Thursday, 8 December 2011

Everyone Needs Good Neighbours: How 1 Month of Co-Housing Changed Us

Preparing for a communal Christmas
And so it begins, our new adventure. We arrived, 1 month ago, crashing down crazily into a different world, amidst new people, places and procedures. We are not alone any more, we are one.

I never could have imagined us here, not really. I may have dreamt of such a thing but then thought about it in real terms and dismissed it almost instantly. Let's face it, I'm a bit of a loner, a maverick, an inconstant. I love my friends and (some of!) my family, but I am not naturally extroverted. I prefer to shy away inside my shell and look after my own accounts for the most part.

So why on earth would we consider living in an intentional community? Well, if you look at it this way, our lives were crying out for it for all the reasons I've given above. And above all, we have always loved the idea of community - one that is mostly and sadly missing from life as we know it these days. It's just that, like most, we had these preconceptions about what it might be like. I thought I would feel stifled, put-upon, awkward, expected to follow rules and rotas and join in all the time. I thought I'd have to compromise too much and struggle to just be myself when I needed to be, to breathe, to be independent.

A not-so captive audience!
 Perhaps some communities are like that, but here, we are not. The core belief is "freedom with respect", so basically you are free to do as you like, but remember that your actions have the potential to upset others if you don't think them through or discuss with others as appropriate. Hey, that's just like 'real' life should be to me, but it isn't, is it?!

Trelay is a co-housing community, so we all have our own private spaces as well as shared areas such as the farmhouse lounge and kitchen and the laundry. In real terms none of us 'own' our properties and as such we are responsible for them mutually, so if work needs done we are all expected to muck in if we are able, in whatever way we can. 

And so we have changed. Some days we still like to do our own thing and look after ourselves first and foremost, but mostly we are out there, doing our bit, helping the community at large along. Whether it's baking bread for everyone in the farmhouse kitchen or buying in bananas, repairing pig fencing or digging and planting up new beds in the polytunnel, we are there and loving it. As are the kids! 

I have never seen Father Earthly so purposefully happy. In this day and age we can feel disempowered so easily, and as a result lapse into bad habits (spending too much time on the computer or in front of the TV), and generally sink into feeling that the world is a pretty pointless, worthless and unhappy place. Coming here has changed that for us. I'm not saying we don't have our bad days but having like-minded, positive and vibrant people around has made an enormous difference. Life is easier and yet more fulfilling, more joyous, more meaningful.

Above all I have seen our mindset change on who we choose to interact with and why. Before, I saw little point in making the effort with someone who was clearly very different to me in their values/outlook/interests, but being a member within an intentional community has changed this, mainly because everyone here has a shared goal, or goals. So whilst there are a diverse selection of people from all walks of life and with a wide gamut of interests and beliefs, we have a common interest which is for us all to get on and achieve wonderful things together! That doesn't mean we all have to be bosom pals and equally it does not prevent friction or arguments from breaking out - we are human after all. But having a shared vision helps us to sort things out more easily and amicably, to the benefit of all. 

Isn't this how the wider world should be?

Playing the piano together
What's more, I used to think of communities as potentially quite insular, and this isn't the case here. Perhaps because of our values, we interact and co-exist peacefully and meaningfully with our neighbours - they come to events and special dinners, we use local veg and grocery suppliers, do meat swaps (pork for beef etc) and help run the parish council. Our nearest farmer looks after our sheep for us and maintains some of our land. We get involved with local plays and societies and events, both as individuals and as a group. It's all really rather lovely :)

Intentional communities, and in particular co-housing groups, are on the increase as more and more cotton on to a way of life that is sustainable, affordable, accessible, fulfilling, meaningful and heartwarming. If you'd like to give it a try, why not come and help as a volunteer, or attend an interest weekend or other event?

We have all just spent a lovely weekend making and baking for Christmas. It's been like being part of a big, happy family - all enjoying getting stuck in and helping each other and remembering what Christmas is actually about. I'm so pleased my kids have this environment to grow up in and thrive - I can't think of any better education for them.


  1. WOW, it sounds like you absolutely made the right decision! We are looking forward to doing some volunteering in communities ourselves next year... and you are certainly selling it to us!!! x

  2. Yay!! I think you absolutely should and I can't wait to hear about your experiences :) xx

  3. Lucky you! Well done for your courageous move, isn't that how we should all be living?

  4. Absolutely!! I wish more than anything that we could live like this in the wider world, without fear and mistrust and selfishness ;/


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...