Intentional Communities and Co-housing

 

 

 

Two weeks ago I visited the Lake Claire Community Land Trust  (pictured here), with some friends to see an intentional community up close and personal. Lake Claire is located in Atlanta, GA and I was given a tour of the property by Robert Pue who lives there.  I visited to learn more about Intentional Communities and co-housing since I just formed an intentional community group with a charity I’m a board member of, The Action Not Words Project. You can read more about the tour later in this article.

 

What is an Intentional Community?

An Intentional Community (IC) is a community of like-minded people that live together sharing land and resources in an eco-village, co-housing community, residential or community land trust, commune, cooperative living, or other type of alternative community. People living in an IC usually have a common vision of living healthy, sharing resources, being debt-free, and being involved in the community.  Here are some examples of what intentional communities do:

  • Buy land together as a group and build individual homes (co-housing)
  • Grow food together by creating a garden or farm.
  • Build affordable, small eco-homes to eliminate debt and live a simpler life.
  • Environmentally conscious, building with natural materials (earth bag, storage containers, etc.)

From reading message boards and talking to different people that live in ICs I’ve learned that most communities have:

  • Houses built close together and share a courtyard or common area.
  • A shared community house that is the center of all group activity.
  • Shared common meals once or twice a month.
  • Residents do a few hours of land maintenance each week.
  • Residents volunteer together as a community.
  • A garden or farm.

 

How to Start an Intentional Community

There are many things to consider when starting an IC. What type pf people do you want as residents? How much land to buy?  What type of housing to build? How do you run a community? I highly suggest you check out the Fellowship for Intentional Community Organization’s website. The site has tons of information on how to get started and lists communities in the U.S.  Check for ICs in your area and arrange to visit one like I did.  Ask plenty of questions to decide if living this alternative lifestyle is a good fit for you and your family.

Why I Want to Live in an Intentional Community

Close Knit Community 

What’s important to me is to live surrounded by people who want to help each other and the community.  I want to nurture and be nurtured by a group of people in a sustainable living community. This would be an extension of what I already do in my regular life which centers on being an active volunteer for several charities. I very much miss living in a close knit neighborhood like where I grew up, where everyone knew my family and we helped each other.

Help the Working Poor

I want to provide affordable housing for the working poor that have jobs and live out of motels or in cars. You would be surprised the number single moms and kids living in this situation. Moving people to an IC is a great idea since the economy is unstable and so many people are struggling. Housing will be inexpensive. The costs of building a house will cost $3,000-$10,000, depending on which natural building method is utilized.

Live in a Small Earth Bag Home or Other Type Natural Home and Have No Mortgage

Intentional Communities and Co-housing

I want to build and live in small 500-600 square foot earth bag home or other type of natural home, similar to this example above I saw on a natural building blog. Earth bag homes are made of sturdy sacks filled with soil, gravel, or volcanic stones. They can be built quickly with minimal equipment, and are very sturdy. More info about earth bag homes is here. Using earth materials to build houses isn’t new; it’s been done for more than 10,000 years with adobe (mud brick) and rammed earth.  This will cost about $2,000-$7,000. I also have researched other natural house options: straw bale, cob, earth ship, and storage containers. Another member of my IC group wants to build a storage container home. It’s possible I may change my mind and build a container home.

 

Have a Community Garden or Farm

I want to live in an environmentally conscious community where permaculture techniques will be used to grown an organic garden and/or farm. This preserves the soil for centuries so other people can benefit. I already live a lifestyle where I eat and grow organic vegetables. I grow tomatoes, okra, sweet potatoes, beets, and basil.

Permaculture is a self-maintained agricultural system that is great for preserving the environment. Amongst the many environmental benefits is good healthy soil which allows for the most nutritious food to be grown.  Healthy food allows people to heal and be healthy. Many people suffer from allergies and other aliments because most of the soil that grows food is severely lacking in nutrients. Add GMOs to this mix and our poor soil and crops are taking quite a beating.

