Re: The shelf life of decisions
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Thu, 20 Apr 2006 05:34:48 -0700 (PDT)

On Apr 20, 2006, at 12:54 AM, Karen Scheer wrote:

While its important to talk about and be aware of the values and guidelines of your community, things like holiday decorations seem like something that would get worked out in the daily living together part of things. Too many rules will drive people away and make it more difficult to find new people (which is the task our group in Ashland, OR is engaged in with about a year to move-in).

Remember the 1950s when women were advised not to become to individualized because it made it much more difficult to find a man? Don't become to educated. Don't choose a career. Don't become to set on things the way you like them. Wait and conform to his needs and his interests. Well, the "no rules" is beginning to sound like that, especially when it is linked to "you will turn off buyers."

No or few rules has been the advice on the list for as long as I can remember and I've been one to support it -- many rules turn out to be unnecessary after move-in. What they govern never becomes an issue or it is worked out easily. One example I used was our pet policy. We spent grueling hours on it and only got agreement on one point -- no animals in the commonhouse. We moved in with fear and trepidation because we had a lot of pets AND people with serious allergies. Then we moved in and it really wasn't a day-to-day living issue so it was dropped. It was a ideological issue on which there was no agreement -- outdoor cats are not good for the environment and it's against the law vs my cat has as much right to go where she pleases as other animals and the law is stupid and no one can tell me what to do with my cat. Some people would definitely not have moved in if we had required, for example, no outdoor cats. Some people are still irritated by outdoor cats but none of them have moved out because of it and to my knowledge it hasn't interfered with any relationships. And over time, we have far fewer outdoor cats.

But rules represent agreements. If we had struggled to work out those agreements, or let some households go, would we have a more closely-knit community today? Is a more closely-knit community the ideal? Or is getting built the ideal? Is diversity the ideal? Is understanding how everyone feels the ideal?

How a group forms will, no doubt, determine how it lives together. If it begins with a habit of working out agreements as the issues arise, that sounds like a good thing. Getting built might not be the most important.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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