The Rise of Women’s Co-Living: Why More Young Women Are Choosing to Live Together

Which girl hasn’t imagined living under the same roof with her good sisters? Big house, cats and dogs, long conversations and laughter.
Now, imagination has become reality. Women’s co-living is becoming a new living craze, which reveals an interesting concept of freedom: I don’t have to be strongly bound to sex, marriage and blood, and I can choose family members who are truly trustworthy.

Cheng Zi, a girl born in the 1990s, may be living a life that many young people would envy.

She and three or four female friends live in a three-story villa in the suburbs of Nanjing. The room is 180 square meters, five rooms, and a large terrace. They have a close relationship with each other. They invite an aunt to come to cook lunch, and the housework is divided equally. AA.

This public space was co-founded by Chengzi and two other friends, and they named it Saisia ​​- the tall and powerful Amazon female warrior in ancient Greek mythology lives here.

In June of this year, Saisia ​​officially launched its operation. They posted on social media to find female family members, clarifying the difference from ordinary rooming, ” looking for female friends who have the same philosophy, mutual respect and support, and form a co-living partner .”

Orange ‘s idea is simple, a purely female cohabitation state can make her feel safe and relaxed. This idea had sprouted five years ago. When she was drifting to Beijing, she met an unfriendly roommate of the opposite sex. The urine stains left on the toilet and his strong attitude during conflicts left a deep shadow on her. After moving to Chengdu to start a business, she and six or seven female friends lived within a 15-minute walk, helping to walk the dog, pick up the children, make dinner appointments, and deal with unused items, making life convenient and enjoyable.

” This is equivalent to a social support system ,” Orange , a psychological counselor, explained in psychological terms. According to the social support theory, people need to cooperate with others and rely on the assistance of others to survive. A person has a social The stronger the support network, the better able it is to cope with various environmental challenges .

Social support may come from family and lovers. Now, Orange also includes cohabitation relationships. “It’s like the female version of Friends.”

Emotional connection is something that girls value very much. When selecting tenants, Chengzi and several other managers, in addition to simple interviews, will also invite them to come to the house to experience it for a few days, in order to find “family members” who are on the same wavelength and have a sense of boundaries.

Since Saicia has been in operation, there have been 8 tenants. They are all very happy to participate in group activities, dancing, playing cards, watching movies, chatting in the living room, and taking care of each other when they are sick. Last month, a departing resident celebrated her birthday, and everyone even made a special video call to her.

Saisia’s female co-living model is not complicated and is similar to the model of renting from a second landlord. The manager finds a suitable large house and rents it to other members.

Cheng Zi believes that this kind of co-living is also economically meaningful. “The larger the house, the rent is evenly shared, and the rent for each room is cheaper than renting a one- or two-bedroom apartment.”

There are many benefits, including resisting the risk of women living alone, reducing living expenses, and sharing resources, which are all mentioned in the recruitment notice by Chengzi .

This Utopian-sounding idea is being implemented by different people.

Lele, a post-90s girl, organized two experiments with women living together this year. In August, at a B&B in Dong Village, Guizhou, about 10 women joined me every week, and a total of 47 people came in 30 days. In November, I stayed at a B&B in Anji, Zhejiang, and lived with 12 girls for 3 days.

The co-living organized by Lele is more like an all-female social gathering, where they eat and live together for a limited period, share opinions and exchange feelings. Most of the people attracted by the event are digital nomads or young people who are currently in GAP. “We will have some more regular group activities, including topic discussions, movie watching, and some skill sharing, such as boxing.”

Lele has participated in all-gender co-living activities, but it is unavoidable to be a little awkward when staying. It is inconvenient to wash up and it is difficult to talk about private topics. In the two all-female cohabitation sessions, several chats were conducted in the relaxed environment of no bra. She felt more comfortable and secure.

This kind of co-living activity is based on the sympathy of women. ” Our consensus is that women are in a situation. ” Lele told me that some women feel lonely when they are alone and want to explore themselves but cannot find them. For those who travel together, such activities affirm and meet their needs.

This happens to be Chengzi’s point of view as the co-living manager of Saisiya women. If you have not entered into marriage and family relationships for the time being, and you need a life partner, the co-living lifestyle may be a solution.

Perhaps women living together is not a new idea.

