Solution 1: Share Household Items

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"First job is to prepare the soil. The best tool for this is your neighbor's motorized garden tiller. If your neighbor does not own a garden tiller, suggest that he buy one."

—Dave Barry

There are many creative ways and good reasons to share household goods. In particular, those who don't have basic household goods benefit greatly from these arrangements. Young adults living alone for the first time, recent divorcees, returning veterans or travelers, and low-income households might not otherwise have access to a vacuum, tools, laundry facilities, and other amenities a sharing group can provide.

For people who already own these basics, there are still many benefits to sharing household goods, including:

  • access to items that might break (for example, the opportunity to use a neighbor's washing machine if yours conks out), items that you need only occasionally (such as a bread machine or extra folding chairs or tables for a large party), and items that are rare (a karaoke machine or slide projector, for example)
  • opportunities to build trust and community with your neighbors, which can lead to other sharing arrangements
  • helping the planet by reducing everyone's need to manufacture and buy consumer goods, and
  • elimination of household clutter and duplication.

Ways of Sharing Goods

It's easy and convenient for each of us to buy our own cheap consumer goods and gadgets and have them on hand when we need them. Ice cream makers, leaf blowers, and electric screwdrivers are all useful from time to time. But especially for things we need only occasionally, sharing is much less costly—and more environmentally friendly—than buying our own.

Sharing household goods can happen in many ways. It can mean that you and a friend buy a video camera together and each use it when you need it. Or, it can entail an organized system of borrowing and lending goods, like a neighborhood toolsharing group.

It's possible to share almost anything, especially:

  • items you don't use every day
  • items you don't tend to need on a moment's notice (for example, as infrequently as you might need it, we don't recommend that you share a fire extinguisher with your neighbor down the street)
  • items that can be easily moved from one home to another, and
  • items that are kept in a space that all sharers can access.

Most of the time, it's easiest to share household goods with people who live nearby, such as neighbors or fellow residents in your apartment complex or cohousing. But you can also share goods with anyone you see regularly, such as at work, school, or church, where you can easily hand off a shared item. You could even share something like a kayak with someone who lives across town, and drive by to pick it up before you head to the lake.

No matter what you share, who you share with, and how you arrange to share it, we recommend that you and your cosharers review and discuss the questions covered in Chapter 3. This will help you think through important issues such as what happens if the item breaks, how to schedule use, and so on.

Forming a Goods Sharing Group with Neighbors

A neighborhood goods sharing group is primarily a system of borrowing and lending, in which participants allow others to use their stuff but actual ownership of the items doesn't change hands. To get started, you'll need to know what everyone has and needs. Use the form below to find out what each participant is willing to lend, willing to let others use, and looking to borrow. (You'll find a blank copy in Appendix B; the version below includes sample entries.) Once these forms are filled out, you could either copy them all and give a set to each sharer or compile them into a master list organized by category. Because the list will change as people and items come and go, it may be good to post an updateable list online or have someone print out the list and distribute it every few months.

Where to Keep Shared Goods

Where you store shared goods will depend on what they are and how often you need them:

  • With their owners. If sharers will be borrowing and lending individually owned items, it may make the most sense for owners to keep their own things. Someone who wants to use an item can make arrangements with the owner to pick it up and return it.
  • In an accessible place. You can also keep shared items in a place that everyone can access (the "sharing shed" or "stuff library," for example). This might be a shed that everyone can open with a combination lock or key, or someone's garage or basement that has a separate entrance. It could even be a room or closet in a staffed office at an apartment or condominium complex. If you keep everything together, make sure you keep a detailed list of who owns what, label each item with the name of its owner, and come up with a system for signing out and returning items. Have sharers write down what time they expect to return the item, so others will know when it will be available. For certain items, you may want to set a time limit on borrowing.
  • Immobile items. You may want to share items that cannot be easily moved, such as a washer and dryer, rowing machine, or ping-pong table. One way to do this is to keep these items in a part of the house that can be accessed without disturbing the residents, such as a garage or laundry room with a separate entrance.

Owning Items as a Group

Your group may own some items together. For example, a member of your group may move to Florida and give the group his snow blower. Someone may find a free blender and put it in the sharing shed for others to use. Or perhaps some neighbors decide to buy a volleyball net together, each chipping in $5 to cover the cost. If you will own items collectively, especially if they are expensive, be sure you agree on how they may be used, whether members will be bought out by the others if they move, and so on.

