A coupla months ago, my nearly 100-year-old house flooded, thanks to rusted and rotted radiator pipework in an ancient heating system that decided it can’t even anymore. My family and I had just returned from spring break vacation to discover that it was raining from virtually every ceiling inside of our house, something I’m told is atypical for most single-family homes. As a result, 80% of our humble suburban Colonial was gutted, from attic to basement, and my partner, our two kids, our two dogs, and I had to move out while our house was in shambles.
During this period, which I like to call The Accidental Total Gut Renovation of 2015, my family couch-surfed at the homes of some very patient and very generous friends until they decided that they couldn’t even anymore. Our insurance company offered to put us up at an extended-stay hotel 40 minutes away from where we live, but I declined, citing the need to stay local so that my kid could continue to walk to school and so that the duration of my partner’s work commute into the city wouldn’t double.
In a moment of genius and/or madness, my partner suggested that we look into finding a local place to stay on AirBnB. I dunno about you, but the thought of living with a complete stranger was unappealing at best and mortifying at worst. Cuz, you know, stranger danger and stuff. But we were quickly running out of housing options while renovations on our house moved along slowly. So we booked a share in a kid-friendly, one-bedroom apartment that was literally next door to the train station, a few blocks from my son’s school, and a mere quarter-mile away from our house. The catch? We’d be couch-surfing in a stranger’s living room while our host stayed in the bedroom.
I was pleasantly surprised when I met our host, an affable 28-year-old musician and private school teacher. My first question to him was why he opened up his place to strangers, specifically my family of four? His response seemed typical of share-happy Millennials. He said he liked to meet new people and because he often worked late, he thought it would be cool to have someone enjoy his great apartment. Plus, he said, hosting guests helped to pay the high rent. How long had he been hosting guests? About three weeks.
Despite my initial reservations, settling into a routine of sharing space with someone my family and I had just met was unexpectedly easy. Beyond sharing space, we shared meals, watched Netflix together, and hung out like we were old family friends. Our host told us that he recently signed up with Cookening, a meal-sharing site, so that he could host dinner parties to feed strangers. Prior to this, the idea of hosting dinner parties for people I didn’t know woulda sounded absurd to me, but my first (albeit late-to-the-party) experience in the sharing economy has made me a believer.
Much already has been written about the so-called sharing economy and how Millennials are the driving force behind it. With investors and major brands rushing to cash in on peer-to-peer transactions (à la Ford Motor Company’s recent foray into car-sharing) and myriad startups angling to become the next Uber of X, the traditional notion of sharing where the value exchange is relatively equal may be replaced with a new idea of sharing where what you get is greater than what’s been given.
Among the great stressors in life that lead peeps to can’t even anymore, dislocation from one’s home may not trump death or conflict at work, but I’ll tell you what, living through an entire home renovation is a Big Fat Drag. Nearly two months after our house was trashed, reconstruction is almost (finally) complete, and we’ve slowly started moving back in. I readily admit to losing my shizz no less than three times, but one thing I’ve learned about relaxing a bit is to share more and worry less, much like some Millennials that I know.