House Meetings

What would we do without house meetings? What did our life look like before house meetings?

That I can tell you. Our household was full of tension. People would be yelling up and down the stairs to get each other’s attention. People, me for one, would ask family members about things while they were busy and focused on something else entirely and were annoyed with me for interrupting their train of thoughts.

Here is one example of how things were: I was ready to put a pair of old boots in the trash. The boots were clearly unusable-the soles were totally shot. And the fact that they had not moved from the spot on the floor had me annoyed. I would have caught to the owner of the boots sometime mid-day, talked about the boots in an agitated way, with pressure for agreement about throwing them in the trash. My thoughts would have disturbed the owner of the boots and bad feelings or an argument would have ensued.

My daughter was especially sensitive to this kind of interruption and to the yelling up and down the stairs. Instead of complaining, she proposed that we have house meetings. She suggested that we could discuss things that were of concern to each of us at the meetings. We agreed to the proposal, being old hippies ourselves, and soon thereafter sat down for our first meeting.

Here is how our house meetings work:

At the start of the meetings, we often share something of meaning, such as something we are feeling good about in our lives or something we observed or thought about. After this, we each share our concerns. We go around, from the concern from one person to a concern of the next person until everyone has one concern addressed and then we go on to the second concern of each person.

Our lists were not equally long but the topics concern everyone to some degree. Topics include things like: who is going to cook when, needing help with a computer program, wanting to set up time to do something fun, what to do with a pair of old boots, house cleaning, etc.

Here is how it worked:

On the topic of the boots, I put the issue of the boots on my list of topics to be discussed when we met at our house meeting. I did not think about them anymore that day, as I knew the issue would be addressed.  That was a great relief to me. When I raised my concerns about the boots, my daughter understood immediately. However, she did not want to get rid of them. So easily and willingly she took them up to her room and put them in her closet. That was the end of that problem. Hurrah! It was so simple and could have been such a mess!

Other aspects of meetings:

The key elements are: that we all attend, that we agree to a starting time, and that we meet often (sometimes daily) to handle the many small and larger things that come up, which need to be addressed for the smoother running and emotional climate our family.

Who participates:

I think children as young as six or seven or eight have thoughts and feelings they would like to share and discuss with others in their family. House meetings offer a time and a place for everyone’s voice, thoughts and feelings to be expressed and addressed. The mere fact that it is possible to talk about something that is bothering you reduces personal and interpersonal stress.

House meetings, I am finding, are an amazingly respectful way to engage everyone and figure out our lives during this time of enforced together-ness.