Photo by Adam Susong
For the majority of my adult life, I have lived with roommates with the exception of the year before Adam and I got married and the year after.We made the mistake of renting an apartment that was too expensive for our budget in central Washington, D.C., which promptly entered us into the “yopro” rat race of working to make rent. We say now that we are grateful for that expensive lesson: for us, a simpler life is a happier life.
Millennials are more educated and more impoverished than their parents were at their age. So the landscape of adulthood is changing with this generation. For one, more people are electing to live with roommates into their thirties. As a married couple, Adam and I have lived with family, with friends, with acquaintances, with Craigslist roommates, and even in an urban co-op with 19 adults.
Our experiences have ranged in levels of fulfillment, but we have become only increasingly convinced that co-living is central to the life we envision, not just a necessity to get by. Certainly the concept of community living isn’t a new one, but middle class Americans have been chasing the American dream for decades: owning homes, filling them with one of everything from Bed Bath & Beyond or Lowe’s, and defining community as the nuclear family.
When Adam and I sold our furniture and minimized our things, we discovered a new sense of freedom that allowed us to spend less time maintaining and more time in community. Not to mention, the alleviation of financial pressures allowed more space for creative endeavors and hobbies.
Our experiences have ranged in levels of fulfillment, but we have become only increasingly convinced that co-living is central to the life we envision, not just a necessity to get by.
By expanding our live-in community, we’ve been able to share labor — taking turns cleaning, grocery shopping, and cooking meals. Doing these daily menial tasks fewer times in the week means I enjoy them more; plus it’s more fun to cook for a crowd. We’ve shared resources; if one person has a vacuum, then no one else needs to throw away hard-earned cash to buy another. I’ve come to appreciate the various strengths individuals bring to a live-in community and have felt relief that I alone do not need to be a frantic Superwoman. We’ve spent less time bingeing on Netflix and more time engaged in conversation.
Right now we aren’t living anywhere per se; we are backpacking from Mexico to Canada on the Pacific Crest Trail. As we hike, we occasionally discuss next steps; we are working to define our values and to allow those values to guide us in the life we design. There are so many priorities to weigh: financial stability, career advancement, children, location, community, freedom. It is certainly a privilege to imagine so much control over one’s circumstances. Nevertheless, we are working to be mindful about what really matters to us and to withdraw energy from societal norms that don’t have personal value. For us, living with roommates — well into adulthood — allows us to spend more time pursuing creative endeavors and less time hustling to get by.
Liz Susong is the Editor of Catalyst. She's a transient adventurer who can call anywhere home as long as there is a good wifi connection.