
20 Hired staff
21 Meal service
22 Routine chores are scheduled
23 Reduced housekeeping workload
24 Teamwork
25 Social events
26 Hierarchical command structure
27 Compartmental decision making
28 Generalized participatory policy development
29 Reduced per capita infrastructure
30 Personal and social development, particularly in youths
31 Networking
32 Enhanced access to resources
33 Fellowship
34 Individuality is promoted

By Sanderson
35 Community
36 Specialization
37 Enhanced creativity
38 Emergency Assistance
39 Flexibility

kp
40 Reduced redundancy

mj
41 Mentoring
42 Energy efficiency
43 Minimal footprint
44 Fun

McB
45 Someone to share with/from/among
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15041
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
marinajade,

I think the concerns of 20 people sharing a house is a good topic.  In fact, i think each concern could warrant a thread of its own.  I would really like to keep this thread focused on the benefits.

Ken,

That list is excellent, thanks so much for composing it!  I think this is wiki worthy!

paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15041
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
Several years ago I attended an IC visioning event.  Later, the organizing group invited me to be on their board.  One day, at a very informal meeting of the board members, we did some sort of visualization exercise.  We all closed our eyes and assumed we had been living in some sort of IC utopia for several years.  After a few minutes we all started to find our groove and I remember a few things from it. 

I remember that there were a few people that had a scrabble game going almost perpetually.  I remember it was dinner time and dinner was always served at exactly 6:30 every night.  All of the food was organic and most of it was grown right there.  Somebody told an obnoxious joke they heard at work.  Somebody else pointed out a really cool thing going on for saturday - something I would not have learned about if not from this person sharing it. 

There was a movie showing in the media room that night that I wanted to see.  Four couches and a couple of recliners and gobs of pillows and blankets.  Somebody brought a mountain of popcorn.  Somebody kept throwing popcorn and then there was a pretty robust popcorn war.  Then the movie started.  During the previews there was a "shush" war. 

There was lots more.  It was a really amazing experience.  We tried to duplicate it a couple of times, but it was never as good as that first time with just the board.

paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15041
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
In the winter of 2005 I had an 80 acre farm and was doing a lot of permaculture stuff.  I had come to the conclusion that these endeavors needed more people. 

I then took my PDC and just a few days into it thought "I want to live like this the rest of my life."  25 adults.  Every meal you end up sitting next to somebody else.  Every meal is a rich experience. 

                    


Joined: Oct 23, 2011
Posts: 0
I really like what Paul shared about the group visioning method of "assuming we had been living in some sort of IC utopia for several years."  I find that the best methods for understanding what you desire often involve this kind of present tense imagination.  So instead of - what do we want someday? - it's - what do we have right now?  Helps make it all more 'real' and less of a dream. 
Joshua Chambers


Joined: Feb 03, 2010
Posts: 68
Location: the state of jefferson - zone 7
Kathleen Sanderson wrote:
The social example that I favor is that of a village.  Everyone has their own home, and their own business.  If you look at old villages, self-contained ones, not bedroom communities, there was a pretty standard set of occupations that were needed in order for the place to function.

Small communities, and I think that would include the communal living that Paul described, do have one major problem, one thing that I very much dislike, and that's the village gossip.  Seems like there are always a few people who can't seem to find anything to do but talk about everyone else, usually bad-mouthing them.  In a larger community, at least you can avoid those people, LOL!


Wow, so many good points are made!  I see that village model, and I'd certainly rather it than the industrial model that we have now, and yet I want a model that I would liken more to a tribal model.  And of course the problem with either model is that you have this vast capitalist industrial complex to contend with, no community is "self-contained" today.

Ken's co-op example is fantastic in that it shows the power of pooling our resources.  In the capitalism of today it is a often a challenge to do more than just scrape by, unless you have capital to start with.  By pooling together, just like the corporation does, and organising, you create more together.  Yet, what Ken completely did not address, is where all those people are getting their so many hundreds of dollars a month.

That is the issue that starts to be addressed when you take that collective of people, and you engage in capitalism together with the outside world, engaging in some business to bring in money.  There are communities doing this, notably Twin Oaks and their spliters, originally inspired by Walden Two by B. F. Skinner (which I must admit to having been rather inspired by myself at about 16).  One of the major points of what (I interperet) Skinner was trying to say, is that instead of letting our culture develop haphazardly as it does, let us make conscious choices and take control of the forces that shape us, and shape us into better shapes.  Isn't that PERMACULTURE?

