Thoughts From a Longtime Cohousing Resident
From: Zev Paiss (
Date: Fri, 15 Mar 2013 07:56:53 -0700 (PDT)
Thoughts From a Longtime Cohousing Resident
The idea of community is a concept we see and hear about all the time. 
Spiritual community, social community, online community or even the people who 
live in your neighborhood are example of modern-day communities.

But what does it really take to live successfully within a close community of 
people? Over the past 18 years I have had the opportunity to live in two very 
different Colorado cohousing communities. One was rural and quite large with 42 
households, and the other is quite urban and small with only 11 households. 
Both neighborhoods use the cohousing principles of resident participation, 
design for community, shared common facilities, non-hierarchical decision 
making and resident management.

What I learned over these years is that while living in community is not a 
solution for all the world's ills, it is far better than living isolated in 
either a large city or in the suburbs. After all humans are a social species 
and for 95% of human history we have lived in extended families, tribes and 
villages. Deep down inside living in community is the norm.

From my personal experience living successfully in community takes at least 
four attributes:

1. Honesty - Because of the higher level of interaction members of a community 
cross paths and effect one another more often and on more levels that living by 
yourself or only with your nuclear family. Telling the truth becomes even more 
critical in this situation. Honesty can sometime be brutal so the intention is 
to be honest without intentionally causing harm, ridicule or shame.

2. Patience - Clear communication takes time. Individual listening and 
processing styles can vary greatly. While one person may be able to hear a 
suggestion and act immediately more often we require time and distance to 
integrate new information before being ready to act. Depending on the form of 
decision making in a community it may take quite a bit longer for a decision to 
be reached than in a more typical top-down decision making arrangements.

3. Tolerance - Even in a community of middle income white suburbanites, the 
amount of diversty can be astounding. Differences in political, spiritual and 
religious beliefs, communication and parenting styles, life experience, 
economic status, age, sexual orientation and birth order all contribute to who 
we are. Because of the increased closeness and interdependence of community 
members, successful community living requires a level of tolerance beyond what 
is typically needed in our artifically independent society.

4. Generosity - When I was in the stage of attracting new members to my current 
cohousing community where I have now lived for 16 years, it was clear that a 
person was not going to do well if their first question was "What can this 
community offer me?" Rather potential community members need to consider what 
they are bring to the "party." Through random acts of kindness and generosity 
community life can become rich and supportive without any one member feeling 
burnt out.

With just these four attributes living in community can be a rewarding and 
supportive experience. And as we weave our way through the Great Transition, 
this will become more and more important.

You can read more at my blog at:

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