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The Benefits of Communal Living

Updated on April 13, 2015

As some of you know I used to own and run a boarding house in Portland, Oregon. I did this for ten years. It was a different kind of lifestyle, a pleasant lifestyle, an unusual lifestyle and I must say a convenient lifestyle.

Now I'm living in Manhattan. One of the reasons I think I love Manhattan so much is that I enjoy people. This was also the reason the boarding house worked out. I never wanted to live alone with my son in a single family home. I thought it would be too lonely and too boring. So recently I started thinking about the lifestyle and to tell you the truth I miss it. Someday I might return to it and it got me thinking about what makes for a successful community.

The communal lifestyle's main advantages are economic, social and strangely enough independence. Let me explain.


Economically, if two can live as cheaply as one, seven to twelve can make a killing! Many hands make light work and many people allow for an inexpensive yet abundant life. Not only will you save on the rent or mortgage but buying food in bulk saves an incredible amount of money. In addition, the utilities like heat and air run whether there are 2 people in the house or 12. One area that does usually run higher is the water bill (if you own the house, if not no worries). However, there are ways to reduce that bill as well, it's called rainwater harvesting!


Socially, living with a half a dozen to a dozen people can be quite interesting. For one thing, you are never lonely, there is always someone to do things with and talk to. If you like people it can be quite nice. The key here is to fill your house with people you like and have things in common. It used to be, not so long ago, that this was a common way to live, albeit with relatives. Still it was unusual for people to dwell alone, nowadays it seems that everyone lives alone, drives alone and sometimes works alone, we are a lonely country! There are now more single people in the United States than married. I think all of this lonesomeness is detrimental to our mental health. I think what we need is community and this is one way to have it.


Thirdly, independence, yes,independence can be a direct result of living communally. But,independence from what? Independence from the grid, (or the system) can be achieved through communal living. With several people one can manage a garden, several chickens, maybe a cow or goat or two and create homemade food that hasn't been infused with frankenfoods that have ingredients that you can hardly pronounce or made up in a lab somewhere. With several members an alternative energy source can be maintained. This can be very difficult if not impossible with only one or two people but with many it can be done with ease.

Finally, living communally satisfies many problems that plague our modern day American society. We spend too much, we are isolated and we are dependent upon the government too much for services. We have lost the art of community, the art of conversation, the art of working together for a common goal of living and laughing and sitting down at a table to have dinner. In the old days we had sewing bees and barn-raisings, we had quilting parties and canned food together, today we pass in the night as strangers and are the poorer for it. In any case, communal living is worth considering, I should know, I've done it!

Do you think that you would like to live communally?

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    • Brie Hoffman profile image

      Brie Hoffman 5 years ago from Manhattan

      Good for you, I hope it works out.

    • Tealparadise profile image

      Tealparadise 5 years ago

      Great hub. As a 22 year old and an only child, I grew up alone for the most part. As I come of age to think about my own future family, I realize that I don't understand why my parents chose this path. Was it just by default? Was it because they couldn't get along with housemates? Is it a mark of wealth? Regardless- I don't think the advantages to living alone are enough. I hope to move in with some friends and hopefully live that way long term.

    • profile image

      CJ Sledgehammer 6 years ago

      Thanks, Brie, I've got to run for now, but I will return in short order to read more of your goodies. :0)

    • Brie Hoffman profile image

      Brie Hoffman 6 years ago from Manhattan

      Thanks for commenting C.J. Sledghammer. I ran a boarding house for 10 years and in that time you develop a sense about a person. That intuition goes a long way. But, other than that..always check references and then make a list of must haves and must have nots, make sure to keep the list fairly short because if its too restrictive you will be living alone. That's the best you can do as nothing will be perfect. As far as getting rid of someone, I wrote a little about that in how to get rid of the roommate from HELL! There are ways..but the gist of it is to make them want to leave.

      I agree with everything you wrote.

    • profile image

      CJ Sledgehammer 6 years ago

      Well, Brie, I think it would be a "kick in the pants" if you had the right kind of people around.