If Something Breaks

Stuff happens. Think in advance about what your sharing group will do if a shared item is damaged or lost. If you own items as a group, then the impact of the loss is spread to the whole group. But if the damaged item is owned by one person, what is the role of the member who damaged it or of the group in fixing or replacing the item? Does it matter what caused the damage or who is at fault?

One option is for the group to create a reserve fund, which can act as insurance. If one member breaks something, the group can agree to reimburse the owner by paying all or part of the lost value or replacement cost. To keep things simpler, some groups may just want the owner and borrower to sort it out between themselves.

For groups who pool their things in one location, such as a shared shed, members should decide how to share the losses if things are stolen. Should the losses be borne by individual owners or should the group find a way to compensate those who lose valuable items? If the owner of the property where items are stored has insurance that covers the loss, should members kick in for the cost of the insurance?

Goods Sharing Group Member Agreement

If you start a neighborhood goods sharing group, it's a good idea to have a written member agreement, to make sure that everyone understands how the arrangement works. The agreement also clarifies what will happen if property is damaged or a member is injured. Because group members will probably come and go, having a written agreement encourages consistency and continuity in how your group operates.

Sample Goods Sharing Group
Member Agreement

This agreement is between all members of the East Lilburn Stuff Share Group ("the Group"). By signing this agreement, each member agrees to the terms of this agreement, as follows:

Purpose: We have formed this Group to help neighborhood residents save money, meet their household needs, and consume less by providing an easy way for people to share household goods, otherwise known as "stuff."

Definition of "stuff": "Stuff" includes many kinds of useful items, including appliances, clothes, books, tools, electronics, toys, and so on.

Shared property: The shared stuff is described in the attached Stuff Master List and on the Group's password-protected website. Upon joining the Group, each member will fill out the "Personal Stuff List" where the member will list all items that member is willing to share, any limitations related to borrowing or using item, and items that member is interested in borrowing or acquiring with others.

Ownership: All stuff is and will remain the separate property of its owner. No item will be owned collectively by the Group, unless it is specifically given to the Group or acquired by the Group for the purpose of collective ownership.

Member qualifications: Membership is open to anyone who is at least 13 years old and lives within the section of East Lilburn bordered on the north by Precita Avenue, on the south by Ward Road, on the east by Clemonsville Road and on the west by Abby Road. This encompasses approximately 80 households. At our annual meeting, we may consider whether to expand.

Structure: We are an unincorporated association. We do not intend to enter into a partnership or form an incorporated entity.

Decisions: We will hold an annual meeting and block party in the summer. All members will be invited to the meeting, to be held during the hour prior to the start of the block party. At each annual meeting, members present will elect a Stuff Share board of five members. Major decisions regarding the structure and size of the Group will be thoroughly discussed and decided by a majority vote of the membership. Decisions about minor and day-to-day issues, such as how to organize stuff, will be made by the board.

Stuff share board member responsibilities: Members of the Stuff Share board will be responsible for recruiting new members, processing member agreements and personal stuff lists, and updating the Stuff Master List and website at least once every three months. Board members will also be responsible for planning the annual party.

Member responsibilities: Members are responsible for updating their personal stuff lists as necessary and treating borrowed stuff with care.

Procedures: To borrow an item, the borrowing member should find the item on the Stuff Master List and contact the member that is offering the item. The borrowing member should describe how the item will be used. The offering member may agree to or decline the loan. The borrowing and offering members may decide together the length of the loan and any other terms of the loan, including appropriate and inappropriate uses of the item.

Costs: There is no cost to join the Group, although members may be asked to make a small contribution to pay for the party. Members do not enter into this agreement with the intent to profit. As a general rule, members will not charge for the use of items they lend. However, if use of an item will entail an expense for the owner (such as gasoline for the leafblower), the borrower and lender may agree on a way to compensate the lender.

Damaged or lost items: In the event than an item is lost or damaged while in possession by a borrower, the borrower and lender will decide together on an appropriate remedy or compensation. As a general rule, borrowers should be expected to compensate lenders for the value of the item lost or damaged, not necessarily the replacement value.

