As The Rule of the Community of the Holy Trinity suggest community life is the sharing and holding in common spaces and the objects in that space. We hold in common property, at the moment a rented apartment in a two flat in the Albany Park neighborhood of Chicago. The community moved into this location in August of last year. We have called the new space the New Digs.
One of the challenges of living in community is keeping common spaces common. For a community like ours this challenge stems from that much of the furniture and decor in common spaces members from items each brings into the community. As new members move in decisions about what furniture the new member has will go into the common spaces. This decision depends on what the new member brings, if she wishes to have an item used by all or if she wishes these items to only be in her room. The decision also depends on the needs of the community and fit within the current arrangement of space. Thus, common space is a negotiated space and one that is re-negotiated upon receiving a new member.
This way of negotiating common space; what we use in the common spaces and how we decorate those spaces, can bring about tensions between members. There have been times where some members have not felt at home in the spaces because they perceived that the items in the spaces as belonged to other members and was an expression of certain members aesthetic.
When holding things in common through bringing together our property and making it available to the community as a whole works, the common spaces and the items in them express the character of the community through the contributions of each member. So that while one may be able to guess that a certain item of decor came from this or that member, the result of the combination is the expression of the community as a whole. This is achieved both through a willingness to let go of the property one brings into the community and means truly receiving the gift of property that is offered by the other members and the community as a whole.
The other challenge of common space in an intentional community is maintaining the space so that all are comfortable in its use. This is a balance between maintaining a clean and aesthetically pleasant space that is also lived in.
Lastly, this approach to common space lends itself to an eclectic aesthetic, a blending of various opinions and desires, as well as seeking the best way to make use of the space of the house or apartment.
This is the current iteration of these negotiations in the Community of the holy Trinity’s space the New Digs: