Thursday, April 23, 2009


The subject of co-housing has once again popped up on my radar. It has happened so often, and so regularly, over the past ten or fifteen years, I figure it has to be the universe or spirit tapping me on the shoulder, saying "Ah-hem! Don't forget about this - it's going to play an important role in your life one of these days!"

Right now it's my sister Carolyn whom spirit is speaking to, which is somewhat appropriate, since she inadvertently started this ball rolling, years and years ago. This particular sister loves to daydream, and during one vivid episode she actually drew up a scheme for a family compound, where each of us had our own small house, facing in towards a communal garden, but then there would be another building that we would all share, and it would have a craft room and workshop in it. It sounded kind of interesting at first, until she started talking about how we could all eat together every night. I decided that was just too much family togetherness, especially for my poor husband. I mean, what would we have to talk about after a while, other than each other? (and oh yeah, come to think of it, who in this group, besides me, actually likes to cook and garden?)

We lived on a company compound, in Indonesia, that had a similar set up. It was perfect except for one thing - it was a closed community. Everyone living there worked for the same company, and since we were out in the middle of the jungle, we didn't really have access to anyone else. So, you socialized with the same people you worked with, went to school with, went to church with, and hung out with, day in and day out, and saw the exact same people at every single party you went to, where the men always ended up talking about work, and the women mostly talked about - you guessed it - each other. But at least we weren't all related to each other. At least we got to hear a variety of family stories repeated over and over again, instead of the same three or four, all with me as the villain!

Some years later, after I had developed more of an eco-conscience, and was setting out on my quest for the good life, I came across the book A Reasonable Life, by Ferenc Mate'. In it he described the Danish concept of co-housing, and I had an "Aha!" moment. It was much like my sister's plan, only better, since each family would have their separate lives, jobs, interests, skills, and stories to tell. Some might be talented cooks, others avid gardeners. Some might enjoy working with children, while others might have a knack for making repairs. When you were feeling social you could go to the common house, when you weren't, you had the privacy of your own small home. Most importantly, not only was it a much better use of valuable resources, since so much was being shared, it also made you part of a community that watched out for one another. Brilliant!

Lately the subject has come up again amongst some of my midlife-blogging friends. Allison, over at Women Bloom, mentioned her dream of having a group of women living "in community," and I left a comment about co-housing on her blog, as a possible role model for them. Apparently, the subject of a female community struck a chord with many of the single women out there. I forwarded the link to my sister, who is single and reaching a point where she needs to decide how she is going to spend her golden years. That reminded her of our old conversations about co-housing, so she went on-line to see if there were any new developments in the co-housing world, since last we checked. Low and Behold! There is a new group forming in Dallas, near White Rock Lake, practically in her own backyard! Of course, it's not a females only community, and odds are it may be out of her price range, but if she could swing it, it might be the perfect solution to her dilemma: a way for a single woman to remain independent for as long as possible, having the support of a community, but also some control over her own life and decision-making. Keep your fingers crossed!

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