This all contributes to my desire to live in a community where I don't have to play the money game with everyone around me.  In that village setting, you had the extended family there, grandparents, uncles and cousins and kids.  You didn't probably much engage in capitalism with them, do you?  You're all on the same team.  That's what I want.


Joshua
Joshua Chambers


Joined: Feb 03, 2010
Posts: 68
Location: the state of jefferson - zone 7
marina phillips wrote:
I also like the ideas of centrally located and commonly used rooms - a kitchen obviously, but also a bath house, a library, a dance/movement room - owned by everyone, for everyone. 


Robust common spaces and small personal spaces are very much a core of my vision.  This is at the heart of what's tearing my community apart.

When I was eighteen, I had a very detailed design of a community layout, somewhat bigger than you're talking about, a few hundred.  With a central building, very large, general hangout space, kitchen, dining room.  The center was a circle, with one huge fireplace that heated the whole center, and provided heat for all the cooking around the chimney, with the dining room a donut around the kitchen.  Downstairs, the main hall.  On the roof, a huge geodesic greenhouse.

From this hub would be like spokes on a wheel, four zones: 
The bedroom wing, with small neighborhood hallway sorts of spaces.  Wow, I had a design for these rows of bedrooms, two stories high, all making courtyards and a common lawn space, one one each side of that spoke.
The agricultural wing, with all the, I dunno, the spaces who's focus is that, major bulk food storage, processing, etc.
The craft wing, with woodshops and metal shops and laboratories, and .. etc.
the social wing, with music rooms and smoking rooms, and beer drinking rooms, and psychedelic rooms, etc.

All heated from the basement of the main hallway that acted as a corridor to connect everything, and allow us to centralize a water system, and have basements throughout, with wood and composting (direct deposit everywhere, all maintained from a basement with hopefully just a few good heaters per wing (in the basement), and I love radiant heat.

Damn, I was young.  And yet, I certainly do want to live in a secure and vibrant community like that, maybe not quite so big, certainly not for a long time to come.  Yet, when people come together and pool (my last post, I forgot what thread I was in and started talking about capitalism) together, bigger things are possible.

Joshua
                    


Joined: Oct 23, 2011
Posts: 0
Josh!  My neighbor!  Hello!  Welcome to our new internet addiction! 
Joshua Chambers


Joined: Feb 03, 2010
Posts: 68
Location: the state of jefferson - zone 7
Hi! 
marina phillips wrote:
Josh!  My neighbor!  Hello!  Welcome to our new internet addiction! 


Thanks!

I'm amazed I hadn't found it sooner.  This is WAY cooler than the intentional living and permaculture forums over at the hipforums where I've been hanging out.  I found it through Paul's incredible Sepp videos. 

Joshua
                          


Joined: Dec 01, 2009
Posts: 211
Location: Northern California
I lived in a house of 38 for two years. It had its upsides and its downsides--but all the downsides came from the fact that we were all students and most of my housemates were undergraduates, so those of us who were a little more... uh, old... got stuck "parenting."

But there were some fantastic upsides.

1) The food. We ordered in bulk and got great food, and at least the years I was there, we had great cooks. There was always something to eat and at the end of the semester we would use up our food budget on lavish (and totally unsustainable) dinners.
2) The hot tub. Also totally unsustainable, although I suppose we could have installed a passive solar heater. Also unsustainable in the sense that we kept shorting it out and having to fix it. Still--HOT TUB.
3) Always having people around to play a "quick" game of Liverpool Rummy with, or have High Tea and Handicrafts on a Sunday afternoon.
4) Always getting challenged to learn and grow by my housemates who knew more than I did about specific things. I learned a lot about cooking, gardening, and basic repairs, but I also learned how to organize a large group democratically, and how not to. And we had a lot of good, productive discussions about race and gender.
5) Commercial kitchen. Dish sanitizers (also not sustainable, but they probably save water over hand washing that many) are really convenient. So is having two ovens. Health department inspections were a hassle but better than NOT having health department inspections, in that situation.
                                


Joined: Feb 11, 2010
Posts: 6
I've lived in a house of five or six people for the best part of thirty years. Same house, different people. We're not related - my wife and I own the house, and we have lodgers. Mostly they become our life-long friends. They move on. I think that's one thing that keeps it strong: the household is always changing. New blood, new faces.

We eat together; there are no rules. I cook once or twice a week and eat a proper dinner every night. Everything in the kitchen and larder is for everyone (food, drink etc) and we rely on everyone doing their fair share of the shopping. Originally we tried keeping accounts, but soon it became more trouble than it was worth. Trust is much easier.

