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Shared Housing is also for the Mechanically Inclined

Submitted by on October 1, 2009 – 7:40 pmOne Comment

Today, there was yet another article about sharing in the New York Times – “The Modern Answer to the Commune,” profiling the urban optimists who are forming shared housing around common values, sustainability, and, as usual, chickens.  (This past summer, the Times also covered cohousing and fruit sharing – mainstream media is really starting to notice the sharing revolution.)

Today’s Times article focused primarily on younger adults coming together to share rental housing. It might appear from the article that shared housing appeals mainly to twenty-somethings.  But during many of my recent public speaking events, I met a LOT of graying-haired people interested in shared housing, and many of them are just as idealistic as the youth described in the Times. They are looking to live more sustainably, build a supportive community around them, and find new kinds of personal rewards in their housing arrangement.  The difference might be that the 40- to 60-somethings are more often in the market to buy, rather than rent, and they are thinking about a longer term living arrangement.

I was a little baffled by the part of the article that cited Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist, who thought the “idealized, small-scale communities they described reminded her of the hunting and gathering bands of pre-history.” She profiled the home-sharers as compassionate, emotive, verbal, and/or creative types. As a result, “she worried that other personality types, the sort who know how to fix the toaster or program the VCR, weren’t being invited into these houses.”

Somehow, I don’t think this is going to be a problem.  These particular young folks are part of Generation DIY – they are the ultimate practitioners of do-it-yourself, fix your own bike, grow your own food, make things from recycled junk, build solar ovens, and rig the plumbing to recycle grey water. They do things like lead soldering workshops at the Brooklyn Skillshare.

And the fact that they are verbal and compassionate means they have the skills to express themselves, understand each other’s needs, and navigate interpersonal conflict – all of which is far more crucial to their survival than the ability to fix a toaster.  They are resourceful and they will thrive.

Besides, if they really can’t fix the toaster, I’m sure they’ll find some other good use for it:

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