How to Fail at Intentional Community


Posted on : 8:58 AM | By : Anonymous | In : ,

Intentional community is something that I have gotten asked about a lot.  It's when a bunch of people who would be strangers, decide to live together.  The truth is that most intentional communities fail. In fact, they've all failed eventually.  The only communities that have survived past the lifetimes of the founders are large ancient cities like Rome and Cairo.  This doesn't bode well for intentional communities because those survived based on trade and geographic location.

But, they serve a purpose for those who start them, even if they don't last.  I live in a kind of unique situation.  I temporarily live in a house with my family and two other people, one who was an acquaintance and one a stranger.  We share the kitchen, the pots and pans, the fridge.  While it could be a 'community', it is not.  It is a mutually beneficial arrangement for monetary rewards.

But it (and other arrangements in which I've lived with extended family) have taught me the rules of living with others.  I have to say, everyone in the house respects these rules without fail.
1.  Don't share food.
2. Keep the kitchen clean.  This means if someone didn't quite have time to clean up their plate before work, and you do, clean it.  Then the next time around they'll do the same for you.  If you're in the kitchen, make it clean.
3. Communicate pet peeves.  We've used sticky notes like, "Please avoid putting the anodized pans in the dishwasher! *smiley face*"  or face to face.
4.  Keep common areas clean (and other areas as well).  
5.  Everyone in the house fortunately sleeps in at any opportunity, and when they are early risers for work, everyone is pretty quiet.  The point is, respect everyone's schedule.
6.  Shared laundry facilities can be tricky.  I have to do quite a bit of laundry - 5-7 loads a week.  I simply don't do laundry on other people's weekends or after work hours.  
7.  Mutual respect.  It doesn't really matter who you live with as long as everyone has mutual respect for each other.  

That said, I had wanted to live in an intentional community for a long time.  But the experience of living with others is not the same as the ideal.  This temporary arrangement is just that - temporary, and then we will have a private residence.  I am not sure that humans are meant to live in the same house or share vital necessities.  Sharing food or goods works for a few cultures, I suppose, but even then, they have private property.  Community is not living with people, but finding companionship and mutual respect among people that are different.

The way to fail at intentional community?  Live in one.  Eventually all intentional communities and communes reach a point in which people simply get tired.  It's not really a failure... it's just that what needed to be learned, has been learned.

Comments (2)

Just to say, thank you, I really like this blog! Chimes with many ideas we're batting around my neck of the woods (North East UK).

Mind if I stick around for a bit?

Sure thing!

And thanks for liking my blog. :)