About the co-op model
Meetings at most houses are held Sunday evenings, immediately after dinner (so usually around 6:45-7:00pm). They last from twenty to thirty minutes and have three sections: Position Updates; Old Business; New Business. Having good meeting attendance is really important for a co-op. The meeting is a kind of protected area where you can talk about things that are getting on your nerves or concerning you but that might be hard to address in the normal flow of everyday interaction with your roommates. The meetings are also where we can make changes to house, but do so in a way where people have a say in what gets changed and can feel like their opinions are respected. This is crucial for maintaining a good, healthy, open-minded feeling in the house – for people giving each other the benefit of the doubt and keeping channels of communication open and flowing, even if they disagree with each other about certain things.
In Position Updates, we say what we did for our position that week (see more about positions, which are house jobs, further down this page). For Old Business, we follow-up on things people were talking about in previous meetings: proposals that needed further research; or checking in to see if things were done that people said they were going to do. For New Business, we bring up new or upcoming stuff that we need to talk about, or if we need to remind everyone about following certain house policies or good co-op practices.
Examples of New Business would be: you have visitors coming to town and want the house to know and to reserve the attic/air mattress for them; or, the garden needs to be planted soon, what plants are we going to get?; or, someone has been leaving their clothes in the washing machine/dryer, you remind the house to please be sure to get their clothes out of there quickly and leave a laundry basket down there too; or, hey our house would be better if we bought X with amenities money, what do you think?, how much money should we spend on it?, what kind should we get?, etc.
Our decision-making process, like many co-ops, involves elements of what’s known as “Consensus.” Most houses have a version of this to vote democratically about policy issues (so you can vote, “Yes,” “No,” or “Abstain”), but do not have simple majority rules. Basically, if there is a “Strong ‘No’” – if someone has strong feelings against an idea that other house members are trying to enact, then the measure cannot pass without making some sort of a compromise and without trying to listen to and acknowledge the objections. If the objections are really strong, then, in the interest of being respectful of people’s feelings and of maintaining the spirit of the co-op, it might be best to just back off on that idea.
Quorum is one more than half the people in a house. So minor decisions (like spending house amenities money on something less than $50) can be made with only five out of the 8 who might live in a house present at a meeting. Major decisions (like bringing in a pet) require unanimous house approval – everyone has to say either ‘Yes’ or ‘Abstain’ from the vote (show they have no opinion/are fine either way).
These positions are what keep the house running and organized and clean. You should expect to put an hour of work a week into your position and houses usually rotate jobs every two months. We hold each other accountable by giving a Position Update at the Sunday meeting each week and telling each other what we did. As an example, in an 8 person, two story house, positions are: Grocery Shopper (2); Accountant; Secretary; Outdoor Cleaner; Kitchen Cleaner; First Floor Cleaner; Second Floor Cleaner.
Grocery Shopper: The Grocery Shoppers spend the house food money ($1000/month) and go grocery shopping twice a week to keep the kitchen stocked. They also buy food in bulk when possible to save money and so we don’t run out of things so often. Each Shopper has a Busey Bank debit card that is linked to our house food account.
Accountant: The Accountant pays our utility bills and deposits people’s food and utility checks into our house bank accounts, and also brings our rent checks to Jonah’s mailbox on the 1st of the month. The Accountant also has to monitor our bank accounts and make sure we are not overspending our budgets (for food and utilities).
Secretary: The Secretary runs the House Meeting every Sunday and takes notes on what we talk about or decisions we make, and then writes those notes up and sends them out in an email so we have a record of what went on, and for anyone who was absent to catch-up on what we talked about.
Outdoor Cleaner: The Outdoor Cleaner makes sure the recycling bin is empty and turns over the compost and adds browns (dry leaves, dry plant material, straw, etc.) to the pile so it doesn’t become slimy. They also take a walk through the yard and pick up any fallen branches or trash that may have blown by. In the winter, although there is a shoveling service for our house, they are responsible for putting salt down on our walkways and doing any spot shoveling. In the summer, they have to help weed and water the garden.
Kitchen Cleaner: The Kitchen Cleaner sweeps and mops the kitchen floor, audits the personal fridge once a month to make sure there’s no old stuff sitting in there rotting, cleans out/disinfects both fridges, cleans/disinfects the stovetop and other counter surfaces, and cleans the oven (once every couple months).
First Floor Cleaner: The First Floor Cleaner is responsible for the first floor bathroom, the dining room, and the foyer. They need to wipe down/disinfect the toilet and the sink each week, empty the bathroom trashcan, and sweep/vacuum the dining room and foyer. Every couple weeks they should do some dusting in the dining room, and scrub the bathtub in the bathroom. Once in their two-month session as First Floor Cleaner, they should mop.
Second Floor Cleaner: The Second Floor Cleaner is responsible for the second floor bathroom, the second floor hallway and stairs, and the attic and attic stairwell. They should wipe down/disinfect the toilet and sink each week, empty the bathroom trashcan, and sweep the hallway and stairs. Every couple weeks they should vacuum the attic (and empty the trashcan up there) and sweep the attic stairs. Once in their two-month session as Second Floor Cleaner, they should mop.