There were such cases as early as the end of the 19th century. At that time, middle-class women in the United States could already study and work, and had the ability to support themselves without relying on their husbands. Some women would choose to live with another woman for a long time.

Henry James’ novel “Bostons” in 1866 first described such a relationship, and later generations also often used “Boston marriage” to describe the situation of women living together.

Today, this kind of relationship has a more fashionable name – Platonic Life Partnership (PLP) , which describes a cohabitation relationship that is not based on sexual relations and highly pursues spiritual love . In 2022, Singaporean girls April Lee and Renee Wong publicly shared their platonic partnership on Tik Tok. April’s Tik Tok homepage received more than 3 million likes.

In September 2021, Renee moved to Los Angeles from Singapore. The two decided to live together for a long time like a family. They rented an apartment together and shared the financial expenses of living. April has a boyfriend, but her firm PLP relationship with Renee has not shaken. “We are like an old couple, sharing ordinary life experiences, such as cooking, washing dishes, and feeding the cats we raise together.”

In fact, neither of them excludes each other from finding their own love. But they attach great importance to each other’s important position in their lives. Renee even said that if they became mothers and had their own children, they would raise them together with each other.

April’s soul question: Why can’t platonic friendship be considered the basis for a family? Instead of staying with their spouse for the rest of their lives and living alone for a long time, they chose the third possibility: living with their best friend.

This is obviously beyond the traditional concept. After all, the concept of “home” is closely tied to sex, marriage, and blood ties. Women living together refreshes this concept.

The “new family” composed of female members also impacts the traditional family structure in another way, and that is its “decentralization”.

This is particularly evident in Orange’s experience in Saisia, where household chores are divided as equally as possible and each member has equal responsibilities and powers. They have a “head of the family” system that has been iterated in countless versions: a public affairs decision-maker is rotated every week, and she is responsible for the recipes of each meal, the expenditure of daily necessities and financial records. As for other housework, it will be divided into different tasks and divided equally among family members.

” If we don’t do the troublesome housework assignments, there will definitely be a role that takes care of everyone’s daily life like a mother. For this, a lot of sacrifices and sacrifices are made, and no one would want to be this kind of role. ” In Chengzi’s view, Although Saisiya is a community with a manager, it does not have a “head of the family” like a traditional family.

This is what she likes to see. Chengzi is an unmarried person. After reaching the age of thirty, he often faces the trouble of urging marriage. The model of women living together allows her to live a more efficient life while escaping the traditional household chores faced by women.

The assumption of responsibilities also gave the members new experiences. Several girls had been cared for by their parents before. After the experience of living together, they began to understand their parents’ irritable mood during housework.

They also live according to clear rules. They are not allowed to bring people of the opposite sex home, keep the volume down after eleven o’clock, and respect each other’s boundaries.

Compared with ordinary shared apartments where no one knows anyone behind closed doors, women’s co-living spaces may require more such sharing of responsibilities and consensus on how to deal with things. The benefits are also obvious, life becomes more orderly and efficient, and shared spaces and private territories are clearly defined.

But women living together is not a fairy tale after all. It has to face the reality of money and people.
Orange and the other two managers are currently worried about recruiting members for Saixia. The house has been signed for three years. Once it becomes vacant, there will be unstoppable rent losses. The originally chosen location was remote, and it took one and a half hours by public transportation from the city center, so it was unable to attract office workers. Instead, only college students or young people from the GAP came for short-term stays.
They are planning to open short-term rentals, and it would be great if they can make up for the losses.
Saicia’s “lesson from the past” – Changwuzhuang, a project known as Shanghai’s first women’s co-living apartment, announced its closure one year after it started operating in 2020.
Changwuzhuang is a perfect product of idealism. It is located on Yongkang Road in Shanghai. It is a four-story small western-style building with six rooms exquisitely decorated by two designers. The rent ranges from 4,000 to 8,000 yuan per month. The original hope of the two hosts was to create a warm and healing community. They held regular small dinner tables, movie watching, reading and free salons.

When recruiting tenants, the manager of Changwuzhuang said that she will deliberately select partners with similar auras. “It’s not that everyone’s values ​​​​are exactly the same, but in terms of the way of doing things, (need) what you say, I Respect, although the values ​​​​are different, we have pleasure in communication.”

