Motherhood

Two Families Sharing a House (Would You?)

Two Families, One House

Years ago, watching the documentary Happy, I learned about communal homes in Denmark, where multiple families and single people of all ages share a big space. (They had their own bedrooms and small living areas, but shared a huge cafeteria, gardens and playgrounds.) To me, it sounded like heaven! Then, last month, I met a woman whose family shares a house with another family in San Francisco. Curious to hear more, we spoke about how it all works…

Two Families, One House

Ann Larie, a psychotherapist, shares a house in southwest San Francisco with six other people: her husband Derek and two-year-old son Dashiell, plus another family, Thor and Amy, and their children, Tesla, 8, and Quinn, 13.

On deciding to share a house: When I moved from Athens, Georgia, I realized that communal living is a big thing out here. There are 30-people houses all over Berkeley. I was fascinated by it. I was like, it’s so Californian! We had a group of friends, who lived in several houses overlooking a shared courtyard. They had dinners together, shared childcare, helped each other out. One day I saw on Facebook that one of the dads was creating a pulley system for kids below to send messages to kids up top. We were just about to start a family, and suddenly I had this big desire to have multiple families all together. I had a vision.

On making a plan: Weirdly, just a few days later, I went to yoga with my friend Amy and she told me she and her husband were struggling to find a place to live because apartments are prohibitively expensive here. She said, “Maybe we should go in on a house?” And I said, “That is really weird that you mentioned it!” And we were like, no… are we thinking about this? Oh, my God…

On feeling tentative: My husband Derek got on board, but I’m pretty sure he figured he might throw up a roadblock later. He had never lived with anyone except college roommates and a romantic partner. Meanwhile, Amy and her husband Thor were up for anything. They’re the type of entrepreneurial creative spirits that say, it sounds cool, let’s try it out, there are different ways of being in the world!

On finding the house: Amy found it. We were all like, holy wow. The amount of house we could afford was so much beyond what any of us would find individually. That clinched it for everybody. And then Derek was like, oh shit, this is happening, I thought we were just ideating!

Two Families, One House

The day we signed the lease.

On setting up the house together: We moved in three years ago, when I was pregnant. Decorating was surprisingly easy. They liked our art, and we liked their furniture. We have two shared living rooms, so there are places to watch TV, spots for kids to play, a corner to curl up with a book… Both master bedrooms are on the top floor. Everyone’s first questions are always about sex, but sex has not been that much of an issue — we all have kids so we’re already used to not having sex in such a loud, raucous way!

On tricky parts of living together: When we first moved in, we had to get used to kid messes. And after we had a baby, I had to shush everyone every five minutes. It was stressful for me, but luckily the baby is old enough now that Thor can bang away again on the piano at night, which is such a big part of our experience together. Also you can’t just have a fight with your husband in the kitchen, since other people are around, which is sometimes good. You have to wait until your physiology calms down!

Two Families, One House

On raising kids jointly: My son, Dashiell, and their daughter, Tesla, are obsessed with each other. We’re planning on having only one child, but Dash still gets to have “sibling” relationships with children who live in the same house and eat breakfast with him and know him so deeply. And, at 13 Quinn is now old enough to do some babysitting. At bedtime, Dash runs through their names before he goes to sleep: May-May, Coco, Tata, Tor… they’re his touchstones. I’m sure we’ve all sometimes fantasized about moving out, but the way the kids are so attached to each other, it would be a big deal. Now we can’t get out of it! Haha.

On naming our family: We call our house The Lighthouse because it’s filled with windows, plus there’s the double entendre of being a beacon, a shining light guiding the way. We call the kids “lighthouse siblings.” We’re not just friends but a “lighthouse family.” That’s how we create a language around it. We’ll say we’re having a “lighthouse family dinner” or a “lighthouse family outing.”

On enjoying the company: My husband and I are both extroverts, and we like that someone is always around to talk to or watch a movie with. I’ve talked to introverts, too, who like sharing a home because it allows them to feel social but in a much less out-at-a-party way. And if bad things happen to us — if one of us loses a job or has a bad day at work — there’s a coming together. Usually we’re all in the kitchen preparing our dinners at the same time, and if someone has big news, they’ll bring home Champagne and we’re all tipsy, or if you have a rough day, we’ll all listen.

On helping each other: Child management has been completely 100 times times easier than it would have been. Even just, I need to go to the bathroom, can you watch Dash? And there’s a constant stream of grandparents, there’s always a Pop Pop to jump into the arms of.

Two Families, One House

On chores: Nightly kitchen duty is the most important thing. The kitchen is the place where people get their feelings hurt the most. Maybe because food is so central to our existence! So, every night, someone will wipe the counters, empty the dishwasher, wipe down the stove, sweep, take the trash and compost out, change the dish towels. Every morning you wake up to this gloriously clean kitchen, it makes you feel happier. That has kept the household sane.

On prizing quality time: One thing that surprised me was how you have to set times to hang out as friends differently from housemates. The grown-ups do movie nights at home or go to dinner together to maintain our friendship. It’s the same thing as when you set a date night with your husband and you remember why you like each other. When all the adults in the house hang out as friends — when we’re off duty, not managing the house and kids — we’re like, oh yeah, these are the people we love so much! When you set aside that time it helps heal over any bumpy places or minor irritations that come up living under one roof.

On rare quiet moments: When their family is out of town, and my husband is working late, I love being about to watch whatever the heck I want on TV. Or, I’ll come home on a weeknight and no one will be home yet and the stillness will be really lovely. As the mother of a two-year-old you learn to savor the quiet. When the other family is out of town, sometimes we’ll walk around naked just for fun.

Two Families, One House

Would you share a home with another family? It’s funny, it seems like people fall on one side or the other. So curious to hear what you all think. Thank you so much, Ann Larie!

P.S. 24 surprising things about parenting in the United States, and co-sleeping in a family bed.

  1. Rita says...

    Feet of the future!!!!!!!!! :-):-):-):-)

  2. Lee says...

    In my heart I to want to live this life style for our children, faith, friendships, finances, and so many more reasons. My friends want to as well the only person who doesn’t is my husband and my heart is literally breaking. I feel like the Lord knows the desires of my heart and my friends hearts so I don’t understand why we are at this road block. I feel like it will never happen for us and it literally breaks my heart, I can’t find any other words to describe it. Both families have 4 children, we are both unable to have anymore and I would like to adopt but if we were to live this lifestyle this would fulfill the desire I have to want to adopt as well as my friends. I am just beyond words that my husband is not wanting to live this life like the 3 of us are…. I can only pray the Lord takes the desire out of my heart so my heart stops aching or puts the desire into his so we can start to live as a family unit. I love this article and have read it over and over again. I am very happy for you all and only wish you the best in your life. God bless you all!

    • Brittany says...

      We have thrown this idea around for… 2 years now. And my husband was always on board at first and then changed his mind last minute. Well, our friends, the Clark’s are moving in tomorrow. I am so excited. Our plan is for it to only be temporary until we can bot save a nest egg and buy a home (we are renting at the moment) but The Hubs is finally on board and he cant change his mind because they already gave their notice and have slowly started moving in.

