Fall in love... with your neighbours?

Updated: Oct 12, 2019

“A funny thing happens when you fall in love with your will-be neighbors. Suddenly the most important thing to have in your community by far is each other.” Karen Gimnig

Shared meals are one of the best ways to build community. (Photo by Laura Musikansi at morguefile.com)

When people start thinking about the possibility of creating and living in a cohousing community, they often think about having to downsize and sharing space with others in order to gain community and live a more sustainable lifestyle. In reading about or visiting cohousing communities, they have seen amenities that appealed to them, and assume that their new cohousing community will have the same large workshop, common garden, or beautiful commercial kitchen. People tend to have a mental list of their personal “must haves” for their new community.

According to Karen Gimnig, this is not unusual and new cohousing members all have these thoughts. However, what is unusual is how these thoughts change as people get to know and spend time with their soon-to-be neighbours. Shedding “stuff” and learning to share seems sacrificial at first. Coming to terms with smaller spaces and fewer possessions is something we have to experience to appreciate.

In the development phase, the decision-making process with fellow community members can be challenging. How small a living space will be too small? How do we decide how many parking spaces our new community will require?

In her essay Getting from “Gotta Have” to “Community First”, Karen Gimnig, Assistant Director of the Cohousing Association of the United States, explores the transformation which cohousing members undergo as they experience the abundance and value of living in community. She also talks about ways of speeding up the transition so that the challenges of new community design and decision making become less daunting and more exciting.

Karen's post was published on cohousing.org, where you'll find many posts by cohousing enthusiasts from across the USA.

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