TBT: Grow Your Household... Laterally!

As a "poor and fabulous" 25-year-old who branded myself the "Recessionista Genie," I bought a beautiful and spacious house in a desirable suburb with my husband at the very moment when the housing bubble burst, when we were making under $40K a year total and drowning in student loan debts. Home prices hadn't quite plummeted to exciting lows yet, but the door also hadn't slammed shut on the ridiculous lending practices of the bubble times. We were approved for an unimaginable six-figure home loan with no money down (we didn't even pay closing costs), and we took it. We were tired of living in a moldy, drug-soaked apartment building in a high-crime downtown neighborhood, and we were willing to do just about anything to escape living in a cesspool of filth and sickness. Our secret to success? Filling the house with roommates to help pay the bills and share meals.

We lived with at least one roommate at a time for about four years, until we had an exceptionally negative experience involving a heroin addiction and major theft. Yikes! Fortunately, those four years were enough to help us pay off some of our debts so that after we had that one bad experience, we were able to achieve the ability to live comfortably in our home without roommates.

Meanwhile the economy has improved, and fewer people are unemployed. But wages and household income growth for the non-rich remain pitiful, and Americans have a loneliness problem, so the trends of cohousing and living with roommates have not gone away; they've grown to become normal and common options for living our best lives on whatever income we have.

So if you feel priced out of living in your community of choice, or if you are a single person who doesn't want to live completely alone, it is worthwhile to explore the ever-expanding options of sharing costs and spaces and things with others. Like I wrote back in the aughts:

Grow Your Household... Laterally!

A recession is no time to be a loner. Fill your home with laughter and love and as many people as possible--and not like Octomom.

The poor and fabulous can live much more richly (and lower our carbon footprints while saving money) by sharing space. Remember the show Friends? It can be fun to have roommates, even if you're not a college student. My husband and I rent space (mostly filled with racks of very cute clothes and shoes) to a very fabulous roommate. We share lots of things that benefit all of us: our house, utility bills, fridge and freezer storage, meals, fires in the woodstove, and playtime with our roomie's cat Callie. We're real adults, not coeds, so we don't have drunken party-related conflicts, and we're not often home all at the same time.

If you find folks you can get along with, you can live in a much nicer, larger, and safer home by sharing with others. Housemates can be family members, friends, or if you're daring, people looking for a place to live on Craigslist. (This worked out for a friend of mine who couldn't afford his apartment by himself.)

And you know, it's just a lot easier to cook for three and eat in company than to cook for one and eat alone. A full household is worth the extra dirty dishes, even if you get stuck with them. In my experience, the benefits of a shared home far outweigh the challenges.

These ladies are two of my college roomies! We all live with different sets of roommates in different parts of the world now, but we all keep in touch. It seems that living with people makes you either hate them or love them forever... the latter result being more common and well worth the risk.

Food cooked with and for other people tastes better, I swear.

Bonus: Kitchen mates share their favorite recipes and cooking skills to add zest and variety to your usual fare.

You don't have to get THIS cozy, though I do recommend group snuggling.

Happy cohabiting!


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