Re: use of common house, consensus, etc.
From: Mariana Almeida (
Date: Fri, 26 Feb 2010 11:05:52 -0800 (PST)
Interesting analogy... I have often thought that cohousing neighbors were very 
much like coworkers. Some, you don't have much kinship with, but you learn how 
to play nicely with, and have to purposely nurture positive interactions. 
Others, you click with immediately, and they become friends. All of them are 
part of what makes it a community. 

Coworkers is an apt description for me because of the aspect of cohousing that 
is about getting things done. However, I would say that we have more diversity 
in "thinking styles" in my cohousing community than we do in my very left 
brain, analytical work environment. Getting things done is much harder in 
cohousing than at work -- trust me, it's hard to get things done at work, too!
Berkeley Calif cohousing... where my nuclear family and another neighbor family 
are hosting a kids' dance party tomorrow. Everyone is theoretically invited, 
but I'm pretty sure no childless adults will make it over to the CH.

From: Marcia J. Bates <mjbates [at]>
To: Cohousing-L <cohousing-l [at]>
Sent: Fri, February 26, 2010 10:35:15 AM
Subject: [C-L]_ use of common house, consensus, etc.


As always, I find the discussion fascinating.  I'd like to put 
forward another perspective that you can play with, or ignore.  That 
is to look at cohousing as a social experiment, and to identify the 
problems, and try to work out what would be good solutions.  I'm 
talking an analytical approach here, which some may like and some may 
hate (based on my experience at Oak Creek Commons).

We are looking at who has power, who shares what with whom, and how 
we carry out or should carry out our collective activities.

Most of us came to cohousing from the big city, not from small 
villages of 50 or 75 people.  Our social experience is overwhelmingly 
with 1) the nuclear family, 2) personal friends, and 3) work and 
other relatively superficial social situations.  We don't have 
experience with physically close, live-in arrangements with other 
people that we want to create a community with.  Our experience does 
not provide us with a common understanding for how to deal in such 

The debate over private events in the common house is a perfect 
example of this lack of common experience and agreement.  For the 
most part, with our friends and family, we have a pretty good 
understanding of what would constitute a social snub, say, if someone 
wasn't invited to a party.  But when we deal with the role of the 
Common House in our community, one question that arises is, should 
everyone be invited to everything in the community?

In trying to resolve this question, conflicts arise from within our 
own experience.  Is my cohousing group like my nuclear family, and so 
it would be inconceivable to leave anyone out from anything?  Or, is 
my cohousing group more like my friends at work, where I would invite 
some sometimes and everyone at other times?

I think it might help us gain some perspective and be comfortable 
with experimenting, if we viewed this as a practice that we are in 
the process of playing with, to discover what, over time, feels best 
and most supportive of the developing community.  In other words, we 
could view these debates not as right or wrong or who has the moral 
high ground, but rather as practices that we are experimenting with 
and developing anew.

Marcia Bates

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