Re: Cohousing Problems & Drawbacks
From: Howard Landman (
Date: Sun, 18 Jan 2004 13:34:35 -0700 (MST)
> The new person  ...
> would like a bit more information and more of our
> thoughts about the possible drawbacks.  Many of us
> have responded with some of the fears and anxieties
> that are the flip side of our hopes and dreams, but
> most of us have not actually lived in cohousing
> before, so everything is rather hypothetical.


My experience has been that the issues which actually surface after
move-in are very different from the ones which people fret about
before move-in.  One of ours:

        We spent HOURS before move-in worrying about inequity
        of distribution of labor, to the point of thinking up
        quotas and enforcement schemes.  Some people were violently
        opposed to allowing anyone to "buy out" of community
        chores.  We thought cleaning together would "build community".
        For some people this was almost a religious issue (Gandhi's
        "no untouchables").

        After move-in, we had to learn things like: a 90-year-old
        woman with a broken hip cannot do as much work as a
        25-year-old couple; cleaning the common house gets segmented
        into tasks that mostly force people to work in different rooms,
        thus limiting the possibility of conversation; some lower-income
        members of the community WANT to earn extra money by doing
        things that others would prefer to pay for; etc.

The philosopher Durkheim wrote that people associate into groups for
two different reasons, which he called Herrschaft and Genossenschaft.
Roughly, we either come together because of our similarities and shared
interests (e.g. a chess club, a common language), or we come together
because of our differences and organic interdependence (e.g. a marriage,
an economy, an ecosystem).  I think many people enter cohousing thinking
it's going to be all shared interests, but that's only true to some
degree.  Eventually, we start depending on each other for our differences,
which is in the end a much richer and diverse model.

Even though I've known this distinction for decades, it still took me
years here to really begin to appreciate the gifts some of my neighbors
bring to the community.  One person, whom I didn't like very much at
first because they seemed rather stupid and narrow-minded to me, has
been a fiercely loyal friend to several people I care about, and brought
much happiness into their lives.  I find that I like them more and more.
There were people about whom I was pretty neutral and tepid at first, who
turned out (when disaster struck my life) to be selfless and loving friends
who stood by me in ways I could never have expected.  Was I blind?  Aren't
we all, a little bit, blind?  "Seeing takes time, like being a friend takes
time." - Georgia O'Keefe

So basically, my advice before move-in would be not to worry too much.
It'll be different after move-in anyway.

        Howard A. Landman
        River Rock Commons
        Fort Collins, CO

        "The difference between theory and practice
         is that in theory there's no difference,
         but in practice there is."
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