  3. Gemi says...

    Very interesting read! It’s quite a bit more permanent than simply having some roomates like most young people or college kids do. I have had the experience of living with roomates that shared the apartment with my boyfriend and I. It was challenging, and my boyfriend and I later found that we prefer to just live together. We are both introverts who become pretty exhausted with outsiders, and tollerance to other peoples messes or noise was shortened each year. That being said, we had some good times with a friend we lived with for a year who is a fellow introvert. :) The extravert was difficult to live with, but his poor housekeeping habit was the real problem. XD Shortly after I graduated college, we got married and became financially independent. We both swear we are done with roomates or any kind of shared living other than eachother. ^_^ Everyone is a bit different.
    -Gemi

  4. Ady says...

    We did it similar. Me and a group of friends, 1 of whom is my cousin, share a house. Two of them had twins, and it was like they had 6 parents. Then when the twins were 3, big car accident killed Mom and Dad. We took in the twins as our own, but they still call me Ady!

    • Kathy says...

      So so sorry for your loss. A car accident nearly took our son 6 years ago (driver went left of center; killed our son’s passenger and left our son disabled). We plan to share our him with he and his wife (when he finds her). My only concern is that she will not appreciate the benefits of adjusted home… But our son will not be able to own a home otherwise.

  5. Sam says...

    My husband and I share a home with his two brothers and their wives – one has two v young children and the other has a baby on the way. I also have a little one on the way… Throw in an overbearing extremely nosey mother in law and you could mistake my house for a dark corner in hell :)
    Yes it is nice to have two women similar in age to me to hang out with but I don’t feel comfortable at all, especially as to me they are all ultimately strangers! The housing crisis in London means that we are stuck there for now but if I had a choice I would NOT want to live with outsiders – I like my own space and I do not like other people’s mess :)

  6. We had another family live with us for a time when I was a little girl, and I thought it was great. My mom had/has mixed feelings about it, but overall I think it was positive for a lot of the reasons this woman describes (ease of child care – the family that lived with us had older children, and I was still preschool-aged, so I’m sure another set of hands was useful!). Plus, another way to look at this – my parents offered their home to this family because they had fallen on hard times. They originally saw it as a charitable act but it ended up being something much more. My mother is still close with the two children who lived with us (who are now in their 40s)

    http://blog.breadandrosesvintage.com

  7. Allison W. says...

    I’m so thrilled to see an article about this! We live in Boston, and real estate is quite pricey here, not to mention it is difficult to find the “right” apartment when you want one (most have a few months wait when you sign the lease). My husband and I have had 3 separate friends/couples move in at various points move in to live with us for extended amounts of time (3+ month “leases”), staying in our spare bedroom with en suite bathroom in our 775 sq ft home. It was by far the BEST way we could have spent that time in our lives, always having friends so near by! We/our friends miss it so much so that we always joke with our friends that we are going to buy a communal home for all of us in the Boston metro area — these folks are living the DREAM!! Thanks for this piece!

  8. This is such a foreign concept to me but definitely an interesting read. Not sure whether I’d ever try this but good to know that there are people out there who are willing to put new ideas to test :)

  9. My husband and I rent a house with another married couple and their three year old. We get along for the most part, but I’m such a control freak that I miss when it was just the two of us…

  10. florence says...

    i love this in theory, though it sounds challenging in practice. really needs to a right balance of people and compromises… but i grew up with a large extended family in a 2 flat house (two houses with non-connecting doors on top of each other, where my family lived on the first floor and my grandparents and an uncle lived on the second floor). i would love to do that again because it really takes a village!

  11. When I was a kid– maybe 10 or 11– some our closest family friends lived with us for one summer while they were renovating their house. Their kids were the same ages as my sister and I and all of us kids loved it because we had a playdate ever day. But I remember out of everyone, the two moms loved it the most because they always joked (kind of) about how handy it was to have another wife on hand to help out! Someone else there to clean, and cook dinner, pick up the kids from swim team, and more than anything, be understanding of each others exhaustion…

    I’ve always remembered that and secretly hoped that one day I get to do something similar for a time. What better way to break up the sometimes monotony of adulthood than to get to play house with your best friends?

  12. Here in Italy most of our friends live in apartments or houses either next door or down/up stairs from their families and I think that it is a wonderful way to live. You have your own space when you need it but there is also a lovely sense of community and everyone helps one another out. Raising children as a nuclear family with no family nearby, is so much harder.

  13. Molly says...

    Yes, yes, and yes! We actually moved in with another couple before our first son was born so we would not feel so isolated as a little nuclear family. We had kids early so most of our social circle was made up of young single people or young couples without kids. One of those couples, who are our best friends, suggested that we all live together to create a larger family dynamic. They helped with babysitting and we shared meals together and watched movies. It was actually really fun. This was in Portland 6 years ago, back when it was somewhat affordable to live there so we had a big house and each couple had their own bathroom which helped a lot. There was tension from time to time, but overall I loved it and I miss it. To do something like this you certainly need to have a strong desire for communal living and intimacy between friends.

  14. Hannah says...

    After years of living in small New York City apartments with inconsiderate, sometimes passive-aggressive roommates, I was OVERJOYED when I moved in with my boyfriend last January. My living situation is now peaceful and exactly how I’d want it to be! I can’t imagine going back to living with people who weren’t my partner or immediate family. Maybe it’s me, but I feel like people can be so difficult! And slobs. And controlling! Maybe I’ve had bad experiences? I don’t want to have to deal with other’s people’s issues.

    • trillia says...

      All the slobs are someone’s immediate family too. No one’s family is special or exempt. It’s a matter of finding amazing, brilliant people to live with.

  15. Leslie says...

    I know I’m in the minority, but this is pretty much my worst nightmare. Since I was a young child, I have needed my own totally-alone-quiet-time after being around others all day. My husband is the same way – privacy and alone time are crucial to our mental health, even if it’s just an hour of total quiet at bedtime to read or take a bath. I think it’s important to respect this need in kids, too, which I why I hesitate to put my daughter in daycare. I remember so clearly how much I craved playing alone or reading in a quiet house after a long school day!

    • Me too. Yikes.

    • Amanda says...

      Completely agree!

    • Annie says...

      I was just bragging to my coworker yesterday that I was so excited bc my husband (that I love and love to hang out with) had a work event that night. I LOVE alone time (and separate rooms doesn’t count – I mean, alone)! I just drank, watched smut tv, and ordered christmas cards, but it’s just the feeling alone part that I love.

      It’s actually taken me this many days to read this, because I was so startled by the title. However, after reading it (WONDERFUL, candid interview), I think I would be open to the idea if it was a duplex or something – especially if I had children (bc I have no doubt it takes a village).

  16. I LOVED this. My husband and I are in our late 30’s raising a 3 year old daughter, and we have often thought about trying to buy a small farm with another Nashville family.

