In November, 2016, our family moved out of a home where we had spent 52 months living with another family of four. Thirty months in, I wrote about our co-living experience, but didn’t really address how it worked. This post has been a long time coming and I decided to jot down a few thoughts before I forgot some details.
Quick Background: We met our friends through the development of a cohousing initiative and became quick friends – common interests, kids the same age, Christians, bald/bearded, etc. We initially moved in together in anticipation of a cohousing project where the planned completion was a couple years out. Project capital was needed for the project and so our friends sold their home, we rented ours out and we rented a home together not far from the university. A couple years later, after our project had failed, our friends purchased a house and we put a down payment on a new condo build downtown (where we live now). In anticipation of moving into our condo in a year (things were delayed 18 months), we followed them to their house and rented from them.
Financial Logistics: Sharing a house introduces opportunities to save substantially on utilities, food, and rent/mortgage. We split utilities down the middle.
- electricity, gas, garbage/recycling, water/sewer, internet averaged to $175/family/month
- food came to around $450/family/month
- shared rent/mortgage saved us on average $450/month
By comparison, our family alone in our townhouse was spending around $800/month on food and $240 on utilities. So, at least $850/month in savings.
Add the savings when you include shared use of things like kitchen items, tools, and games. Babysitting savings were massive though we hired a babysitter (we loved you Holly!) fewer than a dozen times as any adult staying home amounted to free babysitting (and impromptu dates).
Home Sharing Logistics: As families, we had our own bedrooms, bathrooms, entrances and storage space. 20% shared space would be our two living rooms – we had a space in the basement where the other family was welcome and they had a space on the main floor where we were welcome. Fully shared were the kitchen, dining area and laundry.
Cooking, cleaning, and grocery shopping duties were split between the families. This meant that each week three suppers were cooked by Amber and three suppers were cooked by Heather and Jasen. Whoever cooked the prepared the meal got to relax afterwards while the other family cleaned up (I took that role fairly often for our family). The kids were on a rotation for unloading the dishwasher and sweeping the floor. The dishwasher was run a couple times a day.
Amber and Heather would develop a meal plan on Sunday evening and one of them would do the massive shopping trip that week. Saturdays or Sundays were a free for all of leftovers and freezer foods depending on whether people were home to cook for or not.
Friendship Logistics: This was of course the most interesting features for me. Jasen is now one of my closest friends as we simply know each other so well. There is a trust and respect and mutual concern that can only develop in close quarters – probably similar to what is developed in military barracks or summer camp. I like what Cari said in her comment in my initial post – we’ve become like siblings essentially.
What surprised me more than anything is the unintentional withdrawal we experienced – we were more likely than not to spend time apart as families than together during the evenings and weekends. While this is likely due to the reason that we saw each other at breakfast and supper everyday, I was surprised at how much energy was still required to hang out. That said, I played countless games with Jasen and the kids, we watched tons of movies and a few hockey/baseball games together, and we would sit up and chat over beer fairly often.
Overall our experiment went really well. I still go to Jasen’s for a games evening once a week. A couple weeks ago, I brought my kids along and they had such a great time with their old housemates. Amber goes out with Heather every couple months with some girlfriends. So – we’re still friends, and good ones at that!