People don’t always say the word, but they often allude to it. “I’m too busy for friends.” “Since kids, we don’t get out with adults often.” “My children live far away and they have their own lives.” “My friends are all in a different place in life than me, so it’s hard to connect.” “I’d like to get get to know more people, but I feel anxious around new people…It’s easier to stay home.” We’re lonely.
We’ve designed our lives to be isolated. We run around like crazy, just trying to make ends meet.
(For more on this, see my earlier post The Rat Race Ain’t for Humans). We’re trying to pay for the house, or the rent, which is always increasing (unlike our salaries). It’s what we’ve all been working for, right? Independence? Our own space? If so, then why are we so lonely? In a previous post I spoke about what really matters to us (See What’s Worth Digging For?). For most people, family and relationships matter most, but it’s difficult to invest in them because we’re too busy trying to make enough money to afford to live.
It’s time to re-think our living situations.
At various times in our lives, we may live with parents/caregivers, siblings, dorm roommates, housemates, boyfriend or girlfriend, partner or spouse, with kids, and then, randomly alone. But even when you’re surrounded by your partner and kids, many feel a lack of adult connection and friendship. Loneliness has serious health consequences. So what are our options? In a previous post called What do Adults do for Fun?, I spoke about some ways to connect. Check out some more in the book Block Parties & Poker Nights by Peggy Allen* But there is a way to be even more intentional about connecting with others. It involves your living arrangements. Here are a few ideas:
This might be a friend who needs a space for a bit with some emotional support; an international student who can share themselves and sometimes their unique food with you and your family; or it might be an older family member who wants to be independent but is feeling too isolated on their own. This might mean transforming an office or guest room into a rental room as needed. This might mean a basement suite or ‘granny suite’ above the garage. In my experience with roommates (approximately 27 over the years), I’ve found that clearly written expectations are crucial to a positive living experience, no matter how well you know the other person. It is also important to have regular house meetings in order resolve minor issues and tweak your agreement. I think it is also equally important to make time to have fun together. Relationships take fun (not just work), and having fun together will keep everyone from becoming isolated from each other. This can happen, even when you live in the same house!
We’ve talked to friends at various times about buying an apartment and having friends all live in the suites. We haven’t don’t that, yet. We rented half a duplex from friends who lived in the other half. That was fun when they had toddlers who would wander up the stairs for an occasional visit. We have friends who purchased a duplex and sold the other half to friends, this reduces any stress from the landlord rental relationship. Buying property with friends, and building your own homes on it, is also not uncommon.
As far as official housing co-operatives, if you google “housing co-ops” and the name of your city, you’ll find all kinds already in existence. Surprisingly, the provincial government actually provides a guide to starting a housing co-operative in this province.
Living intentionally, within close geographical proximity to friends or family is probably the most common way of living in community. We live on a block with four other families who are friends. We share backyards with three of them. This took several years to develop. We started with two families, and as houses came up for sale, more friends moved in. We’ve been able to share childcare, a safe space for kids to play, garage space, garden space, the use of luxuries we might never had access to on our own (a hot tub, trampoline, sauna, etc.) and we have adult friends, right next door, or in our yard.
Communal Retirement Living
A former teacher and her friends bought cabins within close proximity to each other with the intention of retiring there and sharing the cost of hiring extra help as they grew older. They did this to prolong their independence and ensure they were in the place they chose with the people they chose.
There are many options. For a great book on living with others, which includes worksheets for establishing goals, vision, etc. check out Creating a Life Together – Practical Tools to Grow Ecovillages and Intentional Communities.* It might sound a bit extreme if you’re not looking for ‘clothing optional communal life’ (just kidding) but there are some great ideas for working out the details of co-habiltation.
*Please note: I have signed on as an affiliate sales person for McNally Robinson which means that if you click on the above link, and decide to purchase the book I’ve recommended, I will receive an affiliate’s fee. I only recommend books I have read and believe to be worth recommending.
Also check out What do Adults do for Fun?
For more on living your values see What’s Worth Digging For? Finding your Values
See also Drowning in School-Work