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Whose turn is it to fluff the pillows?

Household Operations
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 this link 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.

Household Chores
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 visit 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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Family Expenses
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 or the individual being willing and able to take on the extra costs.

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 family, 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 some legal concepts available to your family in the financial section.
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Departing Members
Not all relationships work out long term. 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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