 

My Visit to Lake Claire Community

The Lake Claire Community visit was wonderful.  Robert has been living there for more than 15 years. He showed us the gardens, the stone arena where drumming takes place every month, and the sweat lodge where he leads sweat ceremonies.  Robert lives in small cabin right next to the community land trust along with other neighbors that live in small cabins. By small, I mean, around 250 square feet.  His place smelled of incense and had lots of good energy. It had a sink and bathroom. His home was too small for me, I’m a bit claustrophobic!  It’s good to look at a small home in person to see if it’s possible for you to live in a small space.

Across from where he lived were bigger, traditional looking homes that appeared to be about 1,000 square feet. (I didn’t get a chance to go inside a house). There was a common courtyard that connected all of the homes.

It was an informative tour and at the end Robert gave me a beautiful tiger’s eye stone! BTW, tiger’s eye stone was used for clarity, insight, and protection by Roman soldiers. Today, it’s commonly used for meditation.

 

What’s Really Important in Life

Intentional Communities and Co-housing

 

This is the most important reason why I want to live in an intentional community. Life is about getting in touch with what’s really important, to think about your higher purpose.  My daily living is part of bringing myself closer to my higher purpose of helping people and not just thinking of myself. Some people think the best way to live is living in a big house and acquiring lots of material things to go in it. I used to think that way.  I admit to being spoiled, hell I’m known for my excessive shoe collection. I have several cars and live in a big home.  But shortly before my mom died I realized that none of that stuff mattered as much as building memories with loved ones. In fact, nothing truly belongs to us anyway. We don’t take it with us when we die. We simply are stewards of things–houses, cars, the earth, animals—until other people become stewards of them next. Happiness has absolutely nothing to do with having lots of money and how much stuff you have. That’s when I decided to form an IC.

I’ve come to believe that there is spiritual freedom in living simply.  And financial freedom too!

What things can you do if you don’t have to worry about a big mortgage?  Would you be able to spend more time with family?

 Possible Options

  • Explore new career options, chose a more enjoyable career.
  • Afford to travel more.
  • Work part-time to spend more time with kids.
  • Homeschool kids
  • Save more money!

Your life will center on living it and not just existing in it.

 

How I’m Preparing To Live in a Simpler Way

Intentional Communities and Co-housing

Several  years ago before I researched ICs I saw Jay Shafer, of Four Lights Tiny House Company (formerly of Tumbleweed Tiny Houses), on Oprah’s show. At the time of the show Jay wasn’t an intentional community developer. (He just formed an IC community—a tiny house village in Sonoma County, CA, opening in 2015.) He’s part of a growing tiny house movement where people live in 100-300 square foot homes or slightly bigger. I knew that a house that small wouldn’t work for me and decided that a 500-600 square foot home was more realistic for my comfort.

In preparation for living in a smaller space I have started selling and giving away non-essential things. AND, most importantly, I “live in” only three rooms in my house —the kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom—to see how I can function in a smaller home.  It’s not been bad at all with few problems.  The hardest thing is going to be not being able to have all of my extensive art collection in my home. I will put some of it in the community house that everyone will share at the IC property.  I haven’t dealt with what to do with my shoe collection, but will figure it out before I move! (I didn’t add my bedroom closet to the living space listed above since I moved essential items from there into my bedroom.) I put my office in my bedroom which wasn’t hard to do as I’m not junky and throw things out all the time. I cataloged all items in my home and keep a journal to keep track of my thoughts  and be mindful of what’s really important to me  in a living space, as well as on a deeper level . Before anyone takes a big leap into this lifestyle, this type of gradual transitioning will reveal if you can live this way long-term.

Also, finding the right people to live with in the IC is essential and hasn’t been difficult for me. The people choosing to live with me are loving, kind, health-minded, community-oriented people. The group consists of people from my church and from the non-profit I’m a board member of. Other people involved have been referred by this core group of people.

Stay tuned for my progress in this project. I’m preparing now to apply for land grants and get building material donations.

Anyone in the Atlanta area that’s interested in joining the community please post a comment below or here, or send an email to: healthpstyle (at) gmail (dot) com