    In 2013 there was a fantastic (and short) NY Times op-ed piece called “The Passion of Parenting” with a quote I’ll always remember – “the more people a child has who truly loves him or her, the happier that child will be. So I work hard to maintain and expand their circles of love.”

    I always come back to that thought – expanding Annie’s circles of love. To me, that is what this co-housing situation is all about – providing their children with more people that love them. How could that be a bad thing?

  17. I could do it! I don’t know if it would always be my dream set up because I love quiet moments. We live with family and that gets really stressful. But I think expectations and boundaries are different when it comes to family.

  18. Lisa says...

    I would LOVE to live in the type of shared house thats actually meant for 2 families – a friend of mine lived with her family downstairs in a big house and her grandparents lived upstairs. They shared hallway but then had their own kitchen/bathrooms/living rooms. Company was only a door away, and all expenses were shared, without the hassle of “who is cooking tonight” and all that. Its not the part of having people around that would bother me, but the logistics of having to consider so many grown ups in everyday decisions! And I’m just not one of those people who can plan every single meal for the entire week etc.

  19. Annie g says...

    Not for me. I was anxious just looking at the bits and pieces everywhere….I would love to live in traditional almshouses with tiny house and communal gardens. People all round but my own front door. Good luck to those who go in for communal life though. Funny how this post evokes such definite polarities.

    • Sarah says...

      I am with you!! My Meyers Briggs profile has always started off with borderline Extrovert and Introvert–I need both interaction and connection with people and time alone, so I love your idea of semi-communal living.

  20. Thyda says...

    I’m in my early 30s (married, no kids) and have shared my home with other couples (sister & her boyfriend, two couples from my college days) since 2013. I am now currently sharing it with a family of 5 and it’s been really great! We were friends/co-workers before the arrangement so it’s definitely easier knowing I already like them. My husband and I are both introverts and it’s worked for us because we have a our own space to go to when it gets to be too much.

    It does get challenging at times, but it’s been wonderful financially. We’re also fixing up a house (it’s 2 houses down!) we bought with one of those college couples and will eventually live in that for a couple years. Who knows, we both might be raising our first borns in that house together if we stick to our pregnancy pact!

  21. When we got pregnant with our first daughter three years ago, my brother and his wife were living with us, had been for a few months, and continued to until she was around 8 months old. It was a wonderful experience! They have shared our homespace twice and now that they have a daughter too, we all daydream of when we can buy a plot of land and build our commune. I’m convinced that having Joey and Emily around made the newborn days so much more peaceful and joyful for me. Emily and I called ourselves “sister wives.” We are all easy-going people and I don’t remember one single fight during any of the time they lived with us. We drank together, cooked together, told stories together, laughed and cried together. We took plenty of alone time and there were hours and days we didn’t even see each other. It worked beautifully for us, and although it would pretty much have to be either with them or my sister and her family, I’d be extremely open to sharing homelife again in the future. I think it is so healthy and beneficial to both children and adults.

  22. Rachel says...

    What a great story! Thanks to everyone for such a candid look into this home and lifestyle. My husband and I, along with our three children, have rented a home with a group of single friends for the last 6 years. We are so thankful for the opportunity to walk alongside friends so intimately. We joke about convening “the board” whenever anyone is making a big decision-an instant feedback and encouragement committee at your own kitchen table.

    Our home has lots of moments of conflict and annoyance, but overall I have felt that this is constantly refining my character. It is much easier to think I am a good person when I’m not sharing my kitchen! This lifestyle forces self awareness and sacrifice, but it so rewarding!

    Again, thanks to everyone at the Lighthouse for giving us a chance to hear your story!

  23. This is how I grew up!

    My mom and Uncle are from Cuba, and when they came to the US and got married, my Uncle ended up marrying my Mom’s best friend. When my Uncle went to grad school across the country my Mom was so lonesome without her, that her and my dad moved from California to New Jersey so that they could be near each other. They shared a house together for over 25 years, until my mom passed away. We moved together, bought houses together, and shared everything. I grew up with my siblings and my cousins under the same roof, along with 4 parents. I would have traded that experience for anything. It was definitely chaotic but in the best possible way.

  24. Kim says...

    As others have pointed out there are so many ways to live communally. I grew up in a connected duplex that my parents owned with another family, plus my parents were always hosting young adults who needed someone to live as they were getting started for weeks to years at a time. I would not have changed the experience for anything. We still all have breakfast together on Christmas morning! I would love to buy a small apartment building or multi unit house with friends!

  25. Emily says...

    not only would I but I already do! We’ve been co-housing with our best friends for three years now (between us, we have 6 kids 6 years and under!). I can’t imagine what life would be like if I didn’t have my housemates and our adventures (we have even had medical scares that were made so much easier because of our setup). Not only do we share a house, but we also co-own a minivan together.

  26. Colleen says...

    As a person who loves quiet, this idea sounds terrifying. I live in an apartment with a next-door neighbor, people who live below, and an apartment I share a wall with in my bedroom. The noise of people talking or listening to music sets me off, and I know that I couldn’t live with other people. I used to live with my parents, who listen to the TV really loud, and I wanted to climb the walls. I applaud these two families, but it’s not my thing.

  27. I love everything about this whole arrangement. I want to do something like this so badly but it seems everyone else in my life thinks it’s ridiculous. My husband and I plan on living in houses next to each other with our best friends so we can prank each other and have date nights. A return to teenage fun if you will…in our 70’s!

    While raising our son, however, living in a group environment with lots of ideas, helping hands and love sounds like a dream. If only I could convince ANYONE else…

    Thanks for the post and the doc recommendation!

  28. Trisha says...

    My husband and I moved in to an apartment two months ago with friends. There is another couple, a single guy, and us. The five of us hung out so often that we started talking/dreaming about communal living about a year ago. When the couple decided to stay in our current city for at least the next two years to attend seminary, we decided to go for it. So far it’s great! I totally understand the point made about needing to set aside time to hang out as a household. We LOVE living with friends and it’s great to have people to share life with.

  29. Elliesee says...

    We’re already a family of six plus two adorable tenants, so the introvert that I am would not enjoy most aspects of this arrangement. I would like more adults to share kids responsibilities though. There’s a TV serie ”La Galère” on this theme!

  30. I think the idea of communal living is very cool – but for families with lots of kids, an individual living space seems to work best. That being said, I’ve lived 8 of the last 9 years on military bases – where the community is very close knit…and it was absolutely fantastic. There’s always someone to borrow a cup of milk, always someone to help watch your children, always someone to share dinner outside together, and always someone who knows the unique challenges that come with being in the military. Communal living forces people to notice others and respect boundaries – and this can take place in regular communities too…it just takes more intention.

  31. Chelsea says...

    My partner & I live in a share house with another couple & their two-year-old. When we decided that we wanted to do this the little man was six months old & so many of our other friends were like “What are you thinking?!?!”, the idea of voluntarily living with a baby (that was not your own) was so unimaginable to them that they thought we were crazy!