As we all get older - we live in an ageing society - another advantage of shared living is sharing the homecare costs. Same as sharing childcare, only with older people.  At the moment, my wife and I are a good 20 years older than most of our lodgers, but we both think that in the future we'd like to live together with our friends, and as it's more than likely that we'll need someone to look after us in our decrepitude, we could share that cost.

But I must admit I'm a little wary of the actual numbers. I've been a vocal advocate of shared living for years; I've been very happy doing it and I think the fragmentation of society into ever smaller households is really damaging, environmentally and socially. We need to learn to live together again. The household - not the family - is a really important social unit, and I think it's stronger for being somewhat larger than an average nuclear family. But is 20 an optimum size? Is there an optimum size? Do you get diminishing returns beyond a particular point?

I'd be happy to have one or two or four more than the six of us there are now, if we had room. Beyond about a dozen souls, I think you'd need rules and rotas. That makes it more of an institution, less of a home. 

paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15041
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
ejoftheweb,

You make many good points.  I would very much like to hear a lot more about your situation.  I have lots of questions.  Can you start a new thread about that?

Also, your point of home size is another excellent point.  And good for another thread.  Maybe something called "optimal number of people sharing a home".
Jami McBride
volunteer

Joined: Aug 29, 2009
Posts: 1779
    
  10
Excellent ejoftheweb! - now I can warm up to this idea......

It sounds to me like you are making a family (of sorts), as you say larger than the norm of families today, more like the families of days gone by with several generations under one roof. 

And I agree with the concerns you point out.  When does a family-size group of people grow so big that it requires formal management and looses that family feeling and trust?  Of course people don't have to be blood to bond, or blood to even to care about the family-group enough to do their fair share of the work.

This is a wonderful concept to explore!  Please do start a new thread ♥  How about - IC done with a family-model....

Scott Reil


Joined: Jan 19, 2010
Posts: 179
Location: Colchester, CT
As someone who has done a lot on line with social media, I wonder what everyone thinks of the value of "groupthink"; i.e., the decision reached by many takes longer to be sure, but is it a stronger idea than one handed down from on high?

I can't help but think about the Chinese culture that was clearly in a dominant position in the Middle Ages, but due to an Emperor's decision to limit outside contact, stagnated for a thousand years, and became dominated by the unruly gaijin from Europe, who had been messily reaching group consensus (by politics or war) during that time. Seems to me autonomous decision takes a back seat to group dynamics...

HG


Connecticut Accredited Nurseryperson
Accredited Organic Land Care Professional (NOFA)
Joel Hollingsworth
volunteer

Joined: Jul 01, 2009
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
Scott Reil wrote:I can't help but think about the Chinese culture that was clearly in a dominant position in the Middle Ages, but due to an Emperor's decision to limit outside contact, stagnated for a thousand years, and became dominated by the unruly gaijin from Europe, who had been messily reaching group consensus (by politics or war) during that time. Seems to me autonomous decision takes a back seat to group dynamics...


Don't you mean gwai-lo? 

I think of a person's thoughts as being sort of like the ecosystem of an island or a mountain valley, lots of competition and cooperation...and some unsightly but necessary things going on under the surface.

Groups of those mini-ecosystems linked together, as you'd find on an atoll or a chain of valleys connected by passes, is widely regarded as an incubator of new species.

Scientific journals/conferences serve the same purpose, I think. And there's the occasional impulsive person, like Paul Erdős (or in literal terms, Hernando de Soto), that picks up and drops off all sorts of stuff wherever he goes.


"the qualities of these bacteria, like the heat of the sun, electricity, or the qualities of metals, are part of the storehouse of knowledge of all men.  They are manifestations of the laws of nature, free to all men and reserved exclusively to none." SCOTUS, Funk Bros. Seed Co. v. Kale Inoculant Co.
                        


Joined: Jan 28, 2010
Posts: 175
I am an archeologist - now retired.  I have often shared a home with 20 other people.
Often our crews worked on properties confiscated for industrial development and our crews lived in old family homes that sometimes had occupied by those families for more than 100 years.

The 20 other people usually though were usually males.  I am female.  And we were 'at work' -- not living in a family situation.

I would say in that situation  privacy is the most important factor.  Even today-- as a retired person--I elect to live alone (with my dogs).  It was just too much invasion of privacy then.  Every one knew your personal business - who called you on the telephone -- what music you listened to.  On the plus side they guys I worked with usually went on to become professors of various kinds--so it was a motley crew of intellectuals of various sorts.  We were focused on the work and how to do what we had to do--so there were a lot of strategic discussions and usually there was a comradery and mutual respect.

