Pastural landscape with full rainbow.

Who are the Shedders?

If you know me at all, you would know I’m a community junkie. I’ve created several yoga communities over the 35+ years that I’ve been teaching. I’m part of the Manning Valley singing community. There’s our Mitchells Island community that includes our own hall, school and, of course, the Yoga Shed. I belong to the Palliative care community of the mid north coast, working as a volunteer. And there are book clubs and writing groups, too

So you would expect that I would live communally too. We call our small ‘intentional community’ the Shedders. Why? Partly because of the big green shed on our property and partly because we three couple had to shed so much stuff to be able to fit into one house. My housemate, Michael named us in 2005, and the name has stuck.

If you’d like to know more about us, there are newspaper articles, magazine features, and television and radio interviews. Just google ‘Shedders ABC’ or ‘Shedders Sydney Morning Herald’ or ‘Shedders Judith Lucy’, and see what comes up. Some of the main hits you’ll get when you put Shedders in your browser are links to my housemate Heather’s blog, as well as her ebook, Shedders.

Heather has chronicled the early part of our journey in her well-written and often humorous book about learning to live menage a three couples.

This week I’m honoured to present Heather to you as a guest blogger. She’s flagging a timely event at which she’s presenting, and also giving an update on how the Shedders are travelling at this stage in our lives.

Shedders scoring well

I’ve been asked to participate this week in an event in Bellingen called the Affordable Housing Local Solutions Forum.

Bellingen is having a housing crisis. Because it’s such an attractive community, people are relocating from Sydney – spending their plentiful Sydney dollars and pushing prices up out of the reach of ordinary shire citizens.

As a result, Bellingen residents are needing to explore innovative solutions to the housing problem. I’ll be there representing the Shedders in the realm of “housing for new times” and “small scale for-purpose development”. That’s us.

My contact, one of the forum organisers, suggested I might reflect on why we chose to do this “innovative” thing in the first place, and now that almost a decade has gone by, how it’s turning out. The vision versus the actual. When I mentioned this to Rick, my husband, a few days ago, he said, “That’s easy. Tell ’em 9.5 out of 10.”

So, I’ll just elaborate on Rick’s intuitive leap. Some 17 years ago, when we first began talking about our vision of sharing retirement together, our conversations centered around three things. We wanted to avoid isolation as we age, to stretch our retirement dollars as far as possible, and to provide support for each other through tough times.

And now, after over 10 years of living together, how has that gone?

Shared finances. Rick and I live in a big, beautiful home on a 4-acre lot with sweeping views, near the ocean. We travel overseas for several months every year. We have a nice vehicle, a ride-on mower, an amazing variety of appliances, fabulous gardens, endless yoga equipment, quality meals every night of the week. Rick and I could not have afforded this lifestyle on our own nest egg. This community has saved us hundreds of thousands of dollars. 9 out of 10 for this one.

Mutual support. I experience day-to-day support in our Shedder environment. Sometimes it’s a helping hand with something I’m doing, sometimes it’s a cup or tea or a “How’s it going?” On a more intense scale, over the time we’ve been together we’ve had 3 major surgeries, 1 medium one and a dozen smaller ones. A steady flow of support means that there’s never been one over-worked spouse who has to carry the whole burden. We’ve been there for each other. 9.5 out of 10.

Avoiding isolation. Unless someone is away, we see each other daily. Mostly we dine together in the evenings. We share a strong interest in yoga, in choral singing, in books, in palliative care, in gardening, in cooking. Not only that, but these shared interests lead us into larger communities – the yoga classes, local choirs, the garden club, the palliative care community – that fill our lives to the brim. We are about as un-isolated as people can be. 10 out of 10 on this one.

Our Shedders experience suggests that although the Bellingen audience will be interested, they’re unlikely to rush out with their friends and buy a property together. But they’ll get a good taste of why it could be a very good idea.

We Shedders have invented our own future, and we like it. Anyone could do it.