(aka why work is not a dirty word)
Q: What’s the difference between that (cooperative living) and just living with a bunch of friends?
A: THE WORK!
I mean truth be told there are a lot of differences between living in a co-op and living with your friends, but the work is one of the most pronounced differences. When my housemates and I all finally moved ourselves into the house in August we had a lot of big conversations. One of the biggest was about what our expectations were for each other and how we would divvy everything up.
Our systems have evolved over time as we adapt to changing needs and figuring out what works best for us. In my house the “work” basically consists of what we need to do so that a) we don’t want to kill each other and b) so that our house can be a place in which we all thrive.
(Where there is Thriving, there is Loving)
Surprise, surprise, the work relating to food comes first. As any reader of the blog thus far knows, eating is a MAYJAH concern of ours. In my house, we all take turns cooking dinner, so there is always an abundance of food for dinner and delish leftovers for lunches. It is also expected that everyone eats together at the dinning room table and we do the classic how was your day/ what did you learn in school today ranting and raving.
Chores seem like a downer but they are definitely a necessity. In my house we went old school and made a chore wheel with all the different common areas of the house. Since there are 5 of us we split the wheel into Kitchen, Upstairs Bathroom, Living/Dinning Room, Downstairs Bathroom/ Kitchen Floor, and Upstairs Hallway/ Entranceway. We also take turns being the person who takes out the all the trash/recycling and unloading the dishwasher/ drying rack.
At first we stuck with the wheel for figuring out the chores but our system evolved to include chores checklists taped around our house. We also decided to have a “MOM” (Manager of Members? Many Operations Manager? Something like that) position. The Mom makes sure everyone has done their assigned chore, reminds them if they forget things, etc. and rotates every week with the wheel.
After we had a particularly bad few weeks last semester when everyone was slacking on their chores we also decided to implement some punishments.
The evolution of the punishments was actually really interesting because I think it was StringBeans idea because she is all about consequences, but Tricycle took it to the next level and suggested we should take a run around the house naked while someone filmed it. Despite Tricycles protests that we give her suggestion at least a try, we decided that the punishment for doing your chore late would be buying a six pack for everyone in the house and setting up a time when everyone could drink and watch you scrub between the tiles of our kitchen floor with a toothbrush for the length of the song “Eye of the Tiger”.
This past Sunday our punishment system changed again. As a response to Tricycles desire for both beer and sweets, and maybe in part due to AM missing her chore for like the past 3 weeks we decided that the first time you miss your chore you just have to do “Eye of the Tiger”, but the next time you miss your chore you have to do that AND cook up some kind of dessert for the house. (Strike 3 is still pending)
- House Meetings
Another expectation for our house is that everyone has to show up to our house meetings. We have a house meeting every week, usually on Sunday nights. At the meetings we pick what day everyone is going to cook and clean for dinners and, maybe more importantly, talk about the issues going on in the house. It is really important for our house cohesion and sanity to have a structured and timely space in which to talk about grievances and make plans for activities that will be coming up during the week. For example, at our last house meeting AM was a bit pissed because at our last house party people stayed and may or may not have been screaming past 4 in the morning. And the man of the house brought up the possibility of hosting another party at our house Friday or Saturday depending on our various schedules.
For me, all of the work is definitely worth it. I can deal with cleaning the bathrooms (def the worst on the chore wheel) once every 5 weeks and cooking once a week if it means our house will always be pretty tidy and I always have delicious dinners to come home to after a long day.