Asking questions that get good answers
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Sun, 27 Jan 2019 11:18:29 -0800 (PST)
I’ve realized lately that I’m tempted to answer fewer and fewer questions on 
the list. Part of the issue is, of course, that I’ve been responding for 25+ 
years and am often repeating myself. 

I realized today that the larger issue is questions that are so general, it 
would take a book to respond to them. They don’t seem to be based on a group or 
individual confronting a specific experience or obstacle. They are general what 
if or what do you think questions about broad topics on which the questioners 
have done no research and have no experience. They probably don’t know enough 
to ask a focused question. 

A question like “How do you design a kitchen for 6 cooks/cleaners?” is so broad 
and so without context that it takes a lot of words to cover all the 
possibilities. A better questions are: “If we are cooking for 25 instead of the 
more normal 3-6, do we need to have a kitchen 5x the size?” “How much food prep 
counter space do you have? Is it enough?” “Do you have an island and how much 
space is there for moving around it?”

Those are questions that people can answer by sharing their specific 
experiences and offering advice based on experience. That is the real value of 
the list. The opportunity to ask experienced cohousers and others who are 
developing a community specific questions about specific decisions you are 
trying to make or specific problems you have confronted.

For general questions like “What do we need to start a cohousing community?” 
there is plenty of literature available now as well as a huge archive of 
Cohousing-L messages to give you a broad foundation. There are also blogs at A search of Amazon, “cohousing" brings up at least 5 of the most 
comprehensive and targeted books on cohousing. Search “cohousing kitchen” and 
you will find links to messages in the cohousing-L archives, blog posts, 
images, and videos specifically on cohousing kitchens.

Once you have this information you will have the vocabulary and understanding 
to ask a clear and specific question that will bring many responses.

(As you can tell I love reading and research, but I love it for a reason. It 

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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