How to Peel a Carrot in Cohousing

My husband Charles and I recently had the opportunity of spending a few nights at Wolf Creek Lodge (WCL), an active adult cohousing community in Grass Valley, California.  My goal was to “live it” and to experience first-hand what it would be like to live in a cohousing community with adults 55 plus.  Albeit it was only for a few days, we had a wonderful time and I learned a few things…

How to Peel a Carrot

Before our visit, I hadn’t thought about this but, yes, there are many ways to peel a carrot.  You can do it right handed, left handed, with a peeler, with a knife, with a grater, even with steel wool.  

And isn’t this like life?  We blissfully go through life not thinking of new ways (and maybe better ways) of doing something until we are blessed with someone who shows us a new way.

While visiting WCL, I asked a member why she liked living there and she shared that every day she learns something new.  She said that it can be something small – like learning a new way to peel a carrot while working side by side with a friend in the common house kitchen.  Or it could something big - like how to be a better friend.   

This is the power of community, learning new things, big and small, from each other.

What valuable thing has a neighbor taught you today?

A New Approach to Dinner

At WCL, there are a little over 40 members who live in 30 units.  About three nights a week, members who desire to do so will get together for a common meal.  Typically, about 15 – 20 people will show up and the responsibility for each meal is divided up.  It works out that each household prepares and serves a meal about once a month. 

There are advantages of this cohousing benefit, one being simply how nice it is to sit down with friends over a meal.  But one other much appreciated advantage is the time and energy saved by sharing this chore.  We all know how tiresome it can be when faced with cooking a meal for just our own household every night.  In cohousing, the responsibility for preparing just one meal is exchanged for many meals prepared for you.  This is a great trade-off.

How often have you wished someone would cook your dinner?

During our short stay at WCL, Charles and I experienced first-hand the value of a cohousing dinner and for me, one of my favorite moments was helping my new friend Chuck, 86 years old, do the dishes. Needless to say, it was much more fun doing the dishes with Chuck than doing them by myself.  It’s been a long time since I’ve laughed while standing with a dishtowel in my hand.

How to Have Healthy Relationships

Ok, so this is a big topic and the library is filled with books on healthy relationship how-to’s, but one WCL member said it in a nutshell.  She shared this, “Be flexible and have patience.” 

One thing I really love about cohousing is the commitment that each member must have for the betterment of the whole and the commitment to healthy relationships.  Cohousing is not for those who value putting themselves first.  If I think about it, when we are flexible and patient with the people in our lives, this is when those relationships have space to flourish.

In what ways have you experienced people being flexible and patient with you?

Architecture Matters

Good cohousing architectural design is intentional and unique.  When a group forms, they work together with an experienced cohousing architect in designing a space that offers the privacy that we all desire but also the common space that allows and promotes both casual and more in-depth interaction.

I so experienced this while visiting WCL.  It was easy to retreat to our very comfortable guest room (just as members can retreat to their homes), but there was a design element that allowed us to connect with people in ways that I don’t currently experience living in a traditional condo building.  At WCL, we shared a meaningful conversation over dinner, we laughed while cleaning up, we spontaneously chatted outside on the patio over coffee the next morning, and we exchanged quick pleasantries with another couple walking into the community as we were walking out. 

Living in a classically designed 1970’s condo building, I can go days without ever seeing one of my neighbors (and this was the same when we lived in house in a neighborhood).  Sadly, I think this is the norm for many of us.  This has me thinking a lot about the value of good design and the unique value of cohousing.  The space we live in matters.  It matters to our relationships and to ourselves, and I’m really thankful for the architects who specialize in cohousing and understand this.

When was the last time you interacted with your neighbors? 

If you’d like to know more about cohousing design, visit these websites:

http://www.cohousingco.com

http://www.schemataworkshop.com

http://www.caddispc.com

 

On Homecoming and Belonging

Thanks to a free download from my local library (thanks, library!), I just listened to the audiobook Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging by Sebastian Junger, and I can’t get it out of my head. Junger is a jack of all trades: he’s written several books, directed multiple movies, and worked as a journalist and war correspondent. He focuses on war and its impact on veterans, and Tribe is no exception. What makes Tribe different, however, is that he uses war as a lens through which to view bigger questions about, as the title suggest, homecoming and belonging. Having never served in the armed forces, it opened up a world I don’t often think about.

The book also gave me new insights into the importance and value of community and how we disregard community at our own peril. To be healthy as both individuals and as a society, we must place value on strong, healthy connections with others. They create that sense of belonging missing from so many people’s lives.

I believe those meaningful connections come from serving others and being served. They come from feeling that you can make a difference in the lives of others, and from humbly accepting that others can make a difference to you. With the ability to serve and be served, we create relationships with interdependence. It is these authentic relationships that help give us meaningful, fulfilling lives.

One quote from Junger’s book that I keep reflecting on:

“Humans don’t mind hardship. In fact, they thrive on it.  What they mind is not feeling necessary.  Modern society has perfected the art of making people not feel necessary.”

For me, this quote encapsulates the very reason I became so passionate about cohousing in the first place: it provides the framework to create neighborhoods that foster meaning and belonging. With cohousing, it’s easy to be necessary.

I encourage you to pick up this book or get a digital copy or audiobook from your local library (the audiobook is about 3 hours of listening time). If you’d like your own copy, click on the links below to see where you can purchase it online.

Let me know what you think!

Audiobook of ‘Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging’ by Sebastian Junger

Print Copy of ‘Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging’ by Sebastian Junger

 

Freeing Yourself from Stuff

I’ve had the great pleasure of working with many older adults who feel burdened by all their stuff. They want to ‘rightsize’ their lives but aren’t sure where to begin. Just the thought of sorting, deciding what to do with items, reliving memories, and the hours of work creates a barrier to getting where they want to be.

A number of years ago, my husband and I came to the realization that our big family house and yard no longer matched the lifestyle we wanted. We no longer wanted to be tied down by the hours needed to maintain it, and by the stuff that filled every nook and cranny. What we wanted was time to focus on our family, friends, and the pursuits that brought us joy.

Getting started was overwhelming. We’d lived in the house for 15 years, raising two kids, and had the stuff to show for it. Knowing that lists work for me, I picked up a notebook and began numbering. My goal was to get rid of 1,000 things and I gave myself permission to count things as simple as one pencil as one item. I made three columns: Throw Away, Give Away, Sell. I gave myself a year.

I don’t know what it was about this notebook, but my goal was accomplished in just one month. There was something so freeing about not letting my stuff rule me and instead me ruling my stuff. And once the stuff was ruled, we were able to begin the process of creating lives focused on what was most important to us.

As I’m typing out these words, I’m reminded of a conversation I once overheard between two women in their 70s. One was overwhelmed and struggling to sort through her stuff so she could make a move. The other had left a beautiful home on the water, and now had a lovely life in a small apartment with many friends nearby. The contrast was startling; the overwhelmed woman was seemingly frozen in the midst of her stuff while the woman with the new life was energized by the possibilities for her future. When ‘Overwhelmed’ asked ‘New Life’ how she had made the move, ‘New Life’ responded, “I realized the stuff was taking the place in my heart where people should be.”

A truth for many of us, I believe.