The Cost of Living in Community

crowded-newFor the last 10 months we have had a family live in our single family house with us. I’ve been meaning to write about it for a while. This last week they moved out and I wanted to share some things that I learned about the cost of community living. Before I do here are some general specs about our living situation: Our house is 2200 square feet and has 4 bedrooms and a den. There were 10 people living there. 6 of them were under 7 years old.

  • Kiss peace and quiet good bye. During this time I learned to live with headphones in. Kami wore earplugs more than mascara.  I also spent a lot of time using starbucks as my office.
  • There was a definite change in our definition of home. Having other people around all the time makes your home a little less of a “castle.” On weekends we found ourselves wanting to get out more to spend time as a family. We did a lot of eating out.
  • The lines between traditional roles and families become more blurry. We found that implementing a morning meeting with just our family became necessary so our family had a time to re-group and focus on our specific missions for the day and the teamwork that would implement them.
  • There is much more room to step on each others toes. “I like my laundry hang dried”, “who touched my espresso machine?”, “why are there always crumbs on the floor?”, “I like it 62 degrees”, “I like it 75 degrees.” These were all things that were heard around the house that we had to deal with in the last 10 months.

So, after 10 months of living together those are the the first things that come to mind. But, that is not the only category I am going to mention. I am also going to list what I have learned about since they have left. Another way of phrasing this may be “The Cost of NOT Living in Community”17360

  • Chores are done from a limited pool. With 10 people living in our house we were able to utilize the gifts of 10 people. In our house we had a teacher, an entrepreneur, a computer programmer, someone with access to unlimited organic produce, bread, and dairy and someone who enjoys planning and cooking meals using those ingredients, someone who enjoys doing laundry, someone who actually enjoys cleaning. The bottom line is this. During that 10 months our entire house was wired with CAT 5 cable, our computers were always fixed, our kids were given an excellent education, laundry was always folded, and meals were magically prepared. And for 10 people living in a crammed space it was done pretty dang efficiently. The best part of it was that people were able to focus on what they enjoyed doing.
  • It takes effort to hang out with people. Looking for a conversation, video game partner, someone to share a snack, looking to carpool to a meeting or the health club, need help moving furniture. With 10 people around you don’t need to go far. This is not even taking into account the kids. It was like, always having their best friends over. Seems like a small thing but it actually wasn’t.
  • Childcare is a pain. Honestly, when we first heard that the Rubatinos would be moving out my first thought was “How are we going to survive?” For 10 months we have been able to leave the house at most any time, at the drop of the hat. 10 minute errands are no longer a nightmare. The potential to go out for the night after you put the kids to bed after 8pm increases 10 fold because all you need is a pulse in the house in case something goes wrong. And since that pulse lives there, no big.
  • You pay for everything yourself. Between mortgage and utilities I am estimating that we collectively saved about $19,000 in 10 months, as a direct result of our families living together. This is not taking into account food and childcare costs and the value that came from that.  In a recession $19k saved is $19k earned. You know how I said earlier that we ate out on weekends a lot more? Now you know how we justified it.
  • Not having community makes you weird. You ever wonder why people that have been single until they are 50 only get along with cats? Or have you been around that one married couple that has the same argument regardless of whether or not they are discussing divorce or Dorito flavors? Well, it’s a lot harder to be crazy when you are forced to learn how to play with others. I know that Kami and I each have our idiosyncrasies as individuals and as a couple and having other people who are exposed to our life helped us to gain some perspective on both good and bad habits that have built up over time.

So, there you have it. When most people think of community living they think of the cost. For us Americans it is an invasion that seems to have no benefit. Well, now we have seen both sides and we are currently learning about the cost of NOT living in community.

If I had to do it all over again, I would do it in a heart beat. To those that are wondering, the Rubatinos and Crawfords separated on great terms and they moved half a mile away so although we don’t share the same kitchen and washing machines we still hope to take advantage of their community.

Thanks Jeff and Rainbow for enduring life with the Crawfords. We miss you guys already and are going to be adjusting for a while.

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11 Comments

Filed under Culture, Family

11 responses to “The Cost of Living in Community

  1. JLP

    Great summary of your experience. You all did well, learning to live and care for one another. Well done!

  2. Kelly

    Hey Ben I don’t know you guys that well but from what I saw of your community it was pretty special. I so love the life of intermingling families. It is a special blessing that allows everyone to grow when it works. Now you will be hooked, choose your second family with care, they are never the same.

  3. Kami

    I heart Rainbow & Jeff.
    I couldn’t have summarized it better myself, babe.

  4. rainbow

    that’s just sweet.

    way to be sweet ben.

    I agree on almost every count. We didn’t want to move in nessicarily, but we knew it was what God wanted us to do… and it was just the same with moving out. I’ve missed you guys so much since we left that I just have to keep coming over to your house all the time, but I enjoy establishing my own place and working together with my family all of the time. I feel like once we were a little healthier as people community living would be mostly pros and just a few cons. I would especially be big on a dorm-type house with separate spaces for families but a community kitchen and living areas.

    all that to say, i hope we can live with you guys again sometime:)

  5. j

    It’s CAT 6 cable.

  6. Wow, what a great post! I’ve watched people become nuttier and crazier in their isolation as their families have changed and kids grown up, moved out, etc.

    We need others to stay sane!

  7. Jason

    Wow. Beautiful testimony to the blessing side of communal living. We need more champions of this message. Thank you.

  8. Rainbow and Jeff, did you guys help make Ben sweeter? If so, thanks!

  9. Heather

    Love the summary of this. It is such an intriguing concept to me. I have a friend in GA who opens their basement up to their friends. They have a little more seperate areas than you guys do, but they do a lot of life together. I sometimes wish & pray for this for us (I don’t know if Chris would agree however). I think it is amazing to hear how people break out of our society’s individualistic ways and succeed! Thanks for sharing.

  10. I currently have the same opinion about living in community as I do about homeschooling, but I’m glad it was a good experience for you all.

  11. Ben,

    My family is currently experiencing living in community and really love it. When you look at the book of Acts, we see that aspects of living in community are simply the way we as Christians should be living anyways.

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