    We could not be happier with our decision. We get to live in a fantastic house in a rad part of Fitzroy North, Melbourne (where houses frequently sell for $1.2m plus) that we would otherwise not be able to afford.

    I feel like we have such a lovely balance within our household which we have reached without any great sacrifices. And when the little guy points to all of us when we’re sitting around the dining table, whispers “family”, & your heart explodes a little bit, how could you possible say that’s a bad thing.

  32. Vanessa says...

    Love this! My husband and I just bought our first house and moved in with a newborn. My sister and her husband moved in with us and are expecting their own baby anyday now. Our house is pretty conveniently set up where there are two living areas and our rooms are on the other sides of the house. Having them around has made the house a lot less quiet and empty. My maternity leave has felt much less lonely with my sister close by and she is going to take care of my baby when I go back to work so we’ll be avoiding outrageous daycare costs. It also helps that my sister is basically Julia Child and we all enjoy sharing meals. We’re equally relaxed about cleaning so we haven’t had much tension. We’re not planning on living with their family forever, but it is great for now!

  33. It’s interesting how many negative reactions this idea has gotten. Is it because, as Americans, we’re far more attached to our bubble than other countries and cultures? This idea sounds not only fun, but SMART. We, too, live in San Francisco and can’t afford to stay here much longer.

    I was raised in a neighborhood where everyone had the same garage door code, all parents had the same disciplinary authority as other parents (i.e., I went to time out for being sassy in a lot of people’s corners, not just my own!) and there was a gate connecting backyards so the kids could roam and play. It never felt like the others were invading, but felt like there was more family and more people around to love you and help you.

    My friends and I joke we’re going to buy property and live together instead of going to a senior living facility, but I’m pretty sure we’d all be excited to move in a few decades early :)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh my gosh, my friends have the same agreement! when we’re old, we’re going to move into a house together and call ourselves “The Golden Girls.”

    • Love it! We’re calling ours Tequila Ridge. The grandchild visiting hours will be highly regulated, but the happy hours? Not so much… :)

    • I LOVED this. My husband and I are in our late 30’s raising a 3 year old daughter, and we have often thought about trying to buy a small farm with another Nashville family.

      In 2013 there was a fantastic (and short) NY Times op-ed piece called “The Passion of Parenting” with a quote I’ll always remember – “the more people a child has who truly loves him or her, the happier that child will be. So I work hard to maintain and expand their circles of love.”

      I always come back to that thought – expanding Annie’s circles of love. To me, that is what this co-housing situation is all about – providing their children with more people that love them. How could that be a bad thing?

  34. Kristy says...

    I love the idea of communal living, but towards the end of this post it seems like a lot of reasons NOT to do it. She talks about having to tell everyone to be quiet when the baby was born which is a normal thing to do, but the fact that it’s pointed out makes it sound like it was a more than stressful time. She talks about relishing when the house is quiet when the other family is away. She talks about how you can’t openly argue with your significant other (although she frames it as a pro).

    To me, it sounds like it’s this uncomfortable limbo where you’re in close enough quarters to get on each others’ nerves, but separate enough where you still have to be polite with each other/have your guard up. Which sounds a little exhausting.

    If I were to live communally, I definitely want my own space to retire to, but also want it to feel like everyone is family. Barring your own rooms, what’s yours is mine. Everyone shares the same food, you can argue and get testy with each other without fearing that it’s going to ruin a relationship. Without it getting weird, I’d even want it to be like you can see each other in your underwear without it being embarrassing :).

  35. Siri says...

    I love this post! We actually share a house with a friend family here in Norway. We feel so close to them, but it’s so different though, as we have separate entrances, separate kitchens etc… As an introvert, I’m not sure if I could manage the arrangement these families have made, but I’m really fascinated by it. To us, sharing a house have so many advantages. We’re often having dinner together on weekdays, we’re helping each other with babysitting and our kids are always surrounded by loving and involved adults and quasi-siblings, and in the evening, when the kids are sleeping, we are having wine and hanging out. But we’re always having a choice. There’s always a possibility to stay at home, doing something on my own, doing whatever I want. Not sure if I could do without that possibility. :-)

  36. We totally did this, without a ton of forethought, and offered up a room in our house to friends who were in between big life changes. They ended up staying for almost two years. It was wonderful! I don’t know if it would work with just any other couple, but it’s one of the best decisions we ever made. Now the other couple has moved out and onto the next adventure for them, but they’re still as close as family to us. I’m so glad we did it!

  37. I think it’s great they found what works for them! I also like that their one child is getting to have siblings without them having other children. I wonder if either of these couples grew up in similar situations?

    I have never had to share my space growing up. For me, this lifestyle is my worst nightmare. I love my parents visiting but I have no problem admitting even they get on my nerves after awhile. I am an introvert and creature of habit! I would probably be spending a lot more time hiding in the restroom! And this would require a lot more wine! HAHAHAH!

    Lendy
    http://www.twoplusluna.com

  38. Samantha says...

    I can’t picture myself doing this for two main reasons. 1. Neither my boyfriend or myself want to have kids, so we could not share a house with another couple with kids. Just no. 2. We live in Dominican Republic. Most colleges here are located in the capital, where we live and studied, and the cost of living is pretty high, so there’s no need to move out of your parents’ house unless you get married or get a really good job. So after living with your family your whole life, I can’t imagine anyone moving out of their parents house to live with another family, even if it’s just another couple with no kids.

  39. Thanks for writing about this! I love hearing how other people mix up family life. My husband and I moved in with my parents when I was 9 months pregnant because we decided we wanted more family time and were in awe of the concept of multi-generational living and so far we are loving it, but lots of people seem to think we are crazy for it. But family life is demanding and for us, having more people to share jobs and provide support has just divided our stresses and multiplied our fun. I loved reading about how this Lighthouse Family is creating their own kind of happy!

  40. My husband, 2 boys and I shared our home for 1 year with my sister, her husband and 2 daughters. I would not have traded that experience for anything! Having 2 living/ family spaces was important for “alone nuclear unit” time as we called it but mostly we all hung out together. My sons shared a room and we had our room on one floor. My sister and her husband had the other “master” and their girls shared a room on the lower floor.

    We did have to figure out how to space share and time share, and I agree wholeheartedly with your interviewee about clean kitchens make for happy houses. We meal planned together, split the shopping and bills every month by sitting down, playing cards and working out the mundane money stuff.

    The relationships my sons have with their cousins are amazing and having only sons, they got to have real “sisters” for a time. This changed them in ways that will always be appreciated by their eventual spouses :)

    I applaud people facing the realities of cost of housing in new and sometimes challenging ways of the norm. Fun article to read.

  41. It wasn’t two full families, but I used to live with my sister and my two boys. When I got married my new husband moved in and it was the 5 of us. Last year my sister moved to India, so we were left roommate-less. While it was amazing to have someone there to help out, eat dinner with, be a friend and learn from (she always had traveling friends sleeping on our couch, which the boys loved, and she’s an awesome sister, of course)–I’ve realized there was a different state of relaxation I found myself in once it was just our family alone.

