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Reader's Tip: Sharing the Cabin

Published: December 17, 2010
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Photo by Tanya Bäck
When we bought our small family cabin several years ago, three families went together to make it happen: my wife and I, my wife’s sister and her husband, and my father-in-law and mother-in-law. Sharing ownership of the family cabin has its challenges, but we make it work. Two of the keys are dealing with scheduling and frequency of use.

Scheduling
   
First of all, we try and come up with some ground rules about use and stick to them. For the three families involved, we have an agreement of one week and one weekend of exclusive use during the summer. This is the time for each family to invite their friends or in-laws. It gives you certainty for your plans, and usually by the grace of schedules we have been able to work out what time works best for each family. When necessary though, we simply draw names out of the hat to see who goes first, second and third for the selection of exclusive time.
   
Holiday weekends can be tricky. To make it simple, we have a rule that on the holiday weekends of Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day only the three families can come to the cabin – unless, of course, no one else is coming up. This rule eliminates the issue of someone asking if it would be okay to bring some friends up on that weekend, putting another family member in the uncomfortable position of having to answer “no” and feeling like the bad guy.

Frequency of Use
   
When it comes to using the cabin, there will almost always be an imbalance between multiple owners. Whether it’s life priorities, kids’ activities, or proximity, there will be some families that use the cabin more than others. Both the high users and the low users have to respect each other’s opinions. The low users have to be respectful of the fact that sometime the high users take the initiative to do projects around the cabin. They are there the most, so they see the needs more often. The flip side of that is the high users have to respect that they are not the only users, and so they still need to seek permission for doing larger projects. It is a matter of respect and a careful balance for the differing of opinions.
– Dave Steininger

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