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Sharing Chores in a Golden Girls Home

Q: What About Chores in a Cooperative Household?

A: Cohouseholding Means Never Having to Scoop the Litter Box**

Contributed by Karen Bush, Louise Machinist and Jean McQuillin

choresThe authors lived in “Shadowlawn,” their 3-woman cooperative household for 11+ happy years until a retirement transition in 2015. Here’s a slice of life from summer 2013.

It’s a typical Sunday night at Shadowlawn– Louise on the porch, feet up, drink at hand, deep into a novel for book group next month; Karen cooking dinner; Jean scooping out Kali’s litter box in the basement. What’s wrong with this picture? Nothing’s wrong.

Everything’s right. Louise will clean up the kitchen—again. And put out the trash for collection. And she already did the daily Tweeting.

Chore sharing is the fourth most frequent subject that people ask us about. Coming right after the biggies—household conflict, romantic relationships, and money–someone usually throws in, “But who scoops the kitty box?” We used to share the scooping, taking turns on a whoever-thinks-of-it-first basis. Imagine Louise and Karen’s relief when Jean decided to take it over. Every week! And also to keep a steady supply of paper towels and toilet paper on the basement storage shelves. So Jean “owns” a specialty job category in our shared home: toileting hygiene. She has a system, a schedule, and the tasks always get done.

We’ve each adopted certain job specialties based on interest, skill or availability. Karen is always tech geek and skilled repairperson. Louise does grunt work (screens/storms, window well cleaning, scullery maid) but also has Martha Stewart home decorating moments.

We share most tasks without assigning them. Interestingly, we’ve found that we don’t need “rules,” because everyone carries a fair share of the load, balanced out over time.
Among us, we have the skills, determination or stupidity to tackle just about anything. Somehow, it seems less tiresome to do chores when it’s part of community. We’re all proactive. Nobody nags, but we might occasionally remind.

Two keys to success with chores are 1. Own responsibility, 2. Always do what you say you are going to do. We’ve got a little healthy competition going on, “Competency Competition.” In other words, I will do my fair share better than anyone else can do my fair share.

Before sharing a living situation with anyone, be sure that they have similar expectations about household lifestyle. (How neat? How clean? Who will do what?) Ed, Louise’s Dad, always said, “It’s the little things that count,” day-to-day. Consider: could an always-overflowing litter box sink your cooperative household?
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**If you are lucky enough to have a housemate who chooses litter box scooping for her
own. Thank you, Jean!

Karen, Louise and Jean pioneered a new model of homesharing when they pooled resources and bought a house together in 2004. They coined the term cooperative householding: “two or more unrelated people co-owning and sharing a residence to gain financial, social, lifestyle and environmental benefits.”

Anticipating a growing wave of interest in alternative housing arrangements, they wrote My House Our House: Living Far Better for Far Less in a Cooperative Household, St. Lynn’s Press, 2013.

The authors’ professional backgrounds are in psychology, healthcare, education and consulting. They conduct informational seminars about cooperative householding. Step through the door of this cooperative household at www.facebook.com/MyHouseOurHouse and the My House Our House website: http://www.myhouseourhouse.com/.