Musings on living in a housing co-operative

After writing this yesterday about helpful mindsets when applying to live in a housing co-op I thought I’d update it with a few quick thoughts about helpful mindsets when actually living in one. This’ll be a quickie – I need to go and chair our weekly co-op meeting very shortly!


It can take a while for decisions to be made; it can take a while for fellow communards to come around to your point of view. It can take a while for things to get done. This is good: you learn negotiating skills, you learn non-attachment.


You might have an idea about how something should be done. But someone might have a better idea. It isn’t about winning in a co-operative – it’s about getting the best result for everyone. Don’t lose sight of the goal because you have too much attachment to your particular means of getting there.

Also, sometimes you might have yourself set on doing a particular task and suddenly you get overtaken by another one – a community member might ask you to move some furniture, help them unblock a sewage pump or (heaven forbid) plan a wedding. You can always say no – but it really does help if a lot of the time you can say yes.

Willingness to learn

I am one of those people who, when they are nervous or unsure, try to show that they are capable by communicating how much they know about a situation. Sometimes this unwittingly comes across a bit know-all-y or splain-y (I’m using this as a cut-off of mansplainy but obviously I am not a man, so…). But this doesn’t mean that I actually do think I know more than someone else or that I am not really bothered about learning new things – in fact, I am happiest when I am devouring new information or skills. It’s more that I’m trying to show that I’m interested in the subject. It’s good to approach living in a co-op with a kind of humility – even if you’ve lived in community before each one will be different, and you will learn new things, not least about human nature and especially about yourself. There’ll be people at the co-op who have been doing this a lot longer than you – it’s a good idea to show them some respect! And often, there are several ways to skin a cat, so be open to others’ views.

Willingness to listen

And this doesn’t just mean hearing. Sometimes someone will react badly to a suggestion. You might get angry at their reaction but it helps to have a kind of attitude of sitting back and watching and listening – we all have our little weird psychological triggers and if you can get into the habit of instead of thinking “so-and-so is being a dick right now” deciding to think “so-and-so seems weirdly angry about this – I wonder what’s up with them and how I can find that out without upsetting them even more” your people skills will power up close to final boss level*.

Awareness of others’ boundaries

When I moved in I checked really carefully with the people in the rooms next to mine – whether they could hear my music, hear me watching a film. I checked if it was okay to use this room at this time, eat this food, weed this bed, light this fire. It’s better to ask than assume – feel out those delicate invisible boundaries, don’t stomp all over people’s heads, and try and make sure that most of the ripples you cause by moving in are positive ones. It’s basic respect, isn’t it?

That’s pretty much it for now. Will add to this if I think of anything else.

*I am not a gamer and haven’t played anything since Super Mario Bros on the original gameboy. I am just trying to be down with the kids here. It’s pathetic isn’t it.