Michael named us. He’s good with words. “Us” are three couples who decided on living together in our “retirement” * about 12 years ago.
We’ve all known each other for decades and started sharing our holidays long ago. When we thought about our future, it occurred to us that a home in the country was a more enticing option than a retirement village. So, that’s when we started taking Steps.
The Team consists of Michael and Judy, who I met through Iyengar yoga in the late 70’s; Heather and Rick, who I met through the EST training and the Forum; and Daniel and me. Five of us are into yoga, and Rick is still, at the time of this writing, a hold-out.
Step One: Choosing where, what kind of a property and what size we wanted to buy. This was tricky. It’s not that easy for 6 strong-minded people to agree on big decisions. You won’t believe it, we actually looked at a 200-acre property. It didn’t take too long to come to our collective senses, and soon we settled on a 4-acre spread on Mitchells Island, and this is where the shed comes in. A kind of glorified cabin with kitchen, bedrooms, open-plan living, big bathroom/laundry, even a hills hoist – we could plan on being happily accommodated in such a shed.
Step Two: Getting to know Mitchells Island. The mid-north coast where it comes up against the Manning River became our new holiday destination for Christmas/New Year’s, Easter, Queen’s B-day, Labour Day, and any other weekends besides. One to three couples would make the 4 hr. drive up the Pacific Hwy, often along with all of the rest of the Sydney escapees. If we were all at the shed at the same time, the six of us would fill up the 72 squares. Two couples got one 3 x 3 bedroom each, and the third couple got the mattress in the “lounge”. I would say that we got along remarkably well on these holidays, considering the relatively small space. Fortunately the Island has some inviting attractions – river recreational activities, an ocean beach, even a café or two and a general store.
Step Three: Living together. To test the theory that we could all live “tout ensemble”, we decided to trial living together in a communal house in Sydney. Some of our friends and family thought we’d gone bonkers – ageing hippies harking back to university communal living; others thought worse thoughts. About this time, a couple of documentary filmmakers, Lesley and Rod, approached us about making a film of our project. They took on filming every move we made for awhile, and after about a year and a half, for various reasons, (mainly, we didn’t generate enough conflict) they had to give up.
We really struck it lucky in finding a waterfront, three-level house in Longueville to rent. We consolidated our possessions, and moved in in March 2006. The six of us had our moments, but, hey, we were living together in Paradise, and mostly harmoniously for two years. I recorded this early communal experience in my first blog (2006) called The Ville Blog.
Step Four: Designing and building a house. This was the Putting-Your-Money-Where-Your-Mouth-Is stage. There were lots of meetings where our various strong personalities flexed their muscles and forged the plan for our future house. We agreed on an amazing house designer who specialises in passive solar design. After workshopping our ideas, we were able to give him a brief – one that we had to keep fine-tuning to reflect our slender budget. The Good Fortune Goddess sent us a great builder, and construction began in February 2009.
Heather and Rick were the pioneer Shedders. They retired earlier than the other two couples and lived in the little tin box on and off for two years. They project-managed the house construction and the myriad micro decisions relating to interior décor. A huge job and responsibility done graciously, joyfully and well. The house was completed days before Daniel and Eve finished up their work in Sydney and moved north.
Step Five: Our scheme was completed when Michael and Judy came to reside here too.
*The word retirement is a loose description and not accepted by all of us. I’ve heard of a better term recently… re-firement.