"Laser Beam" or "Information-Gathering": Two Ways to Plan Your Cohousing Visits


If you want to join a cohousing community, in my experience there are at least two ways to plan visits to likely existing communities and/or core groups of forming communities.

One way is to visit only those that seem like likely candidates — communities or groups you’re actually considering joining, given what you know at the moment. Another way — which I highly recommend — is to visit those you know you’re interested in as well as other cohousing communities, whenever possible.

The first method is more the laser-beam focus mode: “I’m interested in joining A, B, or C cohousing community, so I’ll visit each and choose between the three.” The second is the information-gathering mode: “I’m most interested in A, B, and C right now, but I also want to learn as much as I can about cohousing life before I make this huge decision—so I’ll also visit, D, E, F, G, and so on before I decide anything.”

If you visit cohousing communities which are different in some ways from the ones you think you’d like to live in (lot model when you want townhouse-style, urban high rises when you want a suburban setting, for example), you’ll further clarify your ideas about what may or may not want in terms of many other factors in the community you ultimately join. Knowing what you don’t want can be helpful in honing your choices about what you do want. I firmly believe you can't know too much about life in cohousing ahead of time before making the all-important decision about which one to join.

In either of the above scenarios, I suggest that when visiting cohousing communities or core groups you place yourself in “information-gathering mode,” rather than in the “oh-my-gosh-I-have-to-decide-this-right-away!” mode. The latter mode, can to make you feel — gulp! — fairly tense, which of course communicates itself to the community members or core group members you meet, which affects their opinion of you (and your opinion of them), which can affect your ultimate decision.

However, if you approach each group in information-gathering mode, it can take the pressure off both you and the group, can allow you feel more relaxed (after all, you’re just making observations and taking notes), which will communicate itself to the communities you visit, which will affect their opinion of you, and so on.

—Diana Leafe Christian