Build the community that you want to live in

I’ve lived in a few crappy places in my life. Dingy apartments in the shady side of town. Rundown rental homes where beer cans somehow managed to become decorations.

And there is one thing that they all had in common: I never tried to make them better. I never took the initiative to make it a worthwhile place to live.

Buying my first home inspired me to actually build something worthwhile—a place that I could call home. A new coat of paint here. A new fence there. Hardwood floors. Tile. New appliances. Sod. Vegetable garden.

(This was also the first place that I lived with my wife, so some maturation is involved in this equation. My days of “the living room will be the perfect place for my PBR neon sign” came to a violent and necessary end.)

Home ownership improved my sense of responsibility. If anything went wrong, I didn’t have a landlord to call. Whatever the issue may be, the buck stops at whoever’s name is on the deed—and that would be me.

If you’re not careful, issues can pile up. How many times have you walked by that loose fixture, that dirty window, that unscrubbed toilet, that burned-out light bulb, that lukewarm water heater, that missing fence picket, that uncut lawn, that “this will take me ten minutes to fix” problem”—and just said, “Meh, I’ll get it next time?”

If you have a vision for the ideal home, then there is no time like the present to starting building it now. The landlords are certainly not going to do it for you. Besides, nobody can build it better than you can.

Though responsibility can be costly, time-consuming, and exhausting, it is also rewarding, fulfilling, and humbling.

The same can be said about how one engages with one’s surrounding community. How much time and energy you invest into your community is directly proportional to how much pride one feels for it. So if you want to see things change, improvements made, or issues resolved, then it’s time that you start building the community that you want to live in.

I’ve learned that any property benefits from at least one of two things: investing money or investing time into it. If you don’t have the time to fix something, then you need to hire somebody else to do it. Or you can save the cost of labor, and attempt to do it yourself.

The same strategy applies to community engagement. Most folks only have one of the two—time or money—to invest, and that’s fine. If you don’t have time to volunteer or join a board for an organization, then you better be writing some checks or buying up auction items. If your bank account balance is low or you live on a fixed income, then your best bet is to carve an hour or two a week to give your time.

And be honest with yourself: If you can forego a couple high-priced lattes a month or a few less hours binge watching Netflix, you have something to invest. If you find yourself not having either time or money, then you need to help yourself first before you can help others.

It all boils down to the law of physics. An object at rest will stay at rest. The status quo abides by this same scientific principle. Or things can be spiraling out of control too, and completely heading in the wrong direction. An object will stay in motion with the same speed and direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.

It’s your job to be that unbalanced force. And it’s going to take more than a Facebook post to accomplish something worthwhile.

Now before that daunting feeling of doing this on your own overwhelms you, just know that there are plenty of other people other there who feel the same way. Before you strike out on your own, take a moment to survey if there are other folks already making improvements. I know for a fact that there is a smorgasbord of builders in my own community, so there isn’t much need to start something new.

If you surveyed the landscape and still couldn’t find what you are looking for, then just start building on your own. You’ll be surprised how many people will stop by and ask if you need some help.

Stop being a renter in your community and start owning it. Put in some elbow grease. Start rubbing dimes together. If you have a vision for the ideal home, then there is no time like the present to starting building it now. The landlords are certainly not going to do it for you. Besides, nobody can build it better than you can.

About the author

Jay Stooksberry

Jay Stooksberry

Born and raised on the Front Range of Colorado, Jay Stooksberry is a freelance writer living in Delta, Colorado with his wife and son. He has been published in Newsweek, Reason Magazine, 5280, Foundation for Economic Education, and many more prominent publications. Follow his journey at