RE: multiple communities (was: Re:: Diversity of Cohousing)
From: Eileen McCourt (
Date: Thu, 4 Jul 2002 11:51:01 -0600 (MDT)
I am interested in what counts as work in most communities.  It seems
there is an assumption that physical labor is considered part of the
"chores" but not accounting or business management of the HOA, or the
like.  Maybe there is less of this kind of "white collar" work in a
completed community.  In a developing community, that is almost ALL
there is.

I like the idea of a 4 hour contribution, with each person tracking
their own time and submitting it to a "monitor" each month, with no
evaluation of whether or not the work completed was something that is
worth counting as work.  If there are then chores that are not getting
done, the community has to decide whether or not to hire them out from
the HOA dues, or just how to get them done.

I live in a condo, have a housekeeper, a handyman, and gardening
services for the common areas.  When I need painting, I hire a painter.
When the heat goes out, someone else comes and fixes the furnace.  I
also have a hairdresser, a doctor, a therapist, someone who gives me
pedicures, and I get a massage from time to time.  These people are all
part of the economy of my life.  I don't completely understand the idea
that paying for services is a negative, especially when the requirement
is as low as something like 4 hours a month.  Why is physical labor more
valuable when offered personally?  I spend my free time on gardening in
my back space, visiting with friends and family, walking my dog, and
doing "white collar" work for our cohousing community and for other
organizations that I am involved in.  I am willing to clean the common
house when we become residents, or participate in work days, but I'm not
sure that is the best use of the time I have to offer to any community.
I certainly agree that participation in the community is fundamental to
cohousing, though.


Eileen McCourt
Oak Creek Commons Cohousing
Paso Robles, CA

-----Original Message-----
From: cohousing-l-admin [at]
[mailto:cohousing-l-admin [at]] On Behalf Of Racheli Gai
Sent: Thursday, July 04, 2002 7:08 AM
To: cohousing-l [at]
Subject: Re: [C-L]_multiple communities (was: Re:: Diversity of

>From Racheli
Sonora cohousing

Hi Howard, you wrote (in part):
>The real question is, How much does living in cohousing require of one
>terms of time?  What is "enough"?

This *is* a good question (though not by any means the one and only 
"real" question  a community needs to grapple with).

In my community we told prospective members that we will be requiring 4
hours a month from each adult.  Later on, as a residential community, we
never succeeded in consensing on this.  Still, I think many believe that
no one is unable to give this amount of time on the average.  (ie:
might be away for long periods, or might be sick, or otherwise engaged
a period of time.  In which case they can try to catch up when they're 
able).  Nobody goes around and monitors.  Some people do a hell of a lot

more, and I suspect that there are a few who do practically no work.
4 hours a month is not asking too much.  On the other hand, I wouldn't
like us to run around and police people, but rather create a climate and
culture where people feel encouraged to find their niche and contribute
(in ways other than financially).
We also have people who do a lot and feel incredibly angry and resentful
regarding those they consider to be loafers.  I think this is often more
damaging than having people who don't do any work...  I guess while I
the community to establish clear expectations/standards, I don't really
think there is a  way of making people do work (I grew up in a kibbutz,
and know that no matter what you do, some people will find ways not to
even the bare minimum)- so I didn't join with an expectation that we
all contribute equally, and didn't have a let-down finding out that this
isn't the case.
There is also the issue of all the types of work people do which isn't
considered "community work", and yet probably contributes at least as
to creating a feeling of well-being and belonging  as some of the
sanctioned tasks: babysitting a neighbor's child, cooking for  someone
is sick, looking after people's plants and animals when they are away,
being available to listen to someone's troubles, and so on and so forth.

This type of work is done mostly by women, and is not considered work
(even though lip-service might be  paid).

Howard again:
>Perhaps you are assuming that everyone interested in cohousing is just
>like you and is interested in it for the same reasons that you are.  Of
>course, you also know that this isn't true.

It's not what I'm assuming - it's how cohousing is "sold": a place where
people come together to enrich their social lives, etc.  If one's life
sufficiently rich in this regard already (or other priorities prevail),
then why bother?   

