Re: Are Rules Helpful? WAS Environmental sensitivities in community?
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Fri, 21 Dec 2018 08:37:49 -0800 (PST)
> On Dec 21, 2018, at 11:04 AM, Elizabeth Magill <pastorlizm [at]> 
> wrote:

> Each community has its own idea of what rules/guidelines/policies mean to 
> them. For example, for me, they provide clarity. I'm quite uncomfortable with 
> the idea that "everyone knows this" and it isn't
> written down anywhere for a new person to be able to "know" it. [snip] If 
> your community is made up of people who like clarity and are feel unsafe when 
> there are "unwritten rules" then be a community that provides clarity. I find 
> it makes some anti-rules people feel better if they are called
> "agreements”.

The issue for me is the difficulty and time it takes to write these down. I 
also like “agreements" but when you go down the path of writing everything down 
you come up against word-smithing and conditional statements. And where to 
store them. Things that are essential or involve safety need to be written down.

We have a pet policy and it was necessary but it took years to write. Very 
emotional for people attached to their pets like children and for others who 
violently afraid of dogs from personal experiences of being attacked, one by 
her own pet.

In many areas the lead for the task is responsible for both the agreement and 
meeting it. Herb insists on rechargeable batteries in the dining room clock. 
I’m not enthusiastic at all because they don’t last very long and the clock 
will be off frequently. But Herb takes full responsibility for changing and 
recharging the batteries. No rule necessary. Until Herb moves on.

We have an issue right now about how dishes are done. The kitchen pod insists 
that they have to be soaked before going in the dishwasher. Others of us don’t 
like looking at the pan with dirty water in it. And the dishwasher manual 
clearly says it is better not to rinse the dishes — just scrape large scraps 
off. But I don’t do dishes and other objectors are not making an issue of it.

I was one of the first faculty members at a new college. We began with NO 
policies or procedures. In about 15 years, the policy book was 5 inches thick, 
and had a keeper whose job it was to keep it up to date. No one looked at it. 
No one. Easier to call the person in charge. We have a person who often refers 
to people to the website when they ask about a code or who is responsible 
for... Others find this very off-putting, not helpful. It’s impersonal. It says 
to new people don’t bother us with your questions. I like to hear the questions 
and to respond. It allows you to give more information than a phone number, and 
why the person needs a number for a plumber. 

Sometimes the people who want everything written down, just want it written 
down whether it is ever looked at or not. But the more things that are written 
down just for the sake of having everything written down, the harder it is to 
find the policy that does need to be followed more carefully.

It’s a balance. But I still recommend talking things over and see if it needs 
to be written down. We are still on the fence about that “guideline” means. My 
person interpretation for all rules and guidelines is they describe the ways we 
generally agree to do things, but anyone can post a request for an exception. 
Although when I recently requested an exception for a perfectly reasonable 
reason, one person objected on the principle that we made a rule because we 
wanted a rule therefore there shouldn’t be any exceptions. I find this very 

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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