Whether your family has a 50-room mansion, several linked row houses or several
large homes in scattered locations there are practical matters that all home
owners must address. These matters can be more (or less) complicated in a
large multi-adult household.
We have interviewed a number of polyamorous families that have
been together for more than 3 years. Why 3 years? Check out
for the answer. Our interviewees had been in their households for 3 to 13 years
when interviewed. It is not a large sample by scientific standards, but it is a
starting point for ideas on how to run a multi-adult household.
We interviewed 2 MFM triads, 2 FMF triads and 1 FMFM quad.
Several techniques surfaced for splitting labor like dishes, laundry, vacuuming,
lawn and gardening and so on. One family claimed to have no set plan, “Things
just get done.” In closer questioning it seems that when a chore is accomplished
the person lets the family know and that person is acknowledged and thanked.
Each individual seemed to have a mind set that no one should have to do the
same chore more than 2 days in a row. This only happened in one family. We
used to doubt a line family of 12 or more could work this concept to everyone’s
satisfaction; however, in a recent trip to a co-housing community we observed
much the same type of concept was being used to run the kitchen. They included
a sign-in magnetic board with everyone’s name printed on tiny rectangular refrigerator
magnets (like found in the free-form poetry refrigerator magnets). People sign
up for up to two weeks in advance to staff the kitchen and dining room. To be
fair the group only has 5 communal meals a week. With over 2-dozen adult members,
this is not too onerous a schedule. Cleanup after individuals use the kitchen
is their responsibility.
Everyone else had some kind of schedule. All the schedules were modified in
some way. Say one person did not have a regular 8-hour/day job, that person
took on more – but not all – of the household responsibilities. In one family
the man loved to cook and was good at it. Therefore he did most of the cooking
and less of the dish washing. The overall theme seemed to be flexibility, a
willingness to adjust the schedule as issues came up like hosting parties,
going on dates, separate vacations, etc. A common comment was that everyone
could speak up if they felt they were being treated unfairly. In the family
that had no schedule, it seemed like household chores were often done by two
or more of the family members together. We can see why a schedule might not work.
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Utilities, food, maintenance, travel, cable and Internet all cost money. How
much does each family member pay? Methods used to cover costs include percentages
based on income, equal division and by usage. In one family there was an
individual that had little use for a car. This person mostly bicycled and used
public transit; therefore, the gas, insurance and maintenance of the cars were
not that person’s responsibility. Another person worked at home and required
a very fast computer connection and paid for it, even though other members of
the family used the connection. It comes down to individual needs and a family’s
willingness to accommodate those needs.
Families must decide in advance what seems most fair. In the case of things
like heat, light and water should everyone pay and equal amount or proportional
to their income. An equal amount seems to penalize the person with lower income.
But what if that person took a job that paid a lower rate because it was a job
they would love and be happy with? In a multi-income home, that choice is easier
to make. Would it be fairer to make that person pay an equal amount to the
utilities fund? We don’t know. These are your questions to answer with your
family. Make sure you get to these issues early and be ready to revisit the
issues if they don’t seem to be working for everyone.
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Real Property Ownership
We discuss this in detail in the section OWNING FAMILY REAL ESTATE. Our families
all had a single property owner or a legally married couple as owners. In one case
a third person was added to the mortgage and is contributing to the monthly payment.
There are various legal tools available to bringing other family members into the
legal ownership of real property. With a large line family you want to be able to
have multiple partners jointly own property. If only one or two people own the
land and buildings, there is a severe power shift to the sole owners. They are
taking the financial risk and would naturally feel that as owners, they have
final say as to how the property is used, maintained and developed. As stated
above, we will look at the legal options available to your family in the
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It is a sad fact that not all relationships work out. Of all our families,
only one had a mechanism in place for departing members. It is a corporate
structure that allows for reimbursement of most of the money that the person
invested in the family. Rather than one lump sum, repayments would be made in
installments so as not to hurt the family. It is our feeling that a family
member needs to be fairly compensated if the relationship ends. This is one of
those things that should be noted when new members are added. It is like a
prenuptial agreement. Both individuals and the family need to be protected.
At least 4 of the 5 families have wills of mutual benefit. That means that as
each member dies, their property is passed on to the other members of the family.
Our feeling about this is that wills are not enough. Legal tools like joint
tenancy and trusts help make a will stronger and less vulnerable to legal
challenges. This is discussed in more detail in the financial section.
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