Moving Into The Arms Of A Community
It’s been quiet at the blog lately. For the last two months, I’ve spent most of my spare time sorting, culling, cleaning, packing, moving, reorganising, working, parenting, and flopping into bed at the end of the day. Moving house is a great opportunity to sift through your stuff and distill what you really want in your life. And it can be a huge undertaking!
I found the emotional work of making decisions about every item I own to be as draining as the physical work of shifting things. I put cypress oil in the burner, to help with letting go.
It took me several months to decide where I was moving to, and what sort of living arrangements I would be landing in, which made it difficult to sort my things effectively. Was I going to have electricity? Would I share a kitchen with housemates? Would I move into a furnished house, an empty house, a single room, a caravan, a granny flat, a tent or a tipi?
I tried to keep my options open. My priorities in locating a house were safety (especially with a child) and how I could live there sustainably. I started looking at houses in town, as I work several days a week and was travelling half an hour each trip. Reducing that travel would be cheaper, reduce my environmental footprint and save time as well.
I looked at seven houses, applied for a few and declined a few. The ones I applied for were knocked back, and one real estate told me I didn’t earn enough to rent their cheapest unit. This is because I’ve designed my life to need as little money as possible. But how to make this work in a new location?
I put up ads for housemates, checked out some rooms on offer, upped my hours at work to increase my income and looked at all the private rentals I could find.
Meanwhile, the weeks were ticking by and the time to get out of the cottage was looming. I had my parent’s place as a temporary back-up option (thanks, mum and dad) and several other possible options.
The people who replied to my housemate ad didn’t strike me as trustworthy. Some of the private rentals were smelly and dodgy, some were on busy roads, some were too far from town. Nothing seemed quite right.
Over the past few months, I had several conversations with two of my friends about living on a small community. I wasn’t sure if this was going to work for me and my son, especially as it was even further from town.
However, as my other attempts to secure a house fell through, I found myself coming back to this idea. The plan was to set up a tent or stay in a caravan for a week, and see if we liked it. Then we could discuss a longer stay.
Another friend just bought a canvas bell tent. I imagined living in a round, light space; a space of beauty and harmony. I looked up a few websites and they weren’t as expensive as I’d imagined. $1000-2000 would buy me a home. To set something like this up on a bare paddock would require a water source, toilet and shower, kitchen and somewhere for my substantial library and soapmaking gear. But if we set up a bell tent on the community, the tent need only function as our bedroom and private living room. There was already a spacious and tidy communal kitchen and lounge, and clean toilets and bathroom.
I came to a crossroads. Should I continue applying for cheap rentals, find a place close to work and keep looking for a suitable housemate? Or expand my boundaries further by moving into a temporary tent on a shared property with a few people I knew and some more that I didn’t? I figured I could carpool into town sometimes to cut my fuel use down.
When I imagined myself living both those choices, I felt that I would regret not trying the community option. If I chose not to, it would be because I was pleasing other people and keeping myself small. The tent was calling me. I’ve written earlier about how place affects your sense of self. I wanted to be this tent-dweller, to manifest that harmony and connection to nature in my home.
So I bit the bullet and got rid of even more stuff. Moving from a house into a tent is a big operation. Especially when you’re a hoarder, like me. I threw out carloads of plastics, half-finished projects, clothes, toys, kitchen gear. I kept only my very favourite things. There was still too much.
I cancelled my ads, stopped inspecting houses, and arranged to arrive at the community. Both the people I knew were planning to be away that day, but they assured me I could still come. I packed our big nylon tent and a carload of bedding and clothes, and drove the ten minutes further away from town.
I cried the whole way. Silently, so my son didn’t see me. It was just such an emotional upheaval, going through all my belongings and letting go and travelling into the unknown. I wiped my face and arrived completely drained. I didn’t know which building to walk into.
Luckily my friend was home for lunch, and gave me a hug. The first of many hugs and offers of support.
I set up the tent with my son. We have a room each inside. We moved in beds, toys and books. The essentials. The community welcomed us in and fed us. It was a huge relief to not have to cook dinner every night.
The next day I brought another carload. That pretty much filled up the tent. Unfortunately, my house was still full of stuff! I embarked on a fortnight of garage sales, giving away, selling, donating and sorting. So many decisions to make! Should I keep it? Do I have room for it? Is is beautiful or useful? Do it bring me joy? Should I store it? I don’t want things in storage, but in the end I ran out of decision-making time and shelved several roomfuls of stuff at my folks’. I promise I’ll go through it before Christmas, Mum. Some things needed to be stored while I waited for the heavy duty tent.
I bought a twin pole bell tent online, 6 x 4 metres, which is big enough for several king beds. It arrived in only four business days. I haven’t put it up yet, as I’m waiting for imput from absent members of the community on where to site it. It weighs 50 kilos and needs several people to erect, so once it’s up I’d rather not move it too many times.
We’re settling in well. We’ve had a few late spring rainstorms, and stayed completely dry in the tent. Our bedding is cosy, and our new solar lantern gives plenty of light. My son hardly plays with his toys any more, he’s out climbing trees with his friends.
Last weekend was my final day to vacate the cottage. Between working extra hours, finding places for stuff and the extra travel time, I still had furniture to move, plants to dig up, housecleaning, yard tidying and last minute jobs. My new community members generously spent an afternoon tackling all these tasks with me at the cottage, taking the last loads of rubbish and donations away and moving the last few plants for me. The emotional support was as useful as the physical.
Our lives are becoming entwined with a larger family. There’s always someone to talk to, share music with, pick the kids up, walk with or water the plants. Coming to a shifting household of about a dozen people is amazing, when it was just me and my son previously. How did I manage to do all this on my own up until now? Whether I need a welder or flower essences, someone I live with can help me.
We’re coming to a place of harmony and abundance. I don’t know how long I’ll stay here or what will happen next. But I’m enjoying the journey.
[…] some grief around the disbanding of the household, yet I don’t regret going down this path of communal living. I find the growth, support, company, shared responsibilities, diverse skills, meaningful […]