How many co-housers does it take to screw in a light bulb?

I’m starting to think the lightbulb would never get changed.  So many opinions.  Obviously we are new and still learning consensus and we do make decisions. It takes time and patience.  I’m starting to lose patience.  Not on the big issues but trying to do a little thing can prove frustrating.

Something simple like securing our outgoing mail key turned out not so simple.  One of the children loves to take the key off the chain and bury it.  Of course there are plenty of opinions on this and child raising but we will leave that aside since children and judging parenting is a whole other issue.  The problem is that there is only one key (maybe one other when another parent found her child playing with it and made a copy months ago).  

My solution – I asked the parent to take it into town and make a few copies so we would have some and could put our mail to be taken away by the deliverers.  I would have done it but with Covid, it seemed more of a hassle and I thought it was more of the responsibility of that family.  (we still are discussing what to do when children destroy property on purpose or not.  I know I offered to pay for a solar patio light that I thought my son broke by accident.)

Other idea brought up – glue the key into the outgoing mailbox slot.

Other suggestion –  get a lock box and combination and keep the key in there.

So, nothing happened.

I hid the key then someone else put the key on top of the whole box contraption. Out of sight out of mind for the kids.  One member, not the parent, went to make copies for every neighbor (another idea) and the keys didn’t work.  So, it is an ongoing process.  Just don’t trust me if I say the check is in the mail.

As a control freak, I mean, natural born leader, this is a time of great reflection. I’ll just go with the flow and I’m coming to the realization that everyone chose cohousing for different reasons.  I try to think of how every action affects the community. Some just want to hang out and exist with the neighbors. There is nothing wrong with any reason that people chose to live here, but I need to chill out more.  So, to appease myself, I named the groundhogs.

My house is tall and I get to look over the whole neighborhood.  Under one of our sheds is a groundhog. Then there were two.  And like I expected, a baby appeared.  Instead of bringing it up to a meeting or a committee I took the  initiative and named them.  Baby groundhogs are called kits so it’s name is Kit.  If there were more I was going to call them Kat and Bar but I’ve only seen one so far (and female groundhogs chase away the male  after reproduction so he’s now out of the picture).

I named them because I could. It is the one thing I could control and do without asking others’ opinions.  It makes me feel better as I learn to listen and respect everyone.  And guess where Kit and Mama love to hang out – by the mailboxes!

Here are some jokes I have found for intentional communities:

  1. We had many discussions about a pet policy and a smoking policy.  We were finally able to agree that pets would not be allowed to smoke anywhere on the property.
  2. How many commune members does it take to screw in a light bulb?

    I didn’t know commune members could get into a light bulb.

    I found that in Communities Magazine, vol 36 by Paul Freundlich.  It was from the 1970s or early 80s which is probably obvious.

About CJ

I was a Spanish teacher for 5 years in the Public School system in 3 different states. I homeschooled and taught at a democratic free school. I heard about cohousing in 2010 and wanted to move in right away. I met a group building one in 2018 and got to move in the summer of 2019. It only took a year to want out.
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5 Responses to How many co-housers does it take to screw in a light bulb?

  1. New communities are hard. People aren’t synched. No one understands how different everyone’s expectations are and worse, they have no idea what is possible, or even probable. Just relax and take on one thing at a time. Then you can point to successes.

    • expsteacher says:

      I wish I had heard your comment when I wrote it! I’m sure time makes things better and I wanted to be in an emerging cohousing to help create the culture but now I think I’d prefer a well established community where the rocks are already polished.
      I got one response by email – they agree with the “never”. Not sure if they are living in cohousing or not but it sounds like things are slow moving where they are also.

  2. Flower says:

    I guess time didn’t make it better for you.

    The old light bulb jokes are funny. The ridiculous answer and even more absurd explanations are what makes them funny, but not when it comes to real-life. There are tasks that could and should be delegated and handled by one person just for the sake of efficiency and when it involves more time and energy it becomes frustrating. It tries patience, wastes time and other work gets neglected when a one-person job turns into a twenty-person job.

    As I’ve researched cohousing and especially the disadvantages I’ve read about how decision making is a very slow process. They tend to emphasize having patience, yet in examples provided and I don’t recall the articles, the amount of time seems absurd. I do recall reading that it took 2 years to choose a color to paint a home. Likewise another site pointed out that it took 2 years to remove a tree. That would try anyone’s patience.

  3. CJ says:

    Please let me know when you find more things like that so I can add the link here to my blog. I have heard the story of one cohousing taking at least a year to decide what color to paint the front steps (I think it was an urban building). I was willing to be patient until it came to things I felt were urgent (like children’s behavior on each other since childhood goes by so quickly and one month of problems can have a lifetime of consequences for them). And I heard they are now removing the mailboxes. I’m not sure why. Maybe a system with more keys since only one was given per person at the time and some lost them – I made many copies. Now I have so many keys I don’t remember what is for what! I added some more jokes to this post.

    • Flower says:

      “Please let me know when you find more things like that so I can add the link here to my blog.”

      It’s usually buried and you have to wade through a ton of info extolling the positives, which like a lot of marketing is misleading and intentional. I read something the other day about a cohousing resident who complained about winding up with too many children that they were expected to babysit (something like 15). Another site (urban) extolled the fact that 1/2 of the residents still lived there. I don’t recall the time frame though and that is information that I’d want to know. Likewise, how does that compare to regular suburbs. You have to dig deep and pay attention to the marketing jargon, and it is marketing.

      I would not feel patient if some lunatic told me that I had to get the consensus of 500 people to change a lightbulb. I definitely wouldn’t fit in with that type of thinking and I wouldn’t want too.

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