Communal living

We’re all in this together, so what better time to get neighborly?

Maybe the hippies were right.

In the search for some kind of utopia, lots of folks in the 1960s and ’70s were trying out communal, back-to-the-land living. Even long before the hippie movement, there were communal societies in the United States, such as the long-lasting Harmony Society in Harmony, Pa., which existed from 1804 until 1905.

One thing communal societies have in common is communal ownership—of land and of possessions. The latter certainly can help people weather the current recession … and, in the process, get to know each other better.

For example:

• Jointly purchase (or work out a plan to share amongst several households) such large, non-daily-use items as a lawnmower, rototiller or barbecue grill. Even a washing machine, dryer or dishwasher can be jointly purchased by several neighbors. If already owned by one family, use of such large appliances can be rented or offered for trade for some other service.

• Share the use of a large freezer—perhaps after going in together on large purchases of freezer goods at stores that offer discounts on bulk purchases.

• Form a “dinner cooperative.” Having seven members each regularly cook and freezer-bag a meal for themselves and the six other co-op members will give everyone involved a week’s worth of dinners. Pick a regular day and time of the week to get together and trade meals for the week.

• Go grocery shopping with a friend or two in order to take advantage of savings that generally come from buying things in bigger quantities. You’ll also save money on gas because you’re carpooling.

• Speaking of carpooling: Let neighbors know the next time you’re going to the mall or the farmers market—maybe they’ll want to go with you.