The 2,154-word house-share ad
Minda, a radical vegan activist, says his demands for a new housemate, which include fines for ignoring the spiritual side of life, are about harmony, not control
By the book: Mindaugas (centre) with his housemates Boran and Alex. Photograph: Cyril Byrne
For a household dedicated to harmony, understanding and the cultivation of inner peace, the front door at No 9 is not an especially inviting place to come knocking. The facade of this terraced house, on a quiet cul-de-sac in Bray, is shabby and unpainted, an unsightly blot on an otherwise well-kept street. On the front lawn a hatchback is sitting up on blocks, its tyres removed.
I’m greeted at the door by 34-year-old Mindaugas – Minda, for short. A butcher turned radical vegan activist, he is tall and broad, with a warm smile that belies the quiet forcefulness of the personality beneath.
I ask how the residents at No 9 get along with their neighbours. He shrugs in a way that suggests the answer is “not very well”. “This fellow is pretty good here,” he replies, nodding towards one of the adjacent doors. “The others are a little closed-minded, unfortunately.”
What am I doing here? Two weeks ago this Lithuanian part-time delivery man posted an extraordinary room-to-let ad on myhome.ie. The advertisement ran to 2,154 words, outlining myriad exacting rules and regulations that he believes to be necessary for running a household in harmony both with itself and with nature.
These included a Byzantine system of financial incentives and penalties that potential room-mates would have to agree to, designed to encourage practices such as t’ai-chi, “mindfulness” and “consciousness” while discouraging such undesirable activities as ownership of non-electric cars and consumption of all meat and dairy products. Candidates would be obliged to choose, for example, between participating in the “daily practice of spirituality” or paying a €40 monthly penalty until they got “more info about spiritual life”.
The ad immediately went viral on Facebook and Twitter. Ecofascism was one common charge. “This is a cult, right?” someone else asked, incredulously. The comedian David O’Doherty marvelled at what he called the most complicated house- share ad ever.
Although Minda followed the comments online, he seems unfazed by the mirth his ad elicited. “People’s scepticism is understandable, because we’re pioneering something very unusual. But overall, I think, the reaction was positive.”
Has he had any expressions of interest from potential housemates? “Three,” he says. “Which I will now have to filter through.”
He has invited me to visit the house and see how it works. And I’ve arrived determined to approach the place with an open mind.
In the kitchen Minda’s long-haired housemates are sitting down to breakfast. Based on their ages, and the fact that we’re meeting early on a Sunday morning, you might expect one or two to be nursing hangovers. But this is a teetotal house.
Alex, a 40-year-old from Ukraine, is tucking into an enormous bowl of melons, oranges and bananas. Over at the table, Owen, a 31-year-old Irishman, and Boran, a 22-year-old Croatian, are ploughing through an enormous pile of melons.
Minda pours me a small shot glass from the blender. It is purplish and has a strange citrus flavour. As a guest I feel obliged to knock it back.
The Lithuanian is unmistakably the head of the household, with the Irishman his starry-eyed lieutenant. “Minda’s idea for this house,” Owen says, “is that it is not just a social and economic arrangement. The bodies, minds and spirits of those living here are also working in harmony.”
Owen is a “spiritual life transformation coach” whose website offers Skype sessions at €50 an hour. He reminds me of a hippy Cliff Clavin, from the US TV show Cheers: an endless fount of dubiously sourced New Age trivia. And it’s hard to keep him on any one subject for very long.
But he seems like a nice guy. “You can learn everything on the internet,” he says. “I recently found out that sound vibrations can make things levitate. In fact, that’s probably how the pyramids were built.”
A moment later he’s railing against fluoride in our water supply.
Quite a while elapses before I manage to get a word in edgeways. I tap Minda on the shoulder. “What did I just drink?” I ask, pointing to the empty glass in my hand. “Wild juice from the garden,” he says. “Rocket, dandelion, apple, nettles and ginger.”
Good Lord. Is any of that . . . food?
“Sure it is.”
Now the nettle-eating formalities are out of the way it’s time for a straight question. Is this a cult or what?
“A cult?” says Minda, smiling. “No. But if you don’t join it means instead you join the cult of materialistic society: new cars, bigger houses, refusing even to give back 10 per cent of what you’ve hoarded. If you want to be in that cult it’s your choice. I’m not chasing you. I’m not stopping anyone.”
I turn to his housemates. Alex and Boran were both recruited via ads that Minda had posted online. (Owen and Minda, on the other hand, met at a raw living food event in Bray.) I ask what their initial impressions of the place were. “I thought it was frigging crazy,” says Alex, laughing.
But, he adds, the notion of sharing things makes more sense to him now. “If I have a guitar and I’m not using it, does it have to stay in my room forever? Why not share communally?”
If you’ve got it tuned the way you like it, I suggest, won’t you have to tune it all over again?
Alex isn’t sure.
“Guitar is not the best example,” says Minda, and Alex looks chastened.
I peer into the back garden. There are a couple of potted plants, a tent where Minda sometimes sleeps, even in winter, and a free trampoline that the housemates sourced online. Alex tells me he uses it every day. “It’s great for stimulating your lymphatic system.”
Right now, though, our next group activity is the weekly sauna. There’s a place in Greystones they go every Sunday, where they can get an hour for €2 each. I offer them a lift, which, ecoconsiderations aside, they accept.
In the car I tell Minda it seems to me that if his housemate smokes, or makes noise late at night, or doesn’t pay his rent on time, those seem like valid reasons to take issue with him.
But laying down rules about how many hours he is obliged to sleep, as Minda does, seems rather like the actions of a control freak.
Minda insists it’s about harmony. “What you can expect from person who is not resting properly?” he asks. “What is his mood going to be the next day? Those who have the privilege to know have a duty to act.”
Owen makes the same point another way. “Minda thinks a lot of people don’t care. And when people don’t care, that doesn’t just affect the household, and the environment, and the planet: it also affects him, by not helping him to stay on the path he wants to follow. He needs like-minded people around him.”
If that’s the case he must be dying to see the back of me. He denies it.
“What do you think, anyway?” asks Owen before we go our separate ways at Greystones. “Could you see yourself embracing this lifestyle?”
I laugh. They’re barking up the wrong tree. It’s nearly lunchtime and I’m starving. As I swing back on to the main road I keep my eyes peeled for any livestock I can run down and eat on the verge.