As we encounter useful resources along the paths of downsizing, living in an intentional community and exploring the sharing economy — among other things! — we’ll share them here. We’ll pass along resources we’ve used ourselves or are recommended by trusted friends. We get a small cut of any books you purchase from Amazon.com via the links below, but we have no financial stake in any of the other products or services listed.
The Great Good Place, by Ray Oldenburg. See Susan Ager’s recommendation below.
Places to live:
Co-housing: Had we not lucked out and secured a room at BHFH, co-housing was our next choice — and may yet be our next choice after our time at the Friends House. Our interest in co-housing has been inspired by our friends, Joan and Ed King, friends of more than 35 years who have shown us the way in many respects. They live in the Eastern Village co-housing development in Silver Spring, just outside Washington, D.C.
Places to hang out:
Cafe Con Leche, Detroit, Mi.: Bill got to know this place working on the Detroit143 initiative that he and Kirk Cheyfitz launched in Detroit (and are hoping to rejuvenate early next year). It’s everything you’d want in a neighborhood coffee shop: good coffee, good treats, free wireless and a steady stream of people whose conversations you’re always tempted to join.
Cafe Fixe, Brookline, Ma.: We were introduced to this place by our daughter, Kate, and were surprised to discover that the owner has killed the power to all the outlets in the place! As a result, your laptop use is limited to the life of your latest battery charge. But guess what? Pulling the plug gets people talking with one another.
I love the community at Barb’s Bakery in our village of 650 people. It is one of the “great good places” described by sociologist Ray Oldenburg in his book of that title. He describes places, like Barb’s, where you can arrive and depart whenever you want, where you can always expect to find someone you know or want to know, where you don’t need to perform, or even speak, but just listen with interest and respect to the opinions of a wide diversity of people who you might not even choose as “friends.” These daily encounters enrich you, and deepen your relationships. I’ve described our friendships in this little town as baklava — layer after layer after layer of experience with someone makes for something chewy and nourishing.
Project 333: A friend at the Friends House put us on to this site. It helps you get your wardrobe down to “33 items including clothing, accessories, jewelry, outerwear and shoes.” You work with those 33 items for three months. We haven’t tried it yet, but our friend has and seems to like it.
Living With Less: How to Downsize to 100 Personal Possessions, by Mary Lambert. This book takes you through a series of goals aimed at lowering your personal possessions in these categories: Clothes; shoes, purses, luggage, etc; jewelry, cosmetics, etc; electronic items; sports equipment; and hobby materials. She also includes room by room tips for clearing clutter.
Keep your Brain Alive, Lawrence C. Katz, Ph.D. and Manning Rubin. Carol has been suggesting that Bill spend some time with this book.
Composing a Further Life: The Age of Active Wisdom, Mary Catherine Bateson.
The Sharing Economy:
Homeexchange: This is the service we have most experience with, including home swaps in Dublin, Vienna and Sharon, Mass., as well as so-called asynchronous swamps (we haven’t stayed in their places yet) with people staying in our house from Vietnam, Denmark and France. One of the few downsides of leaving our house in St. Pete is the loss of such an attractive swap property. But we’re hoping some of our Homeexchange friends will visit us in Boston and stay in guestrooms at Beacon Hill Friends House.
Zipcar: We first became members of Zipcar four years ago when we were in Cambridge for a semester. We had no car with us for the several months we were living in a Harvard dorm, but there were a couple of Zipcar parking lots within easy walking distance and, along with our bikes at our T passes, covered our transportation needs just fine.
FLIGHTCAR: So far, we’ve used only the supply side of FLIGHTCAR. On a couple of occasions, we’ve parked our car in the FLIGHTCAR lot near Logan Airport and reaped the following benefits: The first time we got free parking and a free carwash (nobody rented our car). The second time, we hit the trifecta: free parking, free carwash and $40 for use of our 2008 Volvo station wagon for a few days. (Car came back the way we left it; with the gas gauge at the same spot.)
Airbnb: This is the alternative to hotels that Bill used in Detroit earlier this summer and is using this week in Vienna. He’s running a journalism workshop there this week and moved into this place yesterday (10 September 2013). He’ll write about the Vienna flat soon; here’s the review he wrote of the Airbnb place in Detroit:
This was a last-minute booking (confirmed by email just before pulling out of the rental car lot at the airport and headed downtown). These accommodations are exactly as billed. Comfortable and quiet room convenient to downtown Detroit.
The house and the neighborhood have a fascinating history, so try to make some time to chat with Todd about that. He’s a knowledgeable insider in one of the most interesting urban stories unfolding anywhere — what will become of Detroit — and his neighborhood will provide you with a perspective that defies pretty much every stereotype you’ve ever heard about the city.
The Life You Can Save: Acting Now to End World Poverty, Peter Singer
The Most Good You Can Do: How Effective Altruism Is Changing Ideas About Living Ethically, Peter Singer
More or Less: Choosing a Lifestyle of Excessive Generosity, Jeff Shinabarger. Lots of creative ideas about ways to be generous.
The Paradox of Generosity: Giving We Receive, Grasping We Lose, Christian Smith and Hillary Davidson. Research on the connection between generosity and happiness, health and sense of purpose.
Inspiring Generosity, Barbara Bonner A collection of stories and quotes about generosity.