People keep asking what sort of community I want. I tend to say “just cohousing”, but I will try to flesh that out.
More than anything, I want a community where people pull their weight. Where they take responsibility, where they worry about whether they’re doing enough, rather than hoping someone else will pick up the slack.
A lot of the work that’s required will be taking responsibility for making things happen: meetings, meals, maintenance, budgets, work days in the garden, setting up a game night or barbeque.
I also would really like a community where people strive to communicate well and deal with conflict constructively, and are willing to put in the time to work things out, have trainings, etc. I do recognize that there can be an extreme where people are expected to process ad infinitum, so there would have to be a way to check it if that happened – anything can be taken too far – but I’d like to err on the side of making the effort to communicate constructively, and work things out.
I hope for one to three meals a week; ideally two or three. I hope we get a hot tub! And more shade in the courtyard, and a good place to hang up laundry.
I do not want a community that’s built around any philosophy besides community, getting along, pitching in, meals, fun and communication. No common spiritual, political or lifestyle path, except welcoming diversity and an ordinary level of ecological responsibility: no guilt about owning a car, no one monitoring how long your shower is. Solar panels, recycling, sustainably sourced building materials and (ideally) responsibly raised meat at meals sound good to me. Which is to say, a focus on the positive side of ecological responsibility, what we can do as a community, not what we think people should be doing in their personal lives.
I have been giving a lot of thought to the different ways people can be easy-going or controlling, and I’m asking myself if the things I’m hoping for are strictly about my personal preferences, or if I can generalize about the type of thing I want to have rules around, and the type that I prefer more loosey-goosey. (Which is still my personal preference, but in a general, conceptual way.)
I will test this out by thinking of examples:
- Sanitation – must agree upon standards.
- Visual clutter – OK with me.
- Putting things away so the next person can find them, or leaving a tool out because you’re coming right back – both good. Try not to forget to come back.
- Cleaning guest room after your guests – essential. If people don’t do it, move to cleaning before your guests, or charging for housekeeping, or come up with something else.
- Clothes drying outside: tacky or quaint? What about unmentionables? – I think quaint (and ecological) but keep your undies indoors. However I could adapt to undies hanging out.
- Blocking the driveway, so people have to find you to move your car – annoying, don’t like it but could adapt. Letting your guests drive in and block the driveway because they can’t find a parking space as close as they’d like – very annoying. I think I find these so annoying because they’re about inconveniencing others in order to save yourself a little trouble. In a way, it’s the thought that counts.
- Dryer lint: to clean before or after? – either one, and pretty inconsequential. However, following posted instructions about whether to put someone’s wash into the dryer, and at what temperature, is important so their clothes aren’t ruined.
- Taking tools home and not returning them – problematic.
- Noise after 10 pm – problematic.
My list seems to be heavy toward laundry 😉
Looking at the list, I don’t think this is just me wanting people to have the same specific preferences I have. It’s a broader vision of an easy-going, helpful community, that makes and follows rules about things that actually trip people up, and doesn’t interpret ‘easy-going’ to mean other people will do your share of the work.
The pattern that emerges is consideration for others. Do your share of the work, don’t block the driveway, clean the guest room, work on communication skills… it’s all about thinking of others’ needs, without being too controlling. I would like a community where a little chaos is OK, but people try not to inconvenience each other, there’s enough consistency that you can find a tool when you need it, and there’s an agreed-upon standard for cleaning the common areas that people mostly stick to. Where the rules are about things that cause tangible problems for others, keeping in mind that there’s a difference between consideration and control.
Then there’s the fun stuff: board games, celebrations, meals, gardening together, craft projects, inviting the neighbors to a barbeque. All of this creates the good feelings that make the inevitable little irritations easier to take.
With all this in mind, here is a first draft of a Vision statement:
We make this project enough of a priority in our lives to have time for the work of creating and maintaining a community. We take responsibility for the work that needs to be done.
Helpful and Considerate
We pull our weight, and think about how our actions affect others.
Relaxed and Easy-Going
We are comfortable with a little chaos, as long as it doesn’t create tangible problems for others. We are good at finding compromises.
Committed to Constructive Communication
We work on communication, conflict resolution and cooperation, and are available for training and retreats to expand and deepen our connection.
We have fun together!