Cooperative Living: Preparation

Working and Living in a House of Anarchists, Activists and Allies

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In a few months I will be moving with my partner, Carp, into a cooperative living situation in a new city, with new friends. It’s going to be quite a transition, but transitions are not something that is new to our lives and our relationship together- we just might be a little bit out of practice at first.

Two years ago I met Carp in Sacramento, California while we were participating in a program called AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps. That was, to say the least, a very interesting place to meet someone. We traveled the US for ten months with a team of twelve people from around the country.

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Carp and I were not on the same team, and so we only had the pleasure of meeting each other for a week or two in between projects- as each team was transitioning to move to their new housing and work situation. The week after we met, his team was shipped out to the Californian desert, and my team was sent to the Alaskan tundra. We got to know each other through letters and phone calls (though the distance gave us a 3 second audio delay). Back in Sacramento a month and a half later, we decided we should try living together. That was a day before he flew back to New York and I headed to Oregon.

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A few months later I landed in Kansas City, and Carp followed me to the heart of the US. For the past two years we have been living in Kansas City, and have enjoyed it very much. Our first year was spent in a highly impoverished area of the city that was largely vacant and felt like a bit of a ghost town. We shared an apartment with a third roommate, and split a $500 rent three ways. It was a great learning experience, but we were also happy to move.

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Our second year in the city we wanted to move to the more accessible area, full of bars, restaurants and hipster cafes (i.e. the gentrified area). Trying to ease our guilt about this choice a little bit, we chose a neighborhood that was a little more off the beaten path, though still right by the heart of the city. Our apartment ended up being a few blocks away from “Troost” street, which used to be the racial dividing line in the city way back when, and still largely is to this day.

Now, heading into our third year together we plan on heading back to a semblance of where we started together: community living. We will be living with 12 other people (ages 3–50) and sharing everything from lentils to couches to cleaning to leftovers. We will be immersed in anarchist flavors, and we will jump into social activism in our daily lives- not just our books. I will be sharing a room with Carp, and the rest of the house is common space. We will each be paying about $230 a month- for rent and food. The manifesto for the cooperative is: cheap housing for social justice activists doing work that society chooses not pay them for. This means I will be able to continue to write full time, and that is priceless.

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It’s definitely going to be a switch: we’ll have to get used to hanging our clothes out to dry instead of using a machine, picking lettuce for dinner from the garden out back, not flushing the toilet unless it absolutely needs flushed, and shopping for groceries for 14 people.

In honor of this new challenge, I will be starting a weekly blog post detailing the beauty and the challenges of community living. Look for these posts to begin around the first week of August. Until then, I will be be enjoying my huge $800 a month apartment that I get to enjoy all to myself most of the day.

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