    It’s great to see how people make it work though, I love the “up for anything” attitude in life! (Just recently a friend shared on my blog about living in an RV with 5 kids!)

  42. I really enjoyed reading this :) For a few years when I was a kid growing up in northern NSW (an area in Australia where alternative lifestyles are quite common), I lived in a tiny village with my parents, my mum’s sister, her husband and my cousin, who’s the same age. It was the happiest time of my childhood! Our school was literally across the road and there were always heaps of people around, parties, gatherings and such. I would totally do this as an adult, but only with people I really relate to.

  43. Morgan says...

    It sounds like the clan/village living where humanity began and how much of the world still lives. We Americans live in an isolated way today, and it makes fostering community and compassion, raising children and sustaining the environment more difficult. If the whole world lived as many Americans do, nuclear families, living separately, it would be entirely unsustainable.
    When I saw “Happy” and saw the commune chapter, my friend and I (both moms of small kids) looked at each other and said, “That looks amazing!” And my husband said, “That looks terrible!” As a mothers, my friends and I crave the “village” of our ancestors, to enjoy the DAILY pleasures of child rearing, cooking, home tending together. I think we and our kids would be happier for it. Working the modern marriage into that scenario would be tricky. More excuses for date night perhaps….

  44. I didn’t realize this was happening in SF, but it totally makes sense. The lifestyles and prices for homes/apts make that kind of living situation do-able. Although I too live in SF, I don’t think I can see myself going all in on that kind of home living. I’m so glad to hear it works for these families and if it works then go for it. But, I’m definitely an introvert who needs her own space and time. When I lived with roommates in college, I loved the weekends where they would go home and I would have the apt to myself. I could watch whatever I wanted on TV without asking. I could leave a dirty dish (to be cleaned up later) and I could even shower whenever I wanted without wondering if I would wake someone or if someone else needed it. Is this possibly the result of an only child syndrome? haha. Thanks for sharing this article. It’s interesting to see how others make it work. =)
    xo,
    nancy

  45. Light house siblings. I love that!
    No, never in a million years would I want to live with another family. At the end of the day if I’m too tired to load the dishwasher I don’t want to have someone else to answer to.
    I’ve gotten used to living in the country and only seeing other people (other than my husband and 2 kids) if I choose to. I think I’d do just fine as a hermit.

  46. Paige says...

    My family and I have done this and loved it! I am a single mother and when my son was four another single mother friend and her two children moved into our house. We had separate sleeping rooms but shared the living room, kitchen, bathrooms, laundry and yard. I think what made it such a good experience for us was that we had very similar parenting styles and had shared values. We would take turns cooking dinners and as single moms it was wonderful to have another trusted adult around. I truly love that time in our family’s history.

  47. I absolutely love this. This sentence really struck me:

    “I’ve talked to introverts, too, who like sharing a home because it allows them to feel social but in a much less out-at-a-party way.”

    This is me, to a T. It sounds kind of juvenile, since I’m now in my thirties, but my happiest living situation was the year in college that I first got my own bedroom. I had my own space–but if I wanted to see people, all I had to do was walk out my door and all my best friends were right there. I’m terrible at making plans, and it’s so much easier to stay in than go out. But not living near any good friends has made it harder to see the people I love. I joke that a FRIENDS-style living situation would be perfect–best friends across the hall–but sharing a house seems even cooler! Of course, I would need my own room and bathroom, and preferably a small living space to myself. I remember your post on communal living in Denmark and feeling so wistful for something like that. Would love if more things like this became more mainstream in the US…

  48. Talia says...

    Wow! I had never heard of this and must admit, it is not for me. I value my space and my alone time. Glad it works for them and they seem to be handling it all really well.

  49. No, this is definitely not for me or my family. I think the word “claustrophobic” came to my mind as I read this post. Privacy and having a quiet space are important things for my husband, myself and our 2 teenagers (age 15 and 17). My art studio is also in our apartment and I work all day from home in my studio space, so having a quiet environment is extremely important in order to focus and do my best work.
    Being able to relax and being free to express oneself are also imperative to staying sane. Imagine being angry or upset and having to bottle it up inside…that’s like when you have your extended family come visit and you have to be constantly on your best behaviour, but like….all of the time. No thanks.
    But congrats to these 2 families if it works for them.

  50. Great post! I love to see inside this family dynamic. Definitely not for me, but that’s the best thing about the world, options for everyone!

    For a kid, that would be a dream though. I would have loved to live in the same house as my best friends.

    Leslie
    http://www.alifewellconsumed.com

  51. I am in my sixties, and when I was younger communes were very common.
    I lived with many people and pets both as a solo person, and,with a boyfriend. My brother, who is just a couple of years olders was also part of my communal experience which made it very nice and has kept us bonded through all these years. My experiences were all very positive, that said, I knew myself well enough to recognize how temporary or maybe transient is a better way to express it that kind of living situation would be in the larger scheme of my life. I love community, and knowing my neighbors, and having wonderful friends to share ups and less ups in life with but for me at the end of the day I love coming home, to my own family in our own space. It’s just a vibe that feels so right!

  52. Kellie P. says...

    Very cool that this works for them. But for me… Never! I wouldn’t even want to live in an apartment building or a home with next-door neighbors that are too close. After law school, I moved in with my boyfriend (now husband) and his roommate. The worst part wasn’t even sharing the tiny bathroom, it was the small talk that I had to make with my “roommate” every time I came home from work, already exhausted. I feel like this arrangement would suck the life out of an introvert like me for the first year or two.

    • Josephine says...

      I’m also a big introvert… and small talk is really harder when you’re exhausted, right? It’s like I’ll be tired and see someone I know and absolutely nothing will come to my mind to say.

  53. Dee says...

    Wow, I never knew there was such a thing. I personally couldn’t do it. I really like being alone with my husband in our own space to do as we please.

    But I agree with others, this interview was done so well as to not seem judgmental at all. It’s really interesting to see peoples different preferences for how they live there lives.

  54. Katie Larissa says...

    I think it would all depend on the other family! And right now there isn’t any other family in our lives with whom I can imagine doing this. However, my sister and her family share a house/responsibilities with her best friend, and it works well for them.

  55. Kukla says...

    This sounds like hell! All those kids, never being able to have date night at home, not being able to walk downstairs in panties and an oversized top, telling someone else to clean-up their stuff, etc. There is NOTHING about this that sounds fun but I’m glad it’s working for these couples! *loudly applauses and goes back to my quiet house

    • Beth says...

      I couldn’t agree with you more….! I need to go back and read this article more closely. (I have a 4-year-old and an 11-month old vying for my attention right now). I would like to know if there’s ever any conflict or disagreements ? Also, what about holidays and intimate family occasions where one family may want privacy? Was that addressed?

