Communal Living

Last night in small group there arose this discussion on community. How do we create a good one? How do we make ours better? Why is it important?

I’ll spare you the details because that’s not what I want to talk about. What I want to talk about is this idea put forth by one girl in our group in the midst of the discussion.

She said something along the lines of, “we should be grateful for the houses we live in and space we have for our families because millions of people in other countries aren’t afforded such things.”

I was instantaneously confounded, not by what she said (it’s true), but by this idea that all our lives we essentially work to buy bigger houses and more space for our families.

We get better jobs and purchase larger homes, even when we haven’t the slightest inkling with what to do with all our room.

I guess my question is, why do more American families not live communally? And do families in other countries (heck, other states) live communally because they have to, or because they want to?

I think it’s easy to assume they do it because they have to. That makes us feel better about our unnecessary square footage and mountainous mortgages we have piled up, but I’d like to know what the truth is.

Now we aren’t planning on buying a 12-bedroom home and inviting all the couples from our home group to move in (like these people). That would be madness. I just think the questions need to be asked.

I think it’s important to challenge the status quo even when nothing comes of it in the end. I think it’s important to question what we do and why we do it. I think Jesus thinks so too.

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I'm an aspiring freelance writer and blogger (which doesn't make a ton of sense when you think about it). I started a blog called Our Marriage Project and one about OSU called Pistols Firing. I love both of them, and I love my wife. And I love Kevin Durant, Explosions in the Sky, Tim Riggins, Blue Moon ale, Twitter, and the state of Georgia.

5 thoughts on “Communal Living”

  1. Wow! I think this is one of the first posts of yours that I have a response to–usually it's Jen's posts I respond to, but here we go.

    Brian and I have never desired (or been able to afford) a house bigger than 3 bedrooms. Because we decided that I would stay home with the kids, we sold our in-town house for a double-wide mobile home of 1200 sq ft . We lived/thrived there for 18 years–I think having a large outdoors helped compensate for the smaller indoors when it came to raising 3 kids in a smaller space. Our girls shared a bedroom, which I thought might be an issue, but they are very close–a surprising but much appreciated outcome! Since moving to Perry, and having only 1 child at home, we have been able to downsize to a 2 bedroom apartment that is small enough to vacuum the entire place without changing electrical outlets. Perfect for us, and we don't miss the stuff we got rid of in order to fit into 800 sq ft.

    Second, I've often wondered if a fully-functional family (definition?? Not sure there is one) could "foster" a "needy" family that could benefit from the daily exposure to good choices (i.e. financial, family time, nutrition, working for a living, etc.). Perhaps the host family could play a part in determining when the foster family was ready to go out on their own to independent & contributing to the community.

    Lastly, my mom recently became a widow and is in her 70's facing the fact that she might not be able to live on her own because she isn't currently ambulatory. I can see the benefit of co-housing for seniors. Some benefits could include someone to talk to, someone to watch out for health concerns, sharing living expenses, etc.

    Interesting topic. Just a few of my thoughts 🙂


    1. Another point in the Airstream column! I think we would definitely need to live outdoors for much of the day. Love the thoughts!

    2. And very good thoughts they are…

      Thanks for sharing that, Tina. I think, in some way, your words caused a shift in my mind on what my perception of all this is. Still internalizing though…

  2. Americans have often experimented with collective living. The post-Civil war period saw many Christian and/or romantic socialist communes and collectives. Examples include Owenites, Shakers, the Amana colonies and the Oneida community.

    The 1960’s saw another wave of experimentation in collective and communal living. One group, The Farm, has survived long enough to have their own site (

    Many families in NYC live in coops, in which the building is collectively owned by its tenants. Hippies they are not, but their collective ownership forces the owners to interact and act cooperatively more than they otherwise would.

    Multi-generational households were common before WWII. I suspect that Social Security and later Medicare alleviated the necessity for that arrangement.

    I also think it is good to be suspicious of and to question the status quo. Much of it has little to do with compassion or Christianity.

  3. Many other cultures CHOOSE to live comunally. I’ve experienced it. It’s AMAZING! I wish more people would choose to experience the joy of living comunally.

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