All You Ever Wanted to Know About Co-Op Living!

I have to begin by apologizing for posting late (eek!) and say thank you (yes you!) so much for submitting questions!

In the previous post I promised to answer your questions on Tuesday but, sadly, Tuesday came and went and I was just too buried in school work to be punctual :/

But without further ado, lets dive right into your questions!

1. Whose dinners do you look forward to?

This was a tough one because everyone who lives in my house has really surprised me with their culinary skills. And we all cook very different things! So I have to say that I look forward to dinner no matter who is cooking. Even when it’s my night to cook I look forward to it because it is always a learning experience.

2. What is the downside to living in a co-op? Does it feel like a frat/ sorority?

The downside of living in a co-op would be changing your schedule a lot when you first move in. When the year first started it was a little daunting to go from planning my life around my own things to planning with all my housemates. Now it seems like second nature but it was def an adjustment getting used to being home weeknights for house dinners and Sundays for pot lucks and house meetings.

I think it doesn’t feel like a frat or sorority but I have never lived in a sorority so… idk?

3. What is your favorite Mad Ox memory?

In the interest of full disclosure I have to admit that I have a terrible memory. But my favorite memory this week was Dinner time on Monday night.

We decided to do a left overs night for dinner and we also decided to double dinner time with the house meeting. I think I was running a little bit late because everyone was already sitting around the table and I was cooking up some dinner concoction on the stove.

This was when it had first started to get super hot and we hadn’t turned on the A/C yet so I was ROASTING from the heat coming off the stove. And of course as I sat down to the table to enjoy my food I smothered my piping hot meal in salsa (I am known to put salsa on basically anything and everything).

So I’m sitting at the table sweating from the heat in the house, the heat from the stove still, and the heat of my spicy food too and we are all sitting around the table shouting about god knows what, arguing (about basically anything and everything) across the table, and making fun of each other.

Something about that just warms my heart 🙂

4. What were the biggest conflicts you had with other people?

Well, I think we have been really lucky that we all get along pretty well, especially considering the fact that none of us were friends before we moved in. The biggest issue we have come across has definitely been deciding how to shop for food. We typically share everything and pay for our food as a group. However this gets complicated due to dietary restrictions (vegetarians), issues of food justice (free range and fair trade products), health concerns (no msg, no partially hydrogenated oils), and general dislikes (ewwww mushrooms!). I think between the 5 of us we have easily logged at least 3 days worth of intense convos about the products we purchase and it is something we continue to discuss and prefect as time goes on.

5. Did you learn any interesting cooking tips?

One of the biggest things I’ve learned through this experience has been that cooking doesn’t always have to be an exact science. Sometimes you deviate from the recipe and it sucks but other times you improve on the recipe by accident. It’s always fun to experiment with different spices too! Don’t be afraid of using new spices and flavors.

6.How did you find out about co-op housing?

I found out about co-op housing because, luckily, a bunch of people who were friends of friends of mine were involved with getting the co-op movement started here and forming CHUM (Co-op Housing University of Maryland). I also knew the founder of CHUM, and remember hearing her speak about co-op housing at a meeting of one of the other student organizations I was involved with.

7. If money was not an issue would you still do co-op housing or another form of off campus housing?

Yes! A million times yes, I would most certainly do co-op housing even if money was not an issue. I’m a huge fan of the sense of community involved with co-op housing. I love being close with my roommates and all the people who live in the other houses as well. It’s a great little community within a community.

8. How is a co-op different from just renting a room in a house?

For me this definitely goes back to the idea of a community. When moving into the co-op, members sign a membership contract. Membership within the co-op hinges on following some general guidelines such as a commitment to the cooperative lifestyle, agreeing to attend as many co-op functions as possible, and having dinner with your housemates at least 3 times a week, to name a few.

The expectations for living in the co-op are that everyone will put an equal amount of work (through cooking and cleaning) and time  (attending house events and meetings) into both their house and the co-op organization as a whole. This means getting involved in committees and attending CHUM general body meetings.

In renting a room in a house there are not always these same explicit expectations and there is not that same community of multiple houses under one organization.

9. What’s the most challenging part of co-op living?

At this very moment the biggest challenge of co-op living that I can think of is leaving it. After living cooperatively for about 9 months now I’m really used to living in a co-op and I honestly don’t remember any negative things from when we were first starting out. But now that I am so used to living with my housemates and living the way that we do, it is very hard to imagine… not. lol

10. How are newly started co-ops different from established ones?

Awesome mural in one of the University of Michigan Anne Arbor Co-op Houses

This is actually a really exciting question. In November we had the opportunity to go to a NASCO (North American Students of Cooperation) conference at the University of Michigan Anne Arbor. Co-ops have been around at Michigan since the 1930s!!! So they have a huge and powerful legacy on that campus. They are very well-organized and have a ton of longstanding traditions.

But being a part of a baby co-op like CHUM is very exciting because you are the one (hopefully) planting the seeds that will one day become a mammoth presence on campus and starting traditions that the next generation will (hopefully) hold onto. It’s super exciting but also really intimidating. But, having stayed at one of the Anne Arbor co-op houses for a few days, I can safely say the experience from established co-op to new co-op is mind-boggling different!

***

Thanks again to everyone who submitted a question! I got a huge kick out of answering your questions and I hope you enjoy my answers just as much!

Any other burning questions out there? Feel free to ask any time!

xoxooxo

Moe

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4 responses to this post.

  1. I really hope that it turns into something of a large presence on campus as well.. but I feel that the CHUM program’s potential to breed that positive cooperative spirit is something to be had on campus. In terms of the frat/sorority thing.. your house seems pretty familial!

    Reply

  2. Thank you so much for answering all the questions! I had no idea co-op housing existed at UMD before your blog, and didn’t really understand the concept until this post. (Btw, the link to the chum site doesn’t work!)

    Reply

    • Posted by Moe on May 9, 2011 at 11:32 am

      thanks for letting me know about the link! (all fixed now) & ayyayayayayay! im glad this post was helpful!

      Reply

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