Re: Mini-Cohousing
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Wed, 29 Jul 2009 09:28:09 -0700 (PDT)

Alex Kent <alex.m.kent [at]>

But I'm still unsure of the best way to get the word out. Pioneer Valley Cohousing started with one of the founding member's placing an ad in the local papers in 1989. We'll continue to put up flyers. Any other ideas?

The standard responses remain: flyers, flyers, flyers. In Unitarian churches, Ethical Culture, possibly Quaker. Chiropractor's offices, food coops, coffees shops. Perhaps coop nursery schools and day care centers. Newspaper articles, particularly small neighborhood weeklies that are always looking for stories so they are easier to crack.

In your case open orientations in libraries, etc., might not be the best venue since you only want a few households. I think almost everyone has found that the money spent on ads does not produce meaningful results. If you receive any responses they will be curiosity questions. Lots of amazement and encouragement, but no takers.

One possibility is to think in terms of several communities, not just one. A household might not be the best for you but could develop another group. That way the people you attract can work along parallel tracks and that could be beneficial in that it pools efforts, leads on property, etc., and offers moral support.

Diane sent a very nice list of things to consider in finding the "right" people after I had said not to focus on this so much. I think her list is excellent and certainly includes most if not all the dimensions you will need to consider in making a long lasting match.

My response was directed more to how you find the "right" people. How do you determine whether they will be a good match? I don't think it works to try to make abstract decisions about what might or might not work. The "tests" need to be based on working together. A formal Q&A session or vacation might not be a good reality test. Learning how they live now would be.

Some people on this list have been looking for a community for years. Some of them are place bound and have not been able to develop a local group, but I think others are being too cautious in taking the plunge and making it work.

No matter how much you try to guess how things will be, until you have personal experience, I don't think you will know what to look for. Your gut will tell if you something is really out of your range of tolerance or interest, but other things that you never considered will, in the end, be perfect.

My own determination about choosing a cohousing community had more to do with location and design than people. I figured that cohousing people, like Unitarians, are cohousers. There are group differences based on the particular mix of people and the stage of their development but people who attracted to cohousing have similar values -- that is a big screening factor. I did want an urban location and adjoined apartments and townhouses, not a lot development model in the suburbs.

I did not pursue a community that wanted to develop a mini-farm to give their children that experience but on reflection, I think I might have liked it very much. I did not and am still happy I didn't pursue a community that when I asked how restrictive their focus on vegetarianism was, the contact person said, "Oh, we even have people here to watch television."

After living in cohousing, I might ask very different questions and certainly would have different expectations, but on the whole, I would do it the same way next time. But I would also add that larger cohousing communities are very different from combined households in which you have daily contact with people. Our biggest conflicts are over shared space. Being able to close my door and not go out for a couple of days is often a great relief.

Sharon Villines
Save Our Planet. It's the only one with chocolate.

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