>Here's a thought: Perhaps some people believe that living in community
>can actually be *more* *efficient* than living in single-family houses.
>That it can take less wasted effort.  That some tasks can be shared and
>therefore become easier.

But you don't want to be there to do the tasks, so how does it work for
you?  You didn't need to be in cohousing to pay someone to do your work.

In fact, in this sense it's probably more "efficient" to live in the
conventional way.  

[As an aside, since you are a professed environmentalist (if I remember
right), I recommend that you read Wendell Berry on the whole
concept in our culture].  

>Such a person would have the expectation that, after perhaps an
>difficult period getting settled in, cohousing would provide them with
>support and friends and a happier life with *less* total work than they
>were exerting before, leaving *more* time for other communities and

I think there is an implicit contradiction (or inconsistency) here.  You
want  cohousing friends, but you're saying yourself that you don't
have time  for them.
With your hours of work and other activities, I can't see when and  how
you have the time to make friends (and especially to keep them) in your 
residential community.  Maybe I'm bringing a certain assumption which is
alien  to you, namely - that my friends should actually have some time
spend with me. Can there be friendship with someone who is always

>There are other people - allow me the indulgence for the moment of
>unfairly branding them "interaction junkies" - for whom the highest
>in life is interacting with other people.  Constantly.  As much as

Notice that you are not only describing behavior (people who love high
level of social interaction), but judge them.  You're saying it's the
"highest value in life" for them.  How do you know?  Might they have
values you're not aware of? 

>For such a person, a 4 hour community meeting may be a wonderful thing
>that they'd like to do every week.

>For our efficiency-lover, a 4 hour community meeting may seem about 3/4
>wasted effort and pointless, something to be avoided in favor of
>committee meetings and 1-on-1 discussions.

I don't see how the above relate to the question of requiring people to 
do some work.  There are many types of work which are necessary in
community which don't require interacting "excessively" with other
for those who dislike it.  Let me name a few: Some gardening/landscaping
tasks can be done alone; being a treasurer; being the community's
computer-geek ;  gathering information/researching various issues as
come up; cleaning the  common toilet(s), floors, windows...  etc. etc.

As to highly-social people liking meetings - I think that you
over-generalize. Some do and some don't.  I also think that even those
don't mind meetings, can get to hate them if the atmosphere is bad,
don't listen to each other, nothing gets done, and so on.

>I think there's room in cohousing for both types - (there'd better be,
>because we've got both here!) - but they can drive each other batty
>because of the fundamentally different assumptions about what's "good".

What I think is that it's essential to define the common good all types
agree on.  If the fundamental assumptions are way too different, a
community is headed for trouble.  I'm afraid many communities *are* in
trouble, my own's included, because the issue of which fundamental
assumptions/beliefs/ values we share had not been cleared in advance to
sufficient degree.  As  a result, different people joined with greatly
varying assumptions, and now  we're in the soup.

>> And while a community can support
>> a certain number of relatively uninvolved people, I think that if
>> make more than a *very small* portion of the adult population of the
>> community, their presence is detrimental to the group's well being.

>To me that sounds like it's coming from an interaction junkie.  :-)
>there really can be people who are so uninvolved that it is
>But most of the complaints I hear are about "people who aren't as
>involved as *I* am and don't want to spend many many hours a week on
>community activities".  Everyone seems to assume that their own
>standards should apply to everyone else.

I think that you're attributing to me many things which you're not in
position to know (and which are irrelevant for the most part). To
reiterate what I've already said, I don't expect all people to be highly
social, and: *being highly social isn't a necessary requirement in order
to be a productive community member*.  How social I am is not the issue.

To clarify this point, I'll just relate that while I have greater social
needs than my husband, he has contributed in multitude of ways to the
community - not necessarily in the same ways I've contributed. And his
contributions were just as important as mine.

In conclusion I'd suggest that you should drop terms such as
junkie" -
outwardly, as well as internally, because it reflects, again,  a certain
tendency on your part to judge people who are different from  you, which
isn't helpful.  


jnpalme [at] (Racheli Gai)

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