Flower asked me why I moved into cohousing in the first place. I looked at my first posts and realized I never did write that. So, I looked at my notes and found this draft. I will post it now:
It’s all happening so fast but it did start out slow. I heard about co-housing 8 or 9 years ago. I wanted to sign up right there and then. I went to some of the potlucks but they were so far off I thought I’d be the co-housing type that joins in when it’s almost move in time. One reason is because buildings, and interior design and stuff like that don’t concern me. My yearbook quote in college was “wherever I lay my hat, that’s my home” by Marvin Gaye. So just tell me where to put my couch. The other reason was money. I don’t have any.
Years later that group bought land. I’m ready to move in. But they just optioned the land, need more people to buy in, have to remove a million rocks (maybe), build the common house and all the houses. No place to put my couch yet. Plus I love my town but I know most people are like me – believe in community and peace and justice but work as teachers, social workers, college professors. In other words, they don’t have the money to build a common house and a house from scratch.
Then I found out there is another cohousing forming. And they’ve already broken ground. Plus, they already have a common house – the farmhouse that came with the property. I also found out I could get a home loan since it is being built by a developer so it’s easier to get a home loan than a construction loan.
I thought I’d have a few months but it looks like they are going to build my unit sooner than expected. I hadn’t quite made myself loan ready since I just met with the community at their potluck two months ago. It went from an idea to a reality too quickly for my credit score. So I’m a bit panicked on the money side. However I want to live in cohousing no matter what. Even if I have to squat.
Since learning about co-housing I’ve noticed what I lack. Yes, I had community through homeschooling co-ops and meeting parents. I’ve had community through religious organizations. And at the gym. But it’s not a deep sense. I’ve switched religious houses. One barely even congratulated me on having a baby whereas the next one brought meals for two weeks. The sense of community can vary from one congregation to the next.
And it’s nice to go to the gym and meet people in clases but people come and go and I like to swim and it’s hard to hold a conversation under water.
This year has been tough. I’ll get upset over something in politics and have no one to commiserate about it. Sure there’s social media but I find that more isolating than socializing.
Now I’m about to start living my dream. I do have some worries. Will it be like the small town in Minnesota where everyone knows everything about you? I don’t mind. I’m not super private but do I have to divulge everything? I know we’ll have fences but do I have to tell my whole life story?
I also worry since the reality is I’m not the best neighbor. I’m sure my neighbor across the street hate me. They have a perfect yard and mine is cluttered with toys and weeds. I am so overwhelmed just trying to keep the inside of the house decent (some dishes put away, hallways you can walk through, not what most would call “clean”) that I never get to the outside. And to make matters worse I have a carport which means they can see everything I put in there. A garage door can cover your mess but mine is out there for the neighbors to see. Anyways, will the new neighbors be mad at my slowness at keeping everything tip top?
I guess I’ll find out.
A few months later I wrote:
KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES
Today as I try to clean the house – it’s Sunday, I’m also trying to downsize. My dream is to only bring stuff and not furniture. To buy new furniture because we need it. My bed’s mattress is sinking in so I’d love to try a casper. My 13 year olds bunk bed probably won’t make the move and the dog ate half of the bottom’s mattress. Our couch is a college dorm 1980’s block which was bought second hand to resist three young boys but now only one is young – 8 years old, and a lot gentler on furniture. So, why get a moving truck?
That brings me to my next fear – does co-housing lead to out of control keeping up with the Joneses? With I feel inferior to the stuff that the others have? Will they not like me since it will take awhile, years even, to fill up the house with furniture since all my money is going to the mortgage since I’m still poor? Or will everyone admire the uniqueness in each other’s houses and “share” other stuff. I won’t know. I do know I can’t change my financial situation and even if I could, I wouldn’t want to waste money on a material possession arms race.
