Cohousing fools

Remember when I was bitching about a crew? And when I was complaining about being isolated? Well, enter cohousing ! Holy shit!! Who knew that this even existed! I didn't even know I could research something like this! I thought it was all "commune" hippie shit and that's soooo not me. But this? I could do this!!

What is cohousing?

Cohousing is a type of collaborative housing in which residents actively participate in the design and operation of their own neighborhoods.

Cohousing residents are consciously committed to living as a community. The physical design encourages both social contact and individual space. Private homes contain all the features of conventional homes, but residents also have access to extensive common facilities such as open space, courtyards, a playground and a common house.
When I first saw the article on cohousing in Mothering I thought it meant multi-family, multi-generational living all under one roof. I've been hoping beyond all hope that my sister and her man will cohabitate with us when we finally move back to California. And not just because I love Gabrielle and Maurice, but because I want my kids to really know their family. I want Gabby to know my kids, I want Maury to be that awesome uncle, I want to be a support for them when they start a family, I want to raise the cousins like siblings, and I want to join forces in cooking, expenses, and all the expenditures (the space, materials, etc.).

I've even wanted to do this with Mom and Terry, although they have steadfastly insisted that they want their own space. They'd consider living in our backyard in a guesthouse, for instance, but they claim to want the freedom to have Naked Senior Sundays whenever they want - ok, you got it. We won't live together.

I can't believe that I'm the one who wants so badly to live with my family. I'm the one who accepted entrance into a university based (almost entirely) on its extreme distance from home. When I left California in 1995 I was crazy unhappy, had a very contentious/angry relationship with my mother, and my sister hated me. I felt like I was drowing in our very sad, needy family system and distance from them both (and them from me) saved our relationships from completely imploding. I had to get away.

Thirteen and a half years later and I am all about the fam. I've figured out what went wrong between the three of us and I've learned how to deal with my cohorts in this life in a healthy way. I adore my mom and my sister and I don't think I could get any closer to either of them. I'm big fans of each of them and really think they're incredible people. Hence, my desire to reconvene as a family unit again.

But cohousing isn't anything like that. And I guess that's good for me since neither my mother or my sister really seem to want to live that close to me again (ha!). It's about a community of people who want just that: a community. A place where their kids can play, people get together, and you can borrow sugar from a neighbor, have BBQs, know everyone's name, and do communal things like parties, dinners, and volunteering. There are dues, organizations, and meetings. You share extra space, beds, garages. Guests don't have to suffer the air mattress anymore because there's a guest house for the whole community.
... cohousing looks less like a haven for misplaced hippies and more like a traditional swatch of townhouses or a gated community with plenty of shared space. Residents typically do not share a specific religion, political view, or sexual orientation with one another and tend to work in white-collar careers, have young children, and are looking to escape the alienation of traditional suburbs. Cohousers don't pick their neighborhood based on the size of the home or the bonus of a private yard, but to intentionally interact with neighbors and embrace community living.
- Mothering Magazine
This is definitely something to look forward to. Now, if I could find one with an equestrian center I will most certainly die from the sheer bliss of it all.

Update: My sister and I were chatting (via instant messenger) and she was concerned about my portrayal of our relationship when I left California. She wrote, "and, by the way, i DID NOT HATE YOU. ever," and she's right. I just FELT like she did, knowing that she of course loved me. She didn't like that I wrote that she hated me and so I am clearing things up. I think she sums it up when she says, "i was a kid." I was, too; so firmly entrenched in my role as the "one who shows it's not working." I'm so very happy that she and I have grown up together and that we're deliberate about our relationship and feelings for one another. For the record, Gabby did NOT hate me. Ever. She has always loved me and I her. We are lucky, lucky gals.


  1. To dive in and learn everything you can imagine about cohousing, consider joining us at the 2009 National Cohousing Conference, this June in Seattle. For people new to cohousing, you can start with a Friday, June 26 workshop, Cohousing 101 ($20) or take one of the 4 cohousing tours, which visit 9 different cohousing communities in Puget Sound.

  2. Funny, I didn't know people really do this- I have said to my friends for years my dream is to buy a bunch of land, and portion it to all my friends and form my own little commune...maybe it IS the hippie in me, but the notion has always been really appealing to me.