Rob Sandelin, Sharingwood, Snohomish County, Washington
Living in a community offers security. You can rely on your neighbors to help you, even when you don’t ask. This is huge for me, that my family is in a safe and supportive place. My grandmother died recently. My neighbors knew all about it and sent cards and sympathy and support to my family. Her neighbors didn’t even know she was sick. Most of them didn’t even know her name. How many of them could she ask for help if she needed it?
- Community offers social opportunities. I can have wonderful and meaningful interactions with people I like—my neighbors—just by sitting out on my porch. I really enjoy hanging out and talking with folks about everything—politics, the news, kids. Sharing our histories and ourselves grows a wonderful bond among us—I suppose much like encounter groups do. I know more about my neighbors’ histories and lives and why they do things the way they do than I know about some of my family members.
- Cohousing is a supportive place for kids to grow up. Cohousing is safe and there are lots of friends—both other kids and adults. Kids can play and I know any adult in the neighborhood will be there for them in case of need. It’s also a fun place to be an adult. There are lots of opportunities to play with the kids and other adults.
- Cohousing is a great place to collaborate with people who share similar interests. Small groups form that revolve around shared common interests such as beer making, sewing, gardening, music, and so forth. I don’t have to “go” anywhere to enjoy a beer-making club; my neighbors and I can do that. The common house is great for that.
- There is a sense of togetherness and belonging. I am part of something that is really wonderful: it is a model for a better way to live, and together we are doing it. I can’t explain this in words very well, but there is a strong feeling of happiness in me that comes from working toward a common good. I used to get this feeling as a teacher and environmentalist, and now I get it as I work with my neighbors on a variety of projects.
- There is a great restaurant in the middle of my neighborhood—called the common house—where I can go have dinner and great conversation with friends.
- Cohousing is a great place to learn new things. I always wanted to try making beer. Having a couple of neighbors share that interest got me into home brewing. We learn and try new stuff all the time.
- Cohousing is a great place to share ownership of things that I couldn’t really afford by myself, such as a workshop, play structures, tools, a library, and so on.
- Many personal resources are available. Want to know about bee keeping? I ask Mel and get all kinds of information. Having problems with my car? Mary knows a lot about such things. Want to build a shed? Bob can give me advice and help me scrounge for materials. A neighborhood like mine is a collection of twenty-six lifetimes’ worth of experience in all manner of things. What a treasure trove!
- Privacy. I get all the great benefits of cooperative living and also get privacy whenever I want just by going home and closing the door or going into the twenty-five acres of woods that surround my house that everybody shares ownership of.
- To me, the monetary value of all these things would be in the million-dollar range. My house cost me less than market value to build and is worth much more than I paid for it should I ever move to another community—notice that I said move to another community. It is inconceivable for me to ever move back to a “normal” neighborhood, where everyone is a stranger and I have to be afraid every time my kid goes out the door.