Re: Mini-cohousing
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Sat, 25 Jul 2009 09:04:35 -0700 (PDT)

On Jul 25, 2009, at 10:22 AM, Alex Kent wrote:

The idea here is to put together a group of, say, 3 families (with or
without children), purchase either a larger house and subdivide it into individual units and common areas (e.g., kitchen, living room, workshop,

I've known four sets of households who consciously shared houses, some not so large. All with children under 12. All four were two households combined. Four adults and 3 children. Four adults and 5 children. Two adults and 4 children. Two adults and 3 children. From the 1960s to the 1990s.

Some points they found they needed:

1. A common time to clean house -- One group set aside Thursday night to clean, for example. Another Sunday evening. Discussions about house issues also took place while cleaning or over dinner that night.

2. Private areas as well as common areas, but private areas could be a large master bedroom. Somewhere where the couple or the nuclear family could gather alone if they wanted to. None had private apartments.

3. In addition to economy, their main impetus was shared child care plus always having someone for the kids to play with, and for the women, someone to talk to.

4. Determine who owns things so when you divide, you don't have to negotiate. One set of single mothers did it by having items purchased by one person, not jointly, so it was clear who owned what. Another sold everything that was not clearly personal. They priced things by a standard source for used furniture, etc., and one person could buy it or they sold it and shared the income. Another moved in with jointly owned things -- they bought new or used things or agreed that their "old" stuff was now in-common. But in each case it was a clear decision.

5. All the well-known issues of cohousing sorted themselves out one way or another -- can the children be corrected by anyone or are they "my" children. Food -- can all the children share a common diet. What can be in the refrigerator and what not? TV or not. Music or not (get headphones). Alcohol or not. Honoring religious beliefs.

Reading books together and taking classes on child care and housekeeping tips helped bring in a third "voice" to help resolve these issues. Most of the parents were also unsure about what was "right" so it helped to actually decide rather than doing what they had grown up with -- or were reacting to.

6. Agreed upon mealtimes -- snacking or formal meals, etc. A schedule, including a shopping schedule.


Other opportunities this opened were, for example:

1. The ability to hire a tutor in French who came to the home,

2. Carpooling to get children to school, etc.,

3. Children learning skills in their home from a non-parent. Things their own parents didn't care about or didn't want to learn.

4. Another person to take care of an otherwise tense hand-off of children for a weekend with an ex-spouse.

5. The ability to work a lucrative job at night and have children with "family" and in their own beds.

6. More options of an adult willing to go to the zoo (again) on Saturday.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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