Re: Sustainability of community service
From: Audrey Watson (
Date: Thu, 24 Jul 2008 18:21:45 -0700 (PDT)
A shared work story. Every 2 months, our community does a shared wholesale buying coop type order from United Natural Foods. We get organic staples to stock the kitchen (rice, noodles, oils, salad dressing, butter, spices, canned tomatoes etc), at a much cheaper and organic way than we could otherwise. Then anyone else who wants to order does as well, so we end up with a fairly large shared order (we also set out order sheets, so people can share some of the items that only come in cases, who wants a case of cereal by themselves . . .). Today, I was one of the people who volunteered to checkin the order (checkoff the items, divide up the order). For a variety of reasons, (a migraine, people on vacation etc), I was the only person who showed up to do the work. I worked for about 2 hours, and then recruited a stay at home dad and his 2 kids to deliver a couple of the orders, and recycle the cardboard and paper left over. (little kids, who would have made checkin more chaotic then helpful). At first I was upset because I was the only one doing the work. Then I stopped and realized that it was just 2 hours of my time, I benefited greatly (probably saved $25 myself by buying wholesale), and otherwise to go shopping I would have likely spent an hour of my time getting to the grocery store and back and shopping, at least. That's down to only 1 additional hour net given to the community. and about 10 other families and the common house kitchen benefited! And last time there was an order, I didn't do anything at all, just picked up my items already sorted! And, today I got to see the comings and goings in the common house for those 2 hours. And had a nice chat with the delivery person, who is about to celebrate his retirement, and wanted to know whether I thought this type of community was a good place to live. We do a natural consequences thing with the buying co-op. If nobody volunteers to do the work, the order doesn't get submitted. Generally, that's enough to encourage the people who are benefiting to volunteer to do some of the work. We also tried to set it up so that one person would do the frozen and refrigerated, and the rest could wait til later in the day when more people are home from work. Yes, I'm a single working mother (I have flexible hours so I could take the time off to do this in the middle of the day), yes, I have to balance all the other demands, but I'd have to do that no matter where I lived. And here, I'm not isolated, and am surrounded by caring community.

I think its not a cohousing over-committed problem, I think we are reflecting our society, where with full-time work, sometimes 2 parents working, we lead incredibly busy lives. I didn't move here expecting my life to be easier, I probably work about the same amount as I did when I had a single family home, but now its more focused. (I tend towards administrative jobs at cohousing, whereas in my single family home I did everything: admin, garden, facilities, cooked every meal, and planning). Yes, we have participation issues, not everyone works the same as others, but we are also different ages, in different life circumstances, with different personalities, and different needs. (we do also hire some jobs to be done, always trying to balance that cost-benefit equation.)

Not currently burned out . . .
Winslow Cohousing,
Bainbridge Island, WA

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