  56. On Friday I was talking to a coworker who didn’t go to college and married young about what it was like to live with other people. He said he couldn’t do it, but I told him I LOVED living on campus and sharing space with my friends. It was like one big, constant, fun party! Then I read this, and while it’s true that college was amazing and fun and one of the best times of my life, as I get older I crave solitude and the comfort of my home being mine. Maybe I would feel differently if I were single…I’ve never lived alone, and I don’t think I would like it…but my husband and kids have kind of replaced that friend community for me. I don’t know that I want other people in our family bubble.

  57. Heather says...

    Well done on crafting this interview in a way that doesn’t seem to have any judgement along with it. That would be hard for me, because I THINK I’D HATE THIS and would have such trouble relating to it. (But good for them, everyone is different!)

    I think I’d get hung up on financials (how do they split groceries and such? if they need HBO, do we HAVE to get premium channels even though I don’t want them?) Also, I think I’d be possessive of my husband and kids and how they spend their time.

    • jaclyn says...

      I am so with you on the financials and also, I probably find myself feeling jealous if my husband and the other wife were to happen to spend time together in the home when I wasn’t there.
      Not so much out of fear of infidelity but I’d definitely feel violated if my husband formed a meaningful relationship with the other wife. It’s one thing to have close opposite sex friends, it’s a whole other story to be living with that person and for them to potentially know intimate details of your own relationship (you know, like how we had a big fight or something.)

    • Heather says...

      Totally agree jacklyn!!!

  58. I couldn`t do this… I love to have the apartment for myself, I love the quiet! And later when I`ll have a family I want to enjoy a calm home with just my husband and my kids. I don`t need action all the time!
    But this is a really cool post. Love to see how other people live :)

    http://www.carolinespassion.wordpress.com

  59. JPB says...

    The only way I can imagine to live. I’m already living with my spouse and quite a few other people, no kids though. To be honest, I currently see the biggest issue in finding an urban space that is big enough so that it would actually work. Nothing is more in the way of making communal living work than being cramped into a tiny space. I have quite a few friends living that way in Berlin, but those big houses are becoming a rarity.

  60. belen says...

    That is so interesting! I lived in a coop for a semester in Austin with 74 other people and I loved it, I don’t know if I could share a house with another family but I would love to live in the same building as friends/family. Being part of a community is the best feeling for me, it feels very natural since I come from a big family, especially if you also get the opportunity to have your own space too.

  61. Anna says...

    At one point you posted something about a family that shares a brownstone with one or two other families (in separate apartments)– that, or a group of houses sharing a common porch or yard, would be my ideal. You would get the benefits of community and support while preserving private space for your own family unit. I can be a bit controlling when it comes to cleanliness and decor, and I don’t think I would enjoy having to negotiate those things with another family. Also, it’s such a big commitment! Committing to one person (a partner/spouse) and children is momentous enough, but committing to home ownership with two other adults and their children just seems like too much to me. And all the financial trickiness, and food, and everything else… I get stressed out just thinking about it!

  62. What an interesting post! I watched that documentary (“Happy”) and loved it. I am glad that this concept works for many people, and there are clear benefits (and draw-backs) to the approach. Generally speaking, it is not the ideal set-up for me, but I recognize that the concept offers a wonderful alternative for some people.

  63. I’ve never heard of this, but what a lovely way to live!

    I’d love to hear even more about the logistics—does each family generally do its own grocery shopping/cooking, or are meals communal? How are cleaning duties (beyond the kitchen) divided up? And what about each family’s visitors?

    Fascinating!

    • Oana Valeria says...

      Great question Alexa. Do both families share the same meal schedule? Do they share the same meal at the same time or do they eat sepparately?

      I have shared a flat for 8 years in Barcelona and while I loved it and only had great experiences I thought that alone time was the utmost luxury!

      I am now linving with my boyfriend and I cannot imagine sharing the same space with anyone else.

  64. Julie says...

    Never! I don’t even have to think twice about it. My home is my nest and I’m very protective of it. I love to entertain in it but you must leave at the end of the night…ha! Our family cherishes ‘alone’ time with just the 5 of us…and in our busy world, that is so hard to get. I think it’s wonderful that these families have found such a bond and a love for this type of co-living. And I do see the upsides to it….but it’s not for us.

  65. This would feel too much like college living with roommates for me. I was so excited to move out of that environment to a home shared with just my husband. We also don’t know any other couples who we like well enough to want to live with them (perhaps we are too picky)! I could go for a basement apartment situation with friends/family living there and frequent back-and-forth between the floors, but I like having our own space. I do sometimes dream of having a duplex or living on the same road as friends/family…that would be fun and retain many of the positive elements of cohousing without some of the drawbacks.

  66. Kathryn says...

    I’m glad it works for them and it was really interesting to read how they make it work, but this sounds awful for me. When I get home, I just want to plop on the couch in my undies and chat and laugh with my husband while my baby crawls all over the living room playing and making a mess of her toys. To have another family constantly present seems intrusive.

  67. Amy says...

    My husband will occasionally suggest this but I think I would have a hard time with it. And I have so many questions, my biggest being- what if the other family decided they wanted to move out or leave the set up created? Like if they got a new job in a new place, or something unforeseen like that. I like the idea of a duplex situation, but not sharing the same space for the most part. I have a hard enough time sometimes with my kids being in my bubble let alone a whole other family! I think it’s really cool that they are doing it though, if it works for you, go for it!

  68. Amy P says...

    With the right people, I think I could see it working for me. I immediately ‘clicked’ with my first roommate in university – we were assigned to each other by the university which I think helped. There was no personal responsibility or thoughts like ‘I wish I had chosen ‘x’ instead’; just the fact that we would be living together for 8 months. I’ve never clicked with someone that instantly since, although I keep hoping it will happen again sometime. But I too keep thinking of all the logistics – parenting styles, when you have houseguests, different priorities when it comes to house maintenance and necessary renovations, etc. On the other hand, having more kids (we have three so far) has made me let go of some perfectionist tendencies and become more relaxed and I could see this situation doing the same thing for me. While the shared courtyard scenario sounds easier to adjust to, I think it might actually cause more tension because you can retreat to your space more easily to complain about your neighbours and there can be more miscommunication. If you’re all-in sharing a house together, you have to figure it out!

  69. TC says...

    I think communal living is great and I’m happy it’s working out for these families, but having done the communal living in San Francisco throughout my 20’s, I’m firmly over it. My husband and I are finally, now in our 30’s, living with just the two of us (and pets) for the first time ever and it’s really lovely. That said, it’s still funny to me that this is considered such a novel idea in the States when so many, many other cultures practice communal living, primarily with extended families.

  70. this is very neat! what is interesting is that I come from a south asian background, although i was born and brought up in canada, my parents are from india – therefore extended families and living with them is the thing. this reminded me of that. I have grown up in a house at times with 13 people – aunts and uncles and cousins, before. it’s got it’s pros and cons!

    http://www.footnotesandfinds.com

  71. Rachel says...

    I have loved living with people throughout my teens and twenties, but I don’t think I could do this. I feel like I’d never get private time with my spouse and that’s something I love–I look forward to it at the end of every day. I don’t have kids yet but if I did, I think I’d want that same alone/family time with them. But who knows. It’s fun hearing about how other people live their lives. In fact, I went to school at Berkeley and there were a lot co-ops and I don’t think I could have handled living there, so maybe that’s a sure sign.

