An Experience in (Mild) Communal Living
Overview History Meetings Cleaning Eating Food Shopping Recycling Worm Bin

The Hampster House Collective was formed in 1993 by Pete and Jean. I was there through 1999. There's currently two members of the collective, Pete and Dan. These pages describe my experience living in the house. Since I've left now, it's all in the past tense.

The collective is composed of people who live in the house/flat on Hampshire St. There are no dues, no fees, no leader. We all chose to live together voluntarily, though when we interviewed people for an empty room it was only for new members of the collective.

We were a small group and stayed together, I think, because we liked it and not because of any rigid or religiously held beliefs. That is, I don't think any of us were gritting our teeth and thinking, "I want the hell out of here...but I gotta support the collective effort." We lived that way ("why do you live that way?") because it's how we liked and wanted to live.

I'm writing this so you might learn more about the collective effort we applied. It's been my experience that these sorts of groups are hard to pull together, and take some work to stay together. Maybe this information will help you with your collective efforts.

I hope, over time, to include more information on collective living situations. Personally, I loved it. At its best, a collective can serve as a family when family isn't available, and, if the people are willing to work at it, you can become good friends.

My own nightmare is to live in a shared household place that's just a pad, a place to sleep. I know many people who would disagree. So why are some attracted to collective living and others not?

I'm 31 years old at this writing, so I grew up long after the whole commune/collective thing was waning in this country. I may have heard about it over time, but my parents are pretty regular, probably conservative, so it's not something they would have advocated. On the other hand, growing up I think I did get from my elder siblings the notion that something good was going on with all this freeform experimenting, for example in living situations. I think I had this idea for a long time, that a collective situation was nice and desireable.

So, part of my interest was with me growing up.

The other thing is, I like the work that goes into making a collective work. I'm not into forced-work situations, actually, and I do think that the only way this works is if all the individuals are really interested in living as a collective. So somehow, there has to be a motion towards making a home for everyone, and seeing how the whole group can make that happen. It's not about talking or theory or anything like that. It's about a bunch of people saying, "How do we do this? I want to be comfortable, so do you; how do we live together?" And then making it up as they go along.

I've met many people who have had bad experiences with housemates, and who, once it was economically feasible, got their own space to live in. I've lived with problematic housemates before (and I suspect I was one myself for some other people), so I understand what people are talking about.

I think problems arise, for example in shared-housing situations, when one has high expectations for the household and for one's housemates, and tries to see the whole experience through those high expectations. If we expect that all our housemates will be saints, aspiring to the highest values of collective living, we'll be disappointed because, in the end, we're all just ordinary human beings muddling through things. So the reality principle is, hope for the best from your friends, but know that they, like you, are just individuals trying to sort their own way through life.

I've compiled some information about how we formed (history.html) as a group, as well as how we kept our thing going by meeting regularly (meeting.html) . Since we ate together, there's some stuff on how we did the food thing collectively (food.html) . We recycled and had a worm bin as well, which you can read about here (worms.html) . And of course, no collective would be complete without a cleaning schedule (cleaning.html) .

To be more precise about it, you can read more by following the links in the box on the left-hand site, "On This Topic".