      The personalities would have to click and the "chemistry" would have to be right, because we all know what they say, "One bad apple can spoil the bunch".

      I truly like your idea and I do think more and more people will be returning to this kind of lifestyle as our economy continues to collapse.

      America is a fiercely independent country and I do not think that is a strong suit, in all cases.

      For instance, mothers are commonly instructed to place their newborns in separate rooms so as to fascilitate and foster a sense of independance in the baby and within the mother alike. Then, when their child turns 18, ship them off to college across state or across the country and don't let the door hit them on the tail-bone as they leave the front door.

      Then, when the parents get old enough, just drive them down to the nearest old-folks home, but on the way there, one must take a detour to drop the kids off at the local daycare center.

      I think Americans have all their priorities screwed-up and I think it would be best for the world if America took a seat in the back of the class and placed the "dunce" cap on its collective head.

      Having said all that, I really enjoyed your article and think it is not only feasible, but profitable.

      Voted up, awesome, interesting, and useful. :0)

      Best wishes, behave, and be well - C.J. Sledgehammer

      P.S. How do you go about recruiting the right people or how do you get rid of the wrong type of people? What kind of rules must be enforced? Tell me more. :0)

    • Brie Hoffman profile image

      Brie Hoffman 7 years ago from Manhattan

      I agree completely!

    • profile image

      Blackout 7 years ago

      This is very good, but must be balanced with individual needs. When a person needs / craves privacy he /she just does and does not want to 'explain' to the commune 'why'. Yet, many times I would love the shared space of a community. Ideally a commune with individual private quarters would suite best.

    • Brie Hoffman profile image

      Brie Hoffman 8 years ago from Manhattan

      ha ha

    • profile image

      50 year old white guy 8 years ago

      That never stopped you before.

      Just kidding Brie. My weird sense of humor gets the best of me sometimes.

    • Brie Hoffman profile image

      Brie Hoffman 8 years ago from Manhattan

      That is an area I know nothing about, sorry.

    • profile image

      50 year old white guy 8 years ago


      I agree with you in concept. Communal living could, and should be an acceptable alternative. I fear, however, that its' time has come and gone for the most part. Communal living requires much from those taking part. I believe that most Americans are too concerned with "me", to be willing to do the giving that is required. We are too self-centered today. We don't know how to give. I think that has an awful lot to do with the number of single people you mentioned above.

      I would love to see you write a hub on Divorce: The causes and effects on idividuals and society as a whole.

    • Brie Hoffman profile image

      Brie Hoffman 8 years ago from Manhattan

      Yes it does, tremendously. Btw, communism has nothing to do with it.

    • Tchardo profile image

      Tchardo 8 years ago

      I think that it's not only awesome, but extremely important. Necessary even, perhaps.

      It isn't necessarily "communist"; not at odds with the economic and political system (at least not very much), except that it is pretty close to the definition of commune. People can still advance in career, education, and have fair individual reward for individual effort.

      So many lessons to be learned... understanding one another, respecting one another, and all the aspects of ourselves which you mentioned, which are sort of inert in most people in the urban world these days.

      I'm very much a fan, and think better of you for having done such a thing.

      On another note, this is one thing which I think religion really helps toward providing: the potential for harmony.

    • Brie Hoffman profile image

      Brie Hoffman 8 years ago from Manhattan

      It is, it is.

