Utopian Communes Grow Up: Orsi and Doskow’s Sharing Solution

Shared property and housing bring to mind varied associations: memories of college dorms, hippie communes, cults, or shelters and poverty. A pair of northern California lawyers have just put together a new book which not only posits sharing as a positive ecological, money-saving and community-building example, but also details and works through many of the pragmatics involved with setting up such arrangements.

During their July presentation at A Great Good Place for Books in Montclair, the authors illustrated their big-picture idea by using Sharpies to draw on an easel a polluted planet Earth and a bankrupt society, and then a contrasting, happy, shared neighborhood with trees, chickens, fewer cars, and community garden and exercise space, and even a recording studio for enterprising musicians. The presentation began in a relaxed, Earth-friendly setting…but the actual book conveys much more realism and extensive practical detail. The Sharing Solution is just as much ‘let’s survive this economy without too much deprivation’ as ‘let’s save the planet and bring peace on earth!’

The authors suggest what can be shared: everything from babysitting and pet-care responsibilities to cars, household chores, major appliances and exercise equipment, garden space, boats, and living space. And how to locate people interested in sharing – one’s coworkers, neighbors, friends, even those on websites specifically designed for that purpose. The emphasis on starting right where you live with people you already know, as opposed to having to go out and locate members of a very different ‘Sharing Lifestyle’ community, was rather welcome. Also, anyone and everyone can probably share something…one does not have to be impoverished, a young cute hipster, a student, a Berkeley native, a hippie, or an environmental activist to share!

Rather than pretending we live in an utopia where problems will not arise, Doskow and Orsi advocate preventing squabbles before they start by discussing and agreeing to rules in advance. They suggest different kinds of disagreements that may come up among people sharing property, and encourage friends and neighbors to develop guidelines for how to handle these situations so people will know what to expect and what will be expected of them.

Even after the best possible planning, conflicts can still arise among ordinary, normally clear-headed and well-meaning people. Anticipating this, Orsi and Doskow have an entire chapter devoted to communication strategies for articulating needs, wishes, and concerns. What if you agree to carpool with a neighbor, but he’s chatty in the evenings when you prefer to listen to music or think? What if you and your best friend share fruit from each other’s trees, and your tree becomes diseased one year and you have less to share? What if you share the new lawnmower you just bought with the lady down the street, and she gives it back to you broken? None of these issues can necessarily be resolved easily, but effective, clear communication will not hurt in any case.

Orsi and Doskow bring their legal experience to bear on this book by presenting clear, formal agreements members of a sharing group or even simple neighbors and friends can sign. The book could be called, “Sharing for Dummies” – not in a perjorative sense, but to accentuate the emphasis on practical how-tos and everyday situations and advice.

The Sharing Solution is available from Nolo Press here: http://nolo.com/product.cfm/ObjectID/15C8447D-D2A4-4583-84F987F32ACE7304/213/ Perhaps order one for your office or home and share a copy!

2 thoughts on “Utopian Communes Grow Up: Orsi and Doskow’s Sharing Solution”

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