Re: Where Everyone Knows Your Name [was The Declaration of ...
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Wed, 5 Jul 2017 08:47:11 -0700 (PDT)
> On Jul 5, 2017, at 7:17 AM, Fred H Olson <fholson [at]> wrote:
> As Block Club captain, I "know" almost everyone on our two blocks.

Does your town have an organized block captain program?

> Does everyone in your cohousing community "know" everyone else?

That story of the graduate students being amazed that I knew everyone was from 
a number of years ago. And I do think everyone knew everyone then. But I’m sure 
there were varying degrees of knowing each other. It is expected that people 
greet each other so you pretty much have to know who belongs here and doesn’t. 
Hosts of renters and guests are reminded to have their guests be friendly.

Things have changed in the last few years. We’ve had a lot of turnover. It 
seems the same units sell over and over. I hasten to say that it isn’t because 
people are unhappy here except in the cases where people want more bedrooms or 
a real backyard. Some have moved because of jobs, to be closer to family, to go 
to assisted living, to go to school for special training, or for better 
schools. There are some very good schools in DC but getting into them is a 
lottery and worse. If you aren’t in by 2nd or 3rd grade, there is little 
turnover later. 

So given all that, I don’t know all those things about people at the moment. 
Partly because I’ve had mobility problems so I’m not out and about and partly 
I’m an introvert. And partly because I’m trying to focus on finishing some 
books that have been languishing mid-draft. Even under normal conditions, I 
don’t especially like meeting new people or going to parties. "In the 
beginning” we had far more governance meetings so I got to know people then. 
Now it’s mostly social.

I’ve also withdrawn a bit because it’s been so much work for me to get to know 
so many new people all at the same time. At one point I said “When everyone 
gets moved in and things calm down, I’ll work on getting to know people.”

Certainly in the first maybe 10 years, I would say everyone knew at least the 
“demographics" about each other as well as I did. Even though all of us had 
people we didn’t like very much, anyone would help anyone in need. 

We have a number of single parents of adopted children and mothers by choice. 
Mothers by Choice makes a special effort to encourage mothers to have back ups 
in case they are ill or trapped in a snow storm. A single mother by choice is 
missing not only another adult in the household, but a whole half a family. 
There is only one grandmother, for example. Half the number of siblings and 

One single mother by choice counted one day to see who could take care of her 
two children for 48 hours if she had an emergency. She counted 12 households 
not only that would be able and willing to take them in, but households where 
her children would be happy. It would be a sleep-over more than a time of 

I’ve written so much because I know there are many lurkers on the list who are 
considering cohousing. What they seem to fear most is losing their privacy. 
Everyone has as much privacy as they want. Not everyone attends meals. Not 
everyone is on a team. Not everyone attends holiday cook outs. There is a core 
that almost always shows up to most of these events but others who participate 
in maybe one or two.

We have had but no longer have households that were friendly in the sense that 
we knew them and they were friendly but they participated in almost nothing. 
Only one household didn’t even speak at the mailboxes but they were renters and 
probably had rented with almost no idea what cohousing was. That much 
withdrawal is not comfortable.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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