    • Enlydia Listener profile image

      Enlydia Listener 8 years ago from trailer in the country

      I think it is an awesome idea

    • profile image

      mike smith 8 years ago

      each to their own, i've listened to this propaganda for over thirty years and have found that,now there are folks on both sides of the communist,socialist issue. America was founded and built on rugged folks helped each other a lot without having to put up with someone controlling everything in their lives,like what they eat or drink or the right to privet property,and worship however they wished,your communist,marxist ideas JUST WONT WORK HERE THEY ARE FUNDAMENTLY DIFFERENT,AND YOU CAN ALL BE ASSURED OF THIS,IN AMREICA ALL FOLKS HAVE A RIGHT TO EXERSIZE THEIR POLITICAL AND RELIGIOUS BELIFS WITHOUT HINDERANCE,NO ONE IS OUT TO STOP OR INTRUDE ON YOUR LIFE STYLE.NOW REALIZE THIS FACT, DO NOT TRY TO FUNDAMENTLY CHANGE THIS GREAT COUNTRY BECAUSE THE PEOPLE YOU ARE TRYING TO DISPLACE POLITICALY ARE THE ONLY ONES THAT WILL PROTECT YOU FROM OTHERS WHO DON'T SEE IT YOUR WAY AND DONT CARE TO YOU ALL SHOULD CONSIDER THE DIVERSITY THING,IS IT FOR EVORYONE OR JUST THE ONES YOU FEEL ARE WORTHY.

    • Brie Hoffman profile image

      Brie Hoffman 8 years ago from Manhattan

      Well, like I said I did it for 10 years and I have a lot of good memories. I think it's something to think about..a bit out of the box.

      thanks for writing

    • mr. daydream profile image

      mr. daydream 8 years ago

      I'm (myself) more of a loner who been stranded in an overcrowded, major metropolitan city all my life (Chicago) that I'm increasingly bored with. I lived in a rooming house for several years and I thought I was gonna lose my mind if I didn't get out of there soon, eventually I did.

      I'd kill to live in a country-esque setting, or out in the mountains (with my future wife or significant other of course). Naturally it'll take some money, at least lower middle class folks money, but I definantly feel you on the issue of togetherness. After all, it takes a village. Especially in these tough economic times when everyone's struggling. It's all about matter of survival and sometimes it takes a team effort to make it.

    • Brie Hoffman profile image

      Brie Hoffman 8 years ago from Manhattan

      Thanks to you both Vladimir and Internetwriter, who knows maybe this current economic crisis will have some good wrought from it.

    • Internetwriter62 profile image

      Internetwriter62 8 years ago from Marco Island, Florida

      That was an inspirational hub, I agree with you. We have become so focused on having our own space, that we don't know how to relate to people. We have lost the art of conversation and even our children lived so focused on mini computers, that they play with constantly, that they have learned to ignore everyone. We are becoming anti-social and it is important to go back to those things that made society strong in the past, and being community minded was part of that strength. Excellent hub.

    • Vladimir Uhri profile image

      Vladimir Uhri 8 years ago from HubPages, FB

      Interesting hub, Brie. I have a comment, which cannot fit here. Perhaps hub will be solution. I seen several times Russian movie: "Burnt by the Sun": The people lived in community but it is another story.

    • Brie Hoffman profile image

      Brie Hoffman 8 years ago from Manhattan

      Well, I got a lot out of it too Quill...thanks for commenting

    • profile image

      "Quill" 8 years ago

      The heart to serve is what I see here and that my dear friend is a blessing to all

      Hugs and Blessings

    • Brie Hoffman profile image

      Brie Hoffman 8 years ago from Manhattan

      It worked for me and I have to say I really enjoyed it. I think it's a great solution for a lot of people. I think we have to start thinking outside the middle class, suburban box and we just might find our lives improved by it.

      Thanks for writing.

    • sheila b. profile image

      sheila b. 8 years ago

      So many women who were left widows managed to raise their families by making their houses into boarding houses. And you just might have an answer for people who need financial help now.

    • Brie Hoffman profile image

      Brie Hoffman 8 years ago from Manhattan

      My great grandmother had 16 kids, my grandmother had 9, my mother had 2 and I had 1...I miss the big families.

    • Keith S profile image

      Keith S 8 years ago

      Hi Brie, I have tracked my family tree back to the 1400's in England, and most generations consisted of a big brood of kids.

      Those families experienced communal living because there may have been eight or nine children, the parents, a grandparent or two, and perhaps an aunt or uncle.

      My father had seven brothers and one sister. Your picture reminds me of pictures of his family during meal time. Lots of mouths to feed and to provide support.


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