work or pay systems
From: Marcia J. Bates (
Date: Thu, 31 Jul 2008 11:04:51 -0700 (PDT)

I think Tim Mensch puts his finger on an important issue in the cohousing ideology. So much of what we see as cohousing seems to be cohousing WORK. With people having a lot of demands in their lives--this isn't the 1950's with those housewives available for full-time work--and having a lot of other things they would rather do than housecleaning, lawn mowing, etc., it can easily become the case that the little time you spend in a week doing specifically cohousing things can consist of just doing cohousing WORK.

After a while, being in cohousing can feel like what you do as a cohouser is work. You don't have much time for socializing too! I think we underestimate how much work it takes to maintain and improve a multi-acre campus yourself.

On the other hand, any effort to contribute money to hire people instead of doing the work can be seen as welching out of the work, rather than as making a contribution to the community. I'm fortunate to have a good retirement package, and I get frustrated sometimes when financial offers are seen by some as somehow demeaning to them, because they can't make comparable contributions.

That fanatical concern about money can also mean that we have huge debates over spending a few hundred dollars, and there seems to be no psychological allowance for experimentation or trial and error. Every penny has to be spent perfectly "correctly," because every penny is seen as so precious by some.

I've taught English as a Second Language in LA, and I know how many people would give their eye teeth to be able to earn a little money doing some of these needed tasks around the complex--while at the same time many cohousers see that same hiring of outsiders as a failure of cohousing.

Surely there must be a way to have a broader vision of cohousing, that includes and values diversity of income as well.

Marcia Bates

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