Cohousing and Community living is like the office fridge. You have to negotiate everything. Sometimes things happen outside of your control and you can’t control how others react.
I had something in the office fridge (at work, not cohousing) and it spilled and ruined a coworker’s candy. I said I would re-pay him and somehow he got me to buy the toffees but also a bag of m&ms. It was fine, I was just interested in repairing the relationship. That was my attitude going into cohousing too – anything to keep the relationships in tact. Others may take advantage of that.
When I first started working, after years of child raising, I was horrified when I caused another spill. I think I moved someone’s liquid and it went all over the floor. Another coworker cleaned it up and I apologized profusely. He later became one of my favorite people to work with. He didn’t shame me or hate me for my mistake.
Then there is the office jerk. We had one. He was so bad that he actually became worldwide viral and then sent to our workplace to be hidden from the local world. I asked everyone to please label their things in the fridge since it was my department’s duty to clean it weekly. He refused. I actually almost threw out his salad dressing because it happened to be the same type that I buy and I thought it was old. Luckily I didn’t toss it because that would have been World War Three. Instead he made a big fuss about not having to label his stuff. He took it personally even though everyone had to label and I explained that a few years before he was sentenced to work there, I had gotten quite a verbal lashing by throwing out something someone had planned to eat for dinner. Believe me, the duty of cleaning the office fridge was not a pretty one. Luckily our boss was best friend’s with the jerk and didn’t really do his job, so my department just stopped trying to clean the fridge.
This is what the jerk wrote when I kept emailing him to label it and he kept emailing me to just leave it alone (not knowing I had the same bottle):
“This e-mail exchange can stop anytime. If you have something to say I am right next door just come over and say it. Just because you left a mess in the kitchen and were called on it does not give you the right to start making rules and decisions about what does or does not happen. “
Wow, low blow. He was talking about something I thought was private between me and the boss. But his snuggly relationship helped here and again, he thought I was mad over something from months ago – which in my defense, was not a mess but a misunderstanding when I had to leave early and someone said they would just toss out the leftovers I had out for everyone to indulge.
I leave this as an example of cohousing living. You can make a decision – toss out what looks like old stuff and then find out you were terribly mistaken and ruined someone’s dinner. Or, someone will refuse to abide by the agreements others have made and done in the past (labeling). And, some will use what happened in the past and rub it in your face and never let it go (and make it personal).
Finally, another coworker took a marker and wrote the jerk’s name on top of the bottle. Problem solved and like I said, we just quit cleaning the fridge.