The worst thing that can happen in a situation like this is sex.  When the situation becomes "relationships between people" rather than focused on 'work to be done' - chaos develops. 
Scott Reil


Joined: Jan 19, 2010
Posts: 179
Location: Colchester, CT
Yes Joel, that would have been a better word. Or Yangui-ze, if Mandarin is preferred over Cantonese. My use of a Japanese word was outside context, but within the spirit of the thought...

Wombat brings things back to the prime consideration of "what is your community about"? I think a strong central focus on the raison d'etre seems integral to keeping thing together; a loose confederacy of individuals gathered about some vague altruistic meme seems as doomed as a fart in a tornado; meaningless and fleeting. Humans are humans and will bring every human issue to the mix, but if your core ideas are sound and generally espoused, it seems you should be able to weather such events. Said events will crush the community without a shared paradigm to protect from such, IMO.

HG
Jeanine Gurley
steward

Joined: May 23, 2011
Posts: 1392
Location: Midlands, South Carolina Zone 7b/8a
    
  10
Jami McBride wrote: some people are energized by others, they need group interactions to be happy, while others are drained by people and need alone time to re-energize before reengaging.  I am the later.  It is vital that you know which you are so you can manage your needs and be a blessing to others at all times.....



Bingo, those are my beliefs exactly.  It is not that I totally hate everybody - if I did I wouldn't be here trying to connect with all of you.  It is that some peope seem to just suck you dry while others give off energy that is uplifting and re-energizing.  Some seem to need to get their energy fix from other people while others, like me, need to get it alone, outside, with the trees and the dirt.[table][/table]


1. my projects
Michael Grant


Joined: May 19, 2011
Posts: 13
Location: Northwest Missouri
An article at Monolithic talks about 3 generations in a single 11,000 square foot concrete house, and a lot of the same issues are brought up: a community account and community space, but a design that also allowed each family, and each family member some private space.

http://www.monolithic.com/stories/yumadome-a-multigenerational-monolithic-dome-home


"It's an odd quirk of human nature that once a man has made up his mind to be a farmer, he wants to get into action quickly, irrespective of the dozen and one factors involved."--Haydn S. Pearson, "Success on the Small Farm"
Suzy Bean
steward

Joined: Apr 05, 2011
Posts: 940
Location: Stevensville, MT
    
    8
Paul talks about the benefits and challenges of community living in his intentional community podcast: http://www.richsoil.com/permaculture/310-podcast-037-intentional-community/


www.thehappypermaculturalist.wordpress.com
                                


Joined: Aug 17, 2011
Posts: 98
Location: Eastern Colorado, USA
The toilet seat is always warm!
Jonathan Overlin


Joined: Jul 31, 2011
Posts: 22
great thoughts- may I steal (with attribution) some of these for our IC discussions currently ongoing?
Dale Hodgins
pollinator

Joined: Jul 28, 2011
Posts: 3816
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
    
  53
      Looking at this simply from the standpoint of resource allocation it makes sense. 100 years ago the average American home was about 40% as large as it is today and it held more than twice as many people. Larger numbers of children and extended families living together brought the numbers way up. So today there is approximately 6 times as much built space per person. Central heating and cooling have made this space a huge consumer of energy resources. In colder climates this space is kept 15° hotter than in previous generations as people no longer wear longjohns and a sweater. The advent of air conditioning has made Southern homes which previously consumed very little energy into some of the most energy intensive homes on the planet.

    When considering all of this energy wastage I think turning the clock back regarding the number of people in a home is a good start.


QUOTES FROM MEMBERS --- In my veterinary opinion, pets should be fed the diet they are biologically designed to eat. Su Ba...The "redistribution" aspect is an "Urban Myth" as far as I know. I have only heard it uttered by those who do not have a food forest, and are unlikely to create one. John Polk ...Even as we sit here, wondering what to do, soil fungi are degrading the chemicals that were applied. John Elliott ... O.K., I originally came to Permies to talk about Rocket Mass Heaters RMHs, and now I have less and less time in my life, and more and more Good People to Help ! Al Lumley...I think with the right use of permie principles, most of Wyoming could be turned into a paradise. Miles Flansburg... Then you must do the pig's work. Sepp Holzer
 
 
subject: the benifits of 20 people sharing a home
 
cast iron skillet 49er

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