  72. Lauren E. says...

    I’m definitely of the “this is my worst nightmare” camp but I do love the idea of people finding happiness outside the confines of what is traditional. Everyone is different, and if this works for them, then more power to ’em!

  73. Kathleen says...

    I love this idea, for so many reasons. I think it’s a great way to raise kids, and a great way to live as adults. I think Americans in general have become way too individualistic and that it’s causing so many problems for us and for the world. And yet . . . I can see myself becoming a rigid nightmarish pain in the arse in this situation. As some other commenters said, I think I would handle it better in a large communal situation with lots of other families, but with just one other family I would find it tough. But major kudos to these folks!!! Really an awesome story.

  74. I don’t think I could share a home with friends, but I love the idea of going in on a duplex with another family. In our area, a duplex typically sells for significantly less than a single family home and it would be great having a common backyard for kids to play in. There are a couple of rentals in our area where both units in a duplex are occupied by families and I love seeing the parents sitting on the front porch chatting while the kids play.

  75. Katy says...

    This is the dream. Particularly something closer to what Ann describes her friends as having (several houses overlooking a shared courtyard). If you haven’t read it and you’re interested in this, I’m an absolute fanatic for Dolores Hayden’s work, particularly Redesigning the American Dream. She makes an incredible case for how much we’ve sacrificed community (and money and women’s advancement and the environment) because we’re so committed to the single family home.

  76. Dominique says...

    This is my dream. My college roommates and I would often talk about how we wanted to continue living together. It hasn’t worked out, but I would totally be willing to do this.

  77. This is so interesting. Good for them for making it work! I’m sure I could if it was my only option, but I don’t think I would by choice. I really savor quiet time and personal space. I need that solitude at the end of a long day, or in the morning. It’s the introvert in me. I think having to be “on” all the time would exhaust me.

  78. Dana says...

    This is one of those things that could either be a dream or could be a nightmare. If the chemistry with the other family was right and the house big enough, I might actually try something like this out! I loved living with roommates and always having someone around to do things with. My husband would never go for it, though.

  79. This is really interesting. I think I would be more open to it if I also had a separate living room area. Like I could picture buying a brownstone in NYC with another family, and one family has the top floor, one has the bottom, and then a shared kitchen/dining area or something. I am also an extrovert though, so who knows- I might like it more than I think!

  80. Erin says...

    Great post, and I can confirm that it’s the best thing ever if you find a good fit. We rented a house with another couple for three years, and it was awesome. The house was way nicer than anything we could have afforded on our own, and we all took turns cooking for each other, which was THE BEST. We had a baby and our friends decided to buy a house on their own, so we got some new room mates who also had a baby. They moved out of town seven months later, but it was so fun while it lasted, and the babies definitely developed a special bond. Now we live in a house with my retired parents – though they are in a separate suite downstairs. Our lives are so much easier having them nearby, and I know we’ll return the favour in the future. So happy to hear about others who are into communal living!!

  81. My husband and I talk about this all the time! We are from L.A., temporarily living in Colorado but dreaming of moving back to Los Angeles–but it’s SO expensive! And now we are about to have a baby… But we have talked to another couple about going in on a house together. I think we’d just rent, though–I couldn’t tell if this family bought with another? That would require a lot of trust, financially, to cosign!

    I lived in community a lot in my twenties, whether in grad school or abroad doing volunteer work. Like anything, there is so much good and quite a bit of bad. I think sharing kitchen space is the worst. Also, it might be tough if you really differ on how you raise your kids–I can just picture kids whining about their house-siblings being able to do something when they can’t! Also, my husband and I don’t fight a ton, but we DO fight…and that’s something that’s always kept me from taking the plunge. Would I just have to bottle everything up all the time, or have whisper fights in the bedroom?

    • Geraldine says...

      Whisper Fights!, I love it! Lol

  82. Alyssa says...

    I love this idea! I don’t know that I could do it with friends, but I would definitely consider it with family. I grew up in a two-family house (upstairs downstairs set up) and my mom’s mother and 5 of my mom’s siblings lived above us. I was constantly surrounded by people during my childhood and I absolutely loved it. To this day I am closer to my aunts and uncles than most of my friends because they were an integral part of my upbringing. I know this experience isn’t exactly the same, but there were still some crucial similarities. My parents never had to search far for a babysitter for me and my sisters, we sometimes shared dinners, and my mother’s siblings (who are all quite a bit younger than she is – think 15-20 years) had my parent’s for role models in addition to their own parents (just to name a few great things about it!). Thanks for this article Joanna! I loved it!

  83. I’m an introvert but I think I would love it! Bring back the village to help raise kids, I say!

  84. Great post, I had no idea this existed! I’m completely fascinated by everything about this. It’s amazing how people can adapt to situations and find that family means more than being related by blood. The comment about being an extrovert and liking that there is always someone to talk to or watch a movie with cracked me up. I’m an introvert, so that pretty much scared me to death :)

    • Oh same here. When I’m at home I don’t want to talk to anyone!

    • Jamie says...

      Agreed. This part terrified me. I loved living alone after college! Getting used to living with my husband was even tough! I’m such an introvert and definitely need “me” time. (a lot)

  85. Emma says...

    I would totally to do this. My husband and I actually joke about buying a giant house with both sets of our parents! (Though that would be REALLY crazy…friends are one thing, but parents are a whole other ballgame!). I do love the idea of communal living, though – it seems to me it would mean more hands to share the work, more support, more love.

  86. Very interesting interview! I’m curious to know whether the families set out any ground rules about things like division of chores/expenses, personal spaces, etc., before they moved in.

  87. So interesting! Maybe this is weird, but I think I could live with a whole group of families (like in Denmark), but that just one other family might be strange? Does that make sense? That is a lot of togetherness, whereas in a big group home you would have more variety in who you see each day.

    • I completely agree! I don’t know why I feel that way, but more than one other family seems safer? LOL

  88. Emily says...

    Very cool to see stories about this kind of non-nuclear household on here! Some friends of mine are working on setting up a co-op household in Boston that shares some of these ideas – families living together to support children and families. (If you’re interested, you can check out more info here: http://canopycoop.weebly.com/)

  89. lesley says...

    Throughout my 20s I lived in a bunch of different communal housing situations, but it was always all single people / couples with no children.

    A few years ago, I moved into the house owned and occupied by my best friend, her husband, and their five year old son (who I ended up referring to as my “five year old roommate”). People thought we were crazy, but it was great! I moved to a new state for work earlier this year and was devastated to leave The Compound behind. :)

  90. Jessica says...

    Yikes. As an only child and introvert who values privacy and quiet time, this sounds like an absolute nightmare! But good for them for making it work!

