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The idea of a housing cooperative may be foreign to most people, but for many, it is an increasingly popular option for which allows them them the freedom of being on their own with the community and support of a larger group of people. Not to be mistaken for the idea of a "commune," cooperatives come in a variety of forms, mostly concerned with simply meeting the needs of their members rather than living according to a certain ideology.

Co-ops may range in structure from large campus based co-ops with hundreds of members to small rural communities far from the hustle and bustle urban life. The large co-op systems can be very helpful, such as one is spending time in college. However, co-ops which focus on students have a constantly changing population, which makes it difficult to build a sustainable community. That's where small, individually created co-operatives come into play.

This happens when two or more people get together and decide to combine their resources to make a home in the world. This is an exciting time, and also a very critical one for the future of the community. The beginning of such a venture is the right time to talk about every imaginable facet of life together and make sure that everyone has the same idea of what they are getting into. By reaching broad and fundamental agreements now, it is possible to avoid misunderstandings and problems later.

The subjects to discuss fall into three primary areas which are often sources of conflict. First concerns financial matters. Bills are a critical reality of any living situation and they have to be paid. If any one person comes up short on their part of their obligation it puts a strain on everyone else. Everyone should understand what they will have to pay and be able and willing to do so on time.

The second critical point to cover concerns chores and house hold duties. Houses need to be cleaned, and when more people pass through an area, the more often it needs to be cleaned. People planning on living together should agree on what standard of cleanliness they require to be comfortable in their home, and everyone should do their part to maintain that.

The third main point to cover concerns lifestyle choices and guidelines for courtesy and behavior around the home. This is much broader and also more vague, dealt with by honest communication, particularly before people start to live together.

When it comes to figuring out compatibility with different people, the main factors to look at concern hours kept, noise levels, and how much social activity will be going on at the home. People should also discuss how they feel about drinking and parties.

Finding the right people to form a co-op with may not be easy, but it quite worthwhile to seek. The key is to find responsible people who you can achieve a good rapport with and communicate openly. If you talk about the major points mentioned above and agree to go ahead, your chances for success are excellent. Welcome home!