Pinyi is very frank. The main reason why he can’t continue is the imbalance of income and expenditure. In addition to the rent, the daily maintenance, operation and salon organization of the apartment also cost a lot of money. Feelings cannot make the apartment’s accounts better. Beautiful, they don’t want to raise the rent.

In fact, capital has already predicted it. At that time, the apartment was somewhat famous due to media reports, and a long-term rental company came to the door and wanted to cooperate. The other party used a professional financial model to calculate and concluded that it was difficult to make a profit. Because in order to attract urban white-collar workers to move in, they need to be located in a place with more convenient transportation. However, rental costs are rising, and the “sensibility” of co-living products alone cannot attract enough customers.

There was another reason why Pinyi decided to give up the project. At that time, she had just entered into marriage and wanted to move out of Changwuzhuang. The trivial matters at home also left her with no energy to take care of the operation of the apartment. As a manager, she believes that she holds the long-term connection between people. If she can no longer organize activities for everyone, Changwuzhuang will be no different from ordinary rental houses.

Now Pinyi believes that this is just an illusion, “If it is really a good product, it should be a self-organizing and self-operating cycle, and it will be the same whether you (the manager) is present or not.”

But the end of Changwuzhuang seems to reveal the instability of women’s cohabitation: when a certain member enters marriage and family, he will withdraw from the community, and members are always mobile. Co-living communities will not be very strong simply by relying on “social attributes”.

From this perspective , women living together seems to be only a short-term option for most young people.

Chengzi , the manager of Saixia, also believes that women’s co-living may be more suitable for unmarried people or people living alone like her, but its greater value lies in providing a model for women’s elderly care. “ I hope that when I am old, I can have something like this. Communities, or more mature women’s co-living brands and lifestyles, provide convenient and comfortable retirement. ”

The ultimate issue for women living together still comes back to “the future” and “retirement”.

In London, England, New Ground, a women’s co-living community, is a shared space that fully serves women’s elderly care. New Ground has a total of 25 apartments, 8 of which are open to the public for rent. There are 26 female residents, ranging in age from 58 to 94 years old. Female residents are allowed to have boyfriends, but they can only stay for a maximum of six weeks.

New Ground is equipped with a kitchen, a common living room, an activity room, and a garden. Women usually gather together to have meals, drink tea, chat, play chess, Scrabble, or organize community meetings. Here, the women manage everything themselves, and there are also volunteers who take care of gardening, cleaning, legal matters, and more.

Behind this utopia is the 18-year wait of female promoters.

In 1998, Maria Brenton, one of the founders of New Ground, introduced the Dutch concept of senior co-living to the UK and proposed the idea of ​​building a women’s co-living house at an event. Since then, she and several similarly interested women have been looking for a suitable address in London. They have taken over eight design companies and dealt with the parliament. In 2006, they received funding from a charity, and in 2009 they entered into a partnership with a non-profit organization. After the organization reached cooperation, the reconstruction was finally launched. It was not until Christmas Eve 2016 that this community for mature women living together was finally completed.

Maria once studied social policy on aging at the University of Wales. Her observation is that women leave the workplace earlier due to family reasons, which is not conducive to the development of their financial situation and social circle, making them more likely to face poverty and loneliness in their later years . This is also an important reason why she promoted New ground.

According to the Guardian, in 2021, there were 3.64 million people over the age of 65 living alone in the UK, 70% of whom were women. In an aging country, New Ground created by Maria has undoubtedly created a successful model for female elderly care.

Although there is no such professional and mature community in China, there are often news about best friends forming groups for retirement. In 2020, five Sichuan aunts who were all single chose to live together in Lijiang after retirement. The best friends who have known each other for more than 20 years finally live together. This is also regarded by many as an ideal elderly life.

Studies have shown that the impact of loneliness and social isolation on health is “equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.” Women choosing to be under the same roof may be an elegant resistance to loneliness.

Whether it is a short-term residence in communities like Changwuzhuang and Saixia, or the establishment of long-term and stable PLP relationships, they are all interesting attempts at living models. Chengzi also believes that women living together is not a matter of “huddling together for warmth” or “self-pleasure” as the prejudices on the Internet suggest, but a new solution to provide social support for single women and create an ideal living atmosphere.

How many people have made a wish to live under the same roof with their sisters when they were young. Now, this is more than just a joke.

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