    • Elizabeth says...

      Ditto. But really interesting concept. Enjoyed reading about this.

    • Leslie says...

      You took the words right out of my mouth! My quiet home (with my husband and daughter) is my sanctuary. Even when we go on vacation with extended family, it takes me a few days afterwards to decompress. I can’t think clearly when I’m around other people for too long – true introverts need their space!

  91. Liz says...

    My 12 year old son and I live with his ‘God Fathers’. They are my village, my tribe. We are the new normal and my son doesn’t know life without them. In fact, we all lived together for years in Washington and all recently moved to California when one God Father relocated for work. Yes, there are conflicts and arguments like any family and with one child and 3 adults it can be chaotic(we go to family counseling on occasion to get us back on track) but the love we all have for my son and each other and the laughter that echoes through the house outweighs all that. I am so blessed and can’t imagine life any other way!

  92. Jamie says...

    I’m a newlywed living in a house full of guys and we (mostly) love it! My husband and I got married in May and decided to move into the house he was already sharing with 4 other guys. Having housemates has been great! We are introverts, so it gives us such a built-in social life and the freedom to retreat to our (fairly large) master bedroom. The size, location, and quality of space we’re living in compared to what we’d pay to rent on our own is ridiculous! I’d love to try living with another family when that time comes…as long as it’s the right family with similar values and complimentary lifestyle.

  93. cool idea but definitely not for me. I’m on the extrovert side, but honestly too controlling and OCD to share a home with another family! I learned that about myself in college and have loved living alone and with my hubby/kids…ONLY!

  94. Stasha says...

    In 2008 after swapping our house with a family in France, we wanted to continue our experience there. We went back to the US for the summer and our French friends searched high and low for a house to rent, but everything in our price range was simply horrific. After the summer our friends let us stay with them while we kept looking…and looking…and looking. There was nothing! We made a deal that helped out both families and In the end we lived with them for 2 school years (September to June-we went back to the US in the summers). 4 adults, 7 kids! . . . Not only did it help us save to buy our house down the street from them, but it was an amazing cultural experience for all of us – and we learned French pretty fast :)

  95. When I lived abroad, I lived in a house with fourteen other people of different ages, nationalities, languages. It was the best, most formative experience of my life but I do have to say sharing a kitchen was the hardest part. Especially sharing one refrigerator.

    But I wouldn’t have traded it for the world and ever since, I try to seek out community everywhere I can. I will never forget those nights drinking tea around a table, learning and listening and feeling incredibly content.

  96. Umm, no. At least not at our age. We are in our 60’s, so communal living would feel like a retirement home setting to us. That being said, it may work for retired people who need help financially, and for some, who are lonely in their elderly years it could also prove to be a good thing and stave off depression.

  97. Amy says...

    I’m laughing at myself because all I keep saying is “this is crazy!!” I don’t think I could ever do it, but I think it’s great some people can. If it were up to me, I’d forever live alone. However, maintaining a healthy, happy long-term relationship requires some compromise when it comes to living arrangements!

  98. Karen says...

    I love the idea of this, especially since our neighborhood is full of huge houses with no real sense of community. But as someone who loves little bits of quiet time, I wonder if all the commotion would be stressful. I’ve heard of communities where people live in smaller houses, but very close to other smaller homes with a shared green space and shared community resources ( tools, leaf blowers, etc). I could totally see that as a retirement situation once our kids are grown and out of the house.

  99. Yikes! That would be up there on my list of worst nightmares, but it sounds like it’s working for them pretty well. Very interesting!

  100. really interesting. i think i like the concept more than actually living it. the first 10 years of my life i lived with grandparents, 2 uncles, an aunt and 2 cousin in a 2 bedroom 1 bath apartment. it was all i knew and i thought everyone lived like that. in fact, most of my classmates had similar living arrangements.
    i’m now married and i adore living with just my husband.
    although. starting tomorrow we’re going to have a roommate who needs a place to crash for 6 months while she completes a contract locally. it’ll be the funnest slumber party or we are going to hate each other by spring.

  101. Laura says...

    I love this idea, I’ve also wanted to live in a three flat building with close friends in the other two units. I think I would need more of my own space than the families in this article have (hence the wish for separate apartments) but I think communal living is great. My husband doesn’t agree, he’s much more of an introvert… hence we just bought our own single family home. Oh well!

  102. emilyp says...

    I’ve wanted to at least do duplex living with another family for a while now. I love the idea of that kind of low-key, familial socializing. My dream is to buy a Victorian 2-family home in a small, creative city with my sister or cousin. Sharing a large house would be great too, but as an introvert I need a bit of dedicated private space and time, which would be more challenging in that kind of set up.

  103. OK, first of all, I LOVE the documentary Happy, and have been blabbering about the Denmark place to friends and family ever since I first watched it. I’m so attracted to that idea. I love that you’re living it! I also thought it was great that you went into the specific pros and cons- logistics- of adapting such a lifestyle. So exciting. Great food for thought- thanks!

  104. Toun says...

    Interessting but not tempting to me.
    I’am wandering about the place of everyone and their relationships : are they roommates, friends, familly …

  105. s.m. says...

    Love this topic, Joanna! We have done this before, but for shorter-term stints. I would love to try living in a group house. Ultra-clear communication is key to success!

  106. Molly says...

    I applaud them for making it work. I however, as an extremely introverted only child, would find it really stressful. My longtime partner is (my polar opposite) and extremely extroverted (he’s an identical twin) and would probably love this situation if his twin was our housemate.

    One way I think communal living would be beneficial is by having to constantly practice communication, patience, forgiveness and listening skills. Things that, I think, can get pushed under a rug for a while when its just two people. Having a sounding board of several different opinions would be great as well.

    I enjoyed this peak into a different family structure. Good for them, just not for me.

  107. This is such a cool idea, and I can only imagine that it’s a wonderful arrangement if the right personalities are involved. For me, though, it sounds like a total nightmare! I get really self-conscious when people are in my house. Are they bored? Are they judging me for letting my baby cry it out in the crib? Do they hate this meal? I feel like I can’t breathe until it’s just my immediate family again. Maybe those anxieties would work themselves out if the guests were permanent, but it gives me hives just thinking about it!

  108. Camille says...

    Really cool post but this situation is pretty much my idea of hell! There is nothing in life I love more than a calm, peaceful home with just my husband, my dogs and myself. I am very introvert (surprise!) and situations where I have to socialize or be around lots of people totally drain me and give me major anxiety. The mere idea of spending an entire weekend with a bunch of friends (whom, don’t get me wrong, I LOVE dearly) freaks me out! I am also very anal about decor, habits and little details that would go out the window in this type of situation. I must say though, the way these two families have been handling it all is amazing and I’m happy for them :)

    • Mae says...

      Never in a million years :/ I am completely worn out after spending more than a few hours with anyone other than my husband and kids. I would have a breakdown a couple of times a day in this situation. I’m not trying to be funny, I mean it quite literally. I’m glad they are happy though.