12. What Are the Rules for Using Our Shared Property or Meeting Our Shared Responsibilities?

Seasoned sharers advise that setting too many hard and fast rules can have a chilling effect on a group's generous spirit. Of course, you could conceivably come up with rules about everything: No smoking, no singing loudly in the shower at 6 a.m., no incandescent bulbs, no bricks in the washing machine, no iguanas over six feet long. These are all good rules, but do you really need them to be rules? Most groups find that setting just a few basic rules is a better approach. Ideally, you can trust the other members of your group to be respectful, make wise decisions, and speak up if the giant iguana doesn't work for them.

Another option is to adopt rules that have some built-in flexibility. You can do this by stating a rule and then adding: "without first discussing it and receiving permission from the group."

EXAMPLE: The owner of an empty lot grants a group of 12 neighboring households the right to install a shared vegetable garden. The neighbors came up with a beautiful layout for the garden, and give each household a plot for which they are solely responsible. They want to maintain the overall look of the garden but still give each household a certain amount of freedom to manage their own plot. So, they make the following rule:

"Members agree not to make significant changes to the garden and landscape design without first discussing it and receiving permission from the group."

In addition, the group may want to agree on procedures to follow when a member breaks a rule. When and how should the problem be brought to the attention of the group? What types of restorative measures might the group and the breaching member take to solve the problem? (Chapter 4 provides tips on non-adversarial approaches to problems like this.)

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