RE: seeking information about how cohousing communities organize tasks to be done
From: Diane or Douglas (
Date: Fri, 30 Mar 2001 12:01:01 -0700 (MST)
This is a lot to respond to all at once. I will give some answers for some 
of the points.

We are a community of 13 households with 25 adults, 12 children age 2 to 9 
and 1 teenager age 17. We have community meals 6-days a week. Dinner on 
Mon-Thur and Breakfast on Sat. We plan our meal preparation, planning and 
purchasing as follows:

A chart is posted in the Common house for the next four weeks, including 
the current week. There is a column for each meal day, i.e. Mon-Thur and 
Sat. There is a row for soup or first course, entre, salad, starch, 
Beverage and specialty item. There is also a row for Lead cook, 2nd cook, 
1st cleanup/setup, 2nd cleanup and childcare. It is each adults 
responsibility to sign up for two work slots in a 2-week period. A work 
slot is any of the above mentioned tasks and specialty item prep. It is the 
duty of the lead cook to come up with the menu, fill in the chosen menu 
items in the various categories I mentioned above and do so at least 1 week 
prior to the  actual day of the meal. It is the duty of the two food buyers 
to see that all ingredients are on hand for each day's meal. They buy in 
bulk and much of it wholesale. Same day or last minute purchasing is 
discouraged as is buying "on sale" items at local stores.
The day of the meal both cooks arrive and work until done. The 1st cleanup 
arrives and does setup of the dinning room and also empties the dishwashers 
if needed. They also help with cleanup after the meal. The 2nd cleanup 
works after the meal. All members are expected to bus their own plates, 
flatware and cups.  If any of the above workers needs childcare to be able 
to do their chosen job task they place an X  next to their name in the work 
slot they chose. Then someone else can write their own name in the 
childcare slot and does that on the appointed day.
The specialty job occurs a maximum of twice per week and is up to that 
person to decide but is usually something like home made bread or a 
dessert. A person cannot chose a specialty job more than once per 2-week 
We have a job description written out for each of the above jobs but their 
too detailed to include here.
Our members consist of 4 vegetarians, 5 or 6 people who cannot each dairy 
products and a few other dietary restrictions. The lead cooks typically 
offer meat and vegetarian versions of the entre as well as dairy and 
non-dairy versions when applicable. All items are labeled on the serving 
line so people know which is which. If a member is going to be absent for a 
given meal they write their name on a sheet with the date and the lead cook 
sees to it that a meal is saved in a container in the refrigerator for 

Some form of this system has been in place for serveral years though this 
exact form I described above is new and has been going for about 6 weeks.

For other work projects - We have a committee that is responsible for 
planning and organizing major categories of things. We have a 
Garden/Landscape committe, a Facilities committee, a Food Committee, Spirit 
Nuturers. Each committee plans work and the members of each tend to do the 
majority of the work though they can and do solicit help from others in the 
community as needed.
When we were in the construction phase very specific work was needed each 
week and it was layed out in some detail and each person volunteered in the 
area they felt most drawn to. Since we are now past construction the 
formality of that has eased considerably.

This is all the time I have for this right now. Maybe I will say more later 
as time permits.

Doug Larson
Songaia Cohousing
Bothell, Washington

On Thursday, March 29, 2001 7:40 AM, S. Kashdan [SMTP:skashdan [at]] 
| Hi all,
| The questions in this message are addressed to all current and former
| cohousing community participants.
| My name is Sylvie Kashdan.  I am a member of the Jackson Place Cohousing
| community, in Seattle, Washington.
| The Jackson Place cohousing homes and common house are now being built. 
| think they will be finished later this year. Some of us will begin to 
| in to our new homes in September, and the rest of us will finish moving 
| December, hopefully.  So, we are now discussing and developing ideas for 
| we will organize our work together once we have moved in.  We have some
| ideas we want to try, but, we would very much appreciate hearing from 
| who are currently living in cohousing communities or who have lived in
| cohousing communities in the past. We would like to know about the
| experiences and challenges folks have actually had organizing necessary 
| optional work together.
| As a member of the Jackson Place community-building team, I have taken on
| the task of collecting as many accounts as I can get of cohousing
| experiences in getting work done.
| We want to know how folks actually organize and schedule work, what has
| proven successful, what challenges folks have found in organizing and
| accomplishing cohousing work, how they deal with challenges when they 
| what processes they have found to be best for overcoming difficult
| situations, what challenges remain unresolved, and anything else that 
| be useful for us to know.
| I hope that you can give me some details.
| For example, so that we can benefit from your successes and possibly 
| some problems, we would very much appreciate knowing the specifics of 
| things as the following:
| What are the specifics of how you organize working on any joint meals?
| What are the specifics of how you organize working on cleaning the common
| house? How does it get done?
| What are the specifics of how you organize working on any joint 
| and other grounds maintenance?
| What are the specifics of how you organize working on any joint parties?
| What are the specifics of how you organize working on any joint 
| tasks? Are any or all of these things done by volunteer community 
| Do you post requests for volunteers to do specific meals, or parts of 
| or specific landscaping tasks, etc.?
| Do people volunteer beforehand to do tasks that are sure to come up?
| Are people simply on a list as having to take their turn doing a task and
| assigned specific tasks by committees or team leaders?
| Do you draw straws, or choose by some other chance method?
| Do you have a work credit system?  If so, how are the credits allocated?
| Is there a minimum amount of work each community member is expected to 
| If there is, what is it?
| What are the best ways you have found to deal with accomplishing 
| work?
| What challenges have come up in accomplishing community work?  How have 
| solved them?
| Do you think that the community work is shared fairly?
| Are there many voiced complaints about getting community work done?
| Are you having any discussions about improvements in getting community 
| done which you think would be helpful for us to consider also?
| What processes have you found to be best for overcoming difficult
| situations?
| And anything else that might be useful for us to know.
| Since we understand that different people might experience the community 
| different ways, I would appreciate hearing from as many people in your
| cohousing community as want to respond to my inquiry.  So, please pass 
| message on to all.
| Whoever wishes to help us out with this information can call me at (206)
| 784-5619.  or contact me at skashdan [at]
| Hoping to hear from you soon,
| Thank you in advance for any help you may give.
| Sincerely,
| Sylvie Kashdan
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