Living in Intentional Communities Exploring Cohousing

Living in Intentional Communities: Exploring Cohousing

by Peter Burke // June 29, 2023  

It’s not a commune! What it’s like living in intentional communities

Since its inception in Denmark, cohousing has spread globally, and today there are more than 2,000 communities worldwide. Living in a community with shared facilities can appeal to many people, but it is not for everyone. So as you read this, imagine yourself and consider whether cohousing would be a good fit for you and your lifestyle.

In the last few years, cohousing has become increasingly popular.

Living in Intentional Communities Exploring Cohousing

Cohousing has been around for a long time, but it’s still new to many. It’s a movement growing and becoming more popular in Europe and is already well recognised in North America as a housing choice. For those who choose it, however, the benefits are well worth it—especially for those who want an active community where they can grow as individuals and families while maintaining their privacy and independence.

There is no single way of defining what cohousing is.

Living in Intentional Communities Exploring Cohousing

First things first, it is NOT a commune. Communes grew during the 1960s and ’70s; people shared everything and loved it! The sharing elements are undoubtedly available in cohousing, but you have your home and front door to choose when to be present and active. 

There is no single way of defining what cohousing is. It can be a type of community, an intentional community, a residential development or a housing type (or all four). However, the term generally refers to any group committed to owning their own homes but sharing common facilities and resources.

The common thread seems to be ‘intentionality’.

Living in Intentional Communities Exploring Cohousing

Cohousing residents often say that cohousing is about “intentionality”. They refer to the quality of the relationships formed by living in close quarters with a group of people who share a common interest or purpose in the community. They define what that means by having a shared vision for how to live together.

This intentionality is an agreement (e.g., by signing a contract or covenant). The more important aspect is that members understand what they’re committing themselves to—and this understanding may change over time as new experiences are had by those involved. That comes into how you work together and govern yourselves as a community.

In the words of one experienced cohouser: “It is about building a community of like-minded people who know each other and welcome visitors.”

Living in Intentional Communities Exploring Cohousing

But getting to this point doesn’t happen overnight. Cohousing communities take time to build and develop their sense of community. 

I found that when it comes down to living together, we share the same fundamental goals:

  • Self-determination and dignity for all residents
  • Being accountable for our decisions through mutual support
  • Working together toward a shared vision
  • Having respect for diversity (including age differences)

These things comprise what is known as “the Cohousing Spirit.”

The thing to keep in mind is it isn’t just about the architecture. It’s not just an attractive design or a novel concept, but it’s also about building community. You see, you need to have people who move into your space for cohousing to work.

Cohousing may not be for everyone—there are many reasons why someone might not want to live this way—but if you’re considering it at all and wondering how much work it will take. 

People must put in the effort required to be part of this community structure.

Cohousing Experiences

1. Getting Started

Living in Intentional Communities Exploring Cohousing

Depending on your situation, you may find that cohousing is an impractical option. For example, it’s not something your family can afford unless everyone works together and contributes financially. But if you’re willing to put in a lot of hard work, this is one way to create affordable housing in an area where land is expensive and renting options are limited.

We recommend talking to other people who have lived in cohousing communities before deciding whether or not it’s right for you!

For many, it was an exhausting process of trying to find the right community and house. It also took a lot of time for people to find their place in cohousing and how they fit into the community.

It wasn’t just about finding a home or friends; it was about finding your purpose in life by being part of something larger than yourself. For others, this realisation came much later—sometimes only after years of living together as community members!

2. Decision-making processes

Living in Intentional Communities Exploring Cohousing

The importance of compromise.

Intentional communities & cohousing is a human-scaled way of living, and this means that there are times when residents may have to compromise with each other. Compromising can be difficult for some people, but it’s part of being in cohousing because you’re sharing resources with others and working together towards common goals. Cohousers learn how best practices like composting and recycling work so they can incorporate them into their daily lives without impacting their neighbours’ enjoyment of living at home.

Being willing to change your mind:

Because everyone has different needs and desires within the same space, there will inevitably be disagreements, especially when trying something new; however, these experiences help create stronger bonds among neighbours.

3. Neighbours and Sharing Resources

Living in Intentional Communities Exploring Cohousing

Cohousing is a great way to get to know your neighbours. You see them daily, and they become like extended family. Cohousing is an outward-looking approach. Working with and understanding the wider community is essential. They can participate in regular events and sometimes even go on trips together.

Many cohousers speak about how important it is for people to share resources, especially cooking ingredients or help with the kids, or support if feeling unwell, anxious or lonely.

“An essential aspect for many residents is interacting with neighbours and sharing some activities.”

Living in Intentional Communities Exploring Cohousing

In cohousing, you will be sharing a common space with your neighbours. It is important to remember that there is always the potential for conflict and disagreements in this kind of living situation. However, by being mindful of your actions and trying to get along with others, it is possible to ensure that you live in harmony with everyone around you.

4. Visiting other Communities? How long does it take to feel at home?

Living in Intentional Communities Exploring Cohousing

Residents who move into cohousing communities are often eager to meet other residents and have an opportunity to learn more about the community. However, some feel intimidated by the prospect of visiting a new cohousing community because they fear that they won’t fit in or that they won’t feel comfortable.

One way to overcome such fears is by visiting before signing on as a resident. After all, its community and getting on with and aligning with the vision is 100% necessary. In addition, vice Versa, cohousing groups need to believe and feel optimistic about you or anyone entering their community.

After moving in, your next step is to get involved with all aspects of life at your new home—from joining committees and attending meetings to helping with cooking and sharing meals. Even doing some chores, Some people find this challenging at first but soon realise how fun it can be for everyone involved when we share responsibilities equally within our own four walls (literally).


Living in Intentional Communities Exploring Cohousing

You now know the basics of cohousing and what it means to be part of a community like this. It isn’t a hippy commune! Or a house share. But a more simple way of living. You need less space for private use because you have more common areas to be with your neighbours, family, or friends. 

Your neighbours align with you and how you want to live because they share the same purpose and vision. Ideally, this creates a harmonious way of living, and you get a support network of people around you. It is a true win-win.

It might not seem like something you would be interested in, but we hope this article has given you some insight into what life is like in one of these intentional communities. 

If you’re still unsure whether cohousing is right for you, then perhaps you can read the Better Places to Live buyer’s guide. Then, seeing how intentional communities could be for you, you’ll get a good flavour of what we have done. We want more people to live this way, without the pressure of having to create it themselves.

What can you do to improve your life and your community?

Take our 1 minute quiz. Simply answer 9 questions to see if you need a Better Place To Live.

You’ll be scored on the following; A home that meets your needs, a community and neighbourhood that works with your day-to-day life and is friendly to the earth.

Take the Better Places to Live 1 Minute Quiz!

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Co-Founder A Fairer Society | + posts

Co Founder of A Fairer Society. Peter has a vision of living in a fairer society, where there's plenty to go around, where everyone has a voice in the issues that affect them, and where humans thrive togther.

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