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On Households

This post is public, because it's an important concept.

Group living isn't for everyone. However, as long as you're willing to keep your drama low and cooperation high, living in with a pile of friends can be a great way to save money and have people there to cover your back. As I get older, having roomies went from being nice to have for games and parties to being essential for ER trips, vacation planning, and general sanity checking.

Some sources act like intentional communities like my household are all super planned out and some sort of egalitarian commune fuzzy warm consensus utopia with written rules and nifty little lists. Horse pucky. In reality, the house rules grow organically, based on what works and what really matters, and the longest residents tend to put them in place. Consensus, meetings, voting and all that? No, things get hashed out with one or the other long timers acting as a mediator, and things settle into place. It's not perfect, but a lot less time consuming.

The most important things to have a good idea about are money and space.

Money: The bills have to be paid, or the thing dies an ugly death, with a lot of bitterness all around. One or more financial "anchors" are needed, so that if the rest get their butts kicked by the economy and Murphy's law, the bills still get paid. A household bank account with at least two signers on it is a start. Rent, utilities, and essential supplies get paid out of this account. A rainy day fund is really good to have, too. People should note that *anyone* can deposit cash to a checking account if they know the number. If people don't like banks for their own money, that's fine, they just hand the "banker" their share, or deposit it to the house account. Because of weird asset rules, people on disability or other public assistance should not be signers on the household account, but should pay their rent and utility share to the "banker" (the government assumes that if you own something in joint, you own it all.)

Space: Unless a couple is a long term couple, each person should have their own room (even if it's the former living room.) Space is important in joint housing, and shouldn't be intruded on without permission. Open vs closed doors count for a lot, and ideally even converted living room residents need to have some way to "close the door". (We're still trying to fix this in our house.) Another factor is bathrooms. IMO, there needs to be one seat for every two to three butts. Six butts and one seat is very bad, and even four butts and one seat is annoying. Even if one of the seats is attached to someone's room, in an emergency it is still available. I would love to have a 12 bedroom house with four to six bathrooms.

Other matters: sound, drama, stuff, and food. Don't mix loud people with quiet people - it just causes arguments. Don't have drama queens in low drama households - it leads to resentment when everyone is always focused on one person's issues. Felix Unger and Oscar Madison don't work - messies and neat freaks are not compatible. Vegetarians/vegans and omnivores/carnivores don't mix either - food wars suck.

Best advice - be friends first, and know how the others live. Don't move in with strangers unless you're desperate. In housemate situations, opposites are like gasoline vapor and a lit match. Your housemates and you should have common interests, and compatible religions and politics. Not identical, but compatible. You need to have common ground besides talking about who didn't wash their dishes last night. Remember to give each other space and alone time, as well as hang out together time.

Also, as people move out/move on, which many will in time, keep in touch. Householding is spreading virally, IMO. When it works, it is a great way to live. When it doesn't - it blows apart.

EDIT: crossposted to householding


( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 20th, 2009 07:57 pm (UTC)
Is there an LJ community relating to this?

If not, you should start one.
Feb. 20th, 2009 08:13 pm (UTC)
thank you very very much for stating the obvious..

it is good to read it and i agree you might want to start an lj for intentional households and the coping skills one needs to live in one. or to run one
Feb. 20th, 2009 08:23 pm (UTC)
On drama mavens - one thing some folks who are usenet/LJ savvy can relate to is the following: you do not dump your drama shit in someone elses space. Flamewars and resentful feelings are extremely difficult, if not impossible, to clean up.

You have some very excellent ideas here. I agree with the above commenters - start a community for people who need to learn how, especially in these times, to live in a communal or household setting.

From experience I know it can be a wonderful way to share expenses and such, but I also know that two bad experiences in a row can sour you completely on even trying it again, so know your strengths and stick to your guns if you are the primary.
Feb. 20th, 2009 08:29 pm (UTC)
You should either start an LJ community or WP blog, or write a book. I think that this really is a viral thing.

Would curtains solve your 'door' issue? I am sure you could find both an elegant and practical solution, depending on how your living room is configured.

When I was in the military and living in the dorm, the configuration of the dorms was two private rooms with a connecting bathroom. The 2:1 ratio worked fine. All we had to do was coordinate shower/bath schedules. The dorm also had a dayroom which was the common area, as well as a snack prep area with a microwave. We had mini-fridges in our rooms. For anything fancier than a snack, we had to go to the dining room or airmans club.

The first sergeant put the noisy people on one end of the floor and the quiet people on the other. It worked, for the most part.
Feb. 20th, 2009 08:43 pm (UTC)
I'm the one in "the space without doors." And actually, I don't particularly mind it all that much, partly from having grown up in a large, poor family where 4 kids shared 1 room, then living in share houses and squats as a teen, then living in a berthing compartment with 50 other sailors. You get used to it.

We're working out a solution still. That's one of the things that makes our situation work, such as it does... we do focus more on solving things than perpetuating problems.
Feb. 20th, 2009 08:57 pm (UTC)
I'm a solver, not a perpetuator- and solver would probably be my role in any communal situation. Can't stand dramatic people- mostly because I had to share a few places with such people. They could make a production out of nearly anything, and would get mad if you ignored them.

It's really funny- at tech school, the Army people envied us because we were in dorms with two roomies to a room- they had open bay dorms. And we envied NCOs who got their own room, and only had to share a bathroom. And everyone envied the married people who got to live either off-base or in base housing.

I got used to it, but never really liked it. I found lots of little places to hide out when I needed undisturbed solitude. Oddly enough- I live in a duplex apartment. My apartment is my own, but I can hear the noise of neighbors coming and going. That doesn't bother me at all- it's even a little comforting.

Feb. 20th, 2009 09:24 pm (UTC)
Thanks for posting this.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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