April 2018 I had heard of groupthink apparently, but was encouraged it could be a good thing and wrote:
PERFECTION? GROUP THINK
We had a crucial meeting. We came to a consensus about the pet policy. Apparently that’s one of the most contentious policies to come up with. We all agreed that it is more perspective at this moment since people like me feared the Cujos. I shared my real experience – I’ve only been bit by “nice” dogs. One had the chance to be “mean” since it was in a pack and seized its chance. The other was when I was a child and my friend pulled the leash of her schnauzer right as my hand was near its head. I”m glad we decided to keep them leashed and then ask if we can unleash the hound to those around, and leash them if someone steps out and then ask again. Great idea. Too bad I never brought up geese. They are the most aggressive, crazy animals!
My anxiety came to the point of the discussion when one person mentioned the dogs should be able to run free since we should be healthy and so should our dogs. I thought, “oh no then what about me? They must already think I’m unhealthy? A mess? I won’t fit in,” See, I don’t fit in with the healthy eating craze. I try, oh heck, I don’t try. I’m usually too poor to buy all the organic, gluten free, fat free, chemical free, animal abuse free products. And then there’s the problem that my family’s legacy is obesity and food addictions. My grandma was anorexic and tried to control everyone’s food intake around them. I think that’s what started it. Grandpa was large. I rebelled and like all my rebellions, I’m paying the price.
So that’s me. Now, will I still be accepted? It made me worry. Do we all have to be alike? I know it’s human nature to want to fit in. At co-housing will we all be part of a group think? Carbon copies? I took a deep breath and thought, no, it’ll be okay. We will be neighbors. Just neighbors. Friendly neighbors. And I hope we’ll accept all types of diversity.
UPDATE to my own questions:
Yes, I didn’t fit in. Sure, I found some nice people to talk to and some that may have blossomed into friendships if we had more time. But there was a clique of 30 somethings that seemed to run the place and really hated anyone being proactive. That meant me. So, I became a punching bag later.
It’s true I wanted to move in right away when I saw the presentation about cohousing by the group forming in my town. I believed all the positives and brushed over the negatives. Plus, they addressed that in the power point – what if your neighbors are assholes? They said, what if you are the asshole? And one of the founders of the USA movement, CharlesDurrett says that you can’t be an asshole because later you will need your neighbor to babysit or help you out. Oh, Charles, I wish it were true. It’s amazing how far some people don’t care about their community and the ideal dream of cohousing.
In this post (which I started writing since I had planned to have a blog all along to mark my life in cohousing not realizing I”d want out so fast), you can see some of the worries I did have – and how I brushed them off. I became so focused on cohousing that I put down the community I did have around me. I soooooo miss that gym and made lots of friends there. I never felt lonely as a parent with adults around in the homeschooling groups. In Minnesota, I wasn’t cohousing so it was lonely as a parent (and cold so no one was outside), and yes cohousing is worse than a small town, you do know everything about everyone. You don’t have to tell your life story and what I did share with people was used against me so I’d hold back and see if people in your group have integrity or not.
The neighbors did notice the clutter on my porch but helped me clean it up. I did it because I believed in working together as a community. Now I don’t have a carport or a yard so life is very good! I also see from reading this how concerned I was with my actions and making a cohesive community but once I moved in, it looks like I was the only one. Most others were out for themselves. If I was with a more proactive group, which I have met some, I may have fit in and things would be very different. But I naively thought that having a conflict management team meant people work on these things – ha! I didn’t realize how everyone is a human and so vulnerable to groupthink and mob rule!
The pet policy bit me in the ass. No one followed it. Let their dogs run all over and bit my child. I was more concerned for the younger kids being bit when we made the policy. Dog poop everywhere like we didn’t live together or something! And, no, diversity was not welcome. Especially of various incomes and ways of thinking besides entitled and privileged.
We ended up moving in Aug 2019 so the kids were 14 and 9. We moved out July 5 for an escape and then permanently after the disastrous mediator held a final yes, we should blame me meeting in August 2020. Soon, I’ll give details of why I left – the whole incident that made the place come out with pitchforks against me. Maybe you’ll agree with them, I was the asshole.