Someone I know recently mentioned that he lives in a micro-commune. As you can imagine, my curiosity was peaked and I did a bit of research. Unfortunately, I was not able to find much information about micro-communes but there is a wealth of information dealing with large communes.
A commune is described as “an intentional community of people living together, sharing common interests, property, possessions, resources, and, in some communes, work and income. Andrew Jacobs of The New York Times wrote that, contrary to popular misconceptions, “most communes of the ’90s are not free-love refuges for flower children, but well-ordered, financially solvent cooperatives where pragmatics, not psychedelics, rule the day.” There are many contemporary intentional communities all over the world, a list of which can be found at the Fellowship for Intentional Community. A mirco-commune is a scaled down and more intimate version of this way of life.”
The young man I interviewed for this post preferred to remain anonymous but otherwise was very candid in answering my questions about the micro-commune way of life.
How did you choose who to join you in the micro-commune?
I chose two very close friends whose values and expectations aligned very well with mine. I wouldn’t have attempted this with strangers.
After living on your own, was it a huge adjustment to truly “share” a space and resources?
Actually, I was previously living with a good friend and, before that, with two good friends. I like living with others and so, in this sense, creating our ‘commune’ did not threaten my privacy or comfort.
Does living with a family who has a newborn feel in someway like being a new parent yourself?
Not quite! I get to play the spoiling uncle rather than the role of a true parent. That said, I do help take care of the kid from time to time and would like to think that I help raise him in a small way.
Will you choose to build your own family within a commune?
Ah yes, this is the million dollar question. With the right people, I would absolutely do so. But finding the right people is hard.
How has the experience been for you?
Wonderful. Definitely the best decision I made in 2011. Living with others – toward the same ends – has added so much joy and purpose to my life outside of work.
Since you are living in a “mico-commune”, does that increased intimacy make it seem more like a selected family?
It does – it definitely feels more like a family than a larger commune.
Do you truly share all resources, or just a portion? I was trying to get my head around depositing my pay into a totally shared account. I do so with my husband but I see that as a slightly different situation. Even so, I still have a couple of accounts that are separate.
Great question. We do not pool together our incomes, but rather pay for things together, such as rent, groceries, and so on.
What has been the best part of your experience and what is the most challenging?
The best part has simply been ‘doing life’ and feeling like part of a family for the first time since I went to college. I do of course feel close to my biological family. Yet to feel like ‘part of a family’ on a daily basis, for me, means that I do life with those people. And my current living situation does exactly that. On the flip side, I don’t experience significant challenges with our arrangement. I could imagine some people struggling with sharing, making group decisions, getting used to others’ living styles and expectations, and so on.
If you are able to build a community of complimentary characters and needs, is that more fulfilling than living life based on a pairing? I find it puts incredible pressure on people to demand all needs be met by one person. What’s your thoughts?
Agreed, Sherry. Married life seems really tough to me if it occurs without the support of a close-knit community. I would never, for example, date someone that doesn’t already have a close circle of supportive friends. It’s too much to expect that one person will be able to meet most (much less all) of my needs, and vice versa. Community living can indeed take the pressure off of any one person to be ‘perfect’.
What do you consider socially conscious living?
For me, socially conscious living is living in such a way that does no net harm to the environment or to others. That’s a very high bar; I’m not even close yet.
After this interview, I did some more research and found this interesting blog post from Joseph McCluskey:
“Can you imagine living in a 4 bedroom, 2 bath home or larger with at least 4 adults and possibly a child or two? Can you imagine living with these people to explore your own ability to get along with others? The whole idea would be to move in, live in peace, and then move on. Most people don’t ever have the opportunity for the personal growth opportunity that this idea offers. In the face of the many complex issues that come up around living with persons not of your immediate family, the Micro Commune simply offers a personal growth experience unlike anything else.”
Micro-community living is an intriguing concept and I can see how it can be very appealing and beneficial from an economic and social perspective. As extended families dwindle and disperse across the country, online communities have taken the place of actual connections. Communal living can be a way to reconnect and tune in to the world around you.According to an article by Stephen Marche , “Social media—from Facebook to Twitter—have made us more densely networked than ever. Yet for all this connectivity, new research suggests that we have never been lonelier (or more narcissistic)—and that this loneliness is making us mentally and physically ill. We are living in an isolation that would have been unimaginable to our ancestors, and yet we have never been more accessible.”
Craig Ragland, the executive director of the Cohousing Association, said: “Some people are looking at these communities as a lifeboat. The thinking is, if I’m surrounded by people who care about me, I’m less likely to crash and burn.”
Perhaps the micro-commune way of life can be a salvation for the lonely and disconnected amongst us.
- Is Facebook making us lonely (Stephen Marche, The Atlantic)
- A Modern Answer to the Commune (Penelope Green, New York Times)
- To Your Left, A Better Way of Life (Chris Colin, New York Times)
- Photographs by Michael Nagle for The New York Times
I am weaving my own path to enlightenmentas a leader, blogger, mentor and non-profit champion. Want to share your experience and point of view? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Categories: Professional Development