Indemnification and release of liability: All borrowing members, as consideration for borrowing an item from an offering member, agree not to make a claim against or sue an offering member for injury, loss, or damage that results from borrowing and/or using the item, including injury, loss, or damage arising from the negligence of the offering member. Borrowing members agree to indemnify, hold harmless, and defend offering members from all claims, liability, or demands that the borrowing member or any third party may have or in the future make against the offering member for injury, loss, or damage arising from the borrowing member's use of the offering member's property.

Dispute resolution: If a conflict or dispute arises between members and they are unable to resolve it through discussion, members agree to use mediation to attempt to resolve the dispute. All mediation services will be paid for by the members involved in the dispute.

Procedure for withdrawing from the group or expelling members: Anyone can withdraw from the Group at any time by providing written or email notice to the board. Within a reasonable amount of time, board members will remove that member's name from the member list and will remove that member's items from the Stuff Master List. Members may be involuntarily removed from the group by a three-fourths vote of membership.

Dissolving the group: The Group will remain in operation as long as there are members interested in keeping it going. We may decide to dissolve the Group by a unanimous vote of active members or by a unanimous minus one vote. If, at the time of dissolution, the Group owns items collectively, we will decide how to distribute those items. We may decide to sell these items and split the proceeds, or simply give those items to individual members, if at least two-thirds of the Group agrees.

____________ Signature ______
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Agreements Between Borrower and Lender

Some sharers may want to enter into separate agreements with each other, especially for valuable items. For example, if Maxine lends Dave an expensive video camera, Maxine may want some extra protection, such as a receipt from Dave and an agreement about liability and compensation for damage. Here's an example of a brief agreement that you can adapt for your own use:

Sample Receipt and Liability Waiver for Shared Item

I, Dave Postle, acknowledge that on July 29, 2009, I borrowed Maxine Dryden's Sony High Definition Camcorder. Maxine has lent me her camera for my trip to Malaysia. I will return the camera on or before September 30, 2009.

In consideration for letting me use her camera, I agree to hold Maxine harmless from any claims resulting from my use of it. I understand that Maxine has made no warranties or representations as to the condition of the camera or its safety or suitability for any use.

I will return the camera to Maxine in the same condition it was in when I borrowed it. If the camera is damaged while in my possession, whether it's my fault or not, I will pay for the repairs or will pay Maxine its current value, which we agree is $900.

________________ Dave Postle ________ Date

Sharing Clothing and Accessories

Initially, it might sound strange to share something as personal as clothing or jewelry, but there are ways to do it that work well and make a lot of sense.

Sharing Jewelry and Accessories

Sharing accessories is becoming increasingly common among those who appreciate, but cannot always afford, high-end designer items. Small groups can share accessories in any way they choose. A group of friends might buy an item together, or one person might post an online ad looking for others to go in on a purchase. One example is described in Cheryl Jarvis' 2008 book The Necklace, a true story about the adventures and sisterhood that developed between 13 women who shared a $37,000 diamond necklace. Each woman chipped in to purchase the necklace and got to use it for four weeks out of the year.

There are also jewelry and designer handbag lending websites, such as From Bags to Riches (www.frombagstoriches.com) and Bag Borrow or Steal (www.bagborroworsteal.com), which also has jewelry, sunglasses, and watches to borrow. With these programs, members select an item online, receive it in the mail a few days later, and return it when they are finished using it.

Sharing Clothing

Clothing is often passed from one person to another, via hand-me-downs, second-hand stores, or clothes-swapping parties. It's not as common for two people to own clothing simultaneously, but it makes sense for a variety of clothing items that are expensive, specialized, or worn infrequently, such as:

  • Professional clothing. Business suits can eat a hole in your wallet. Consider sharing, especially if you use a suit only for occasional job interviews, conferences, or important meetings. Some college career centers, such as at Barnard College, maintain a set of professional clothes for students to borrow. Workplaces could "follow suit" by making suits available to employees.
  • Tuxedos and evening gowns. Renting a tuxedo or other formal wear costs about a quarter of the purchase price. If you share the purchase with a friend, it won't be long before you wear your money's worth.
  • Ski clothing, wetsuits, or other specialized sports attire. If you don't already own the necessary outfit, you could find that buying ski clothing will be more expensive than your ski trip itself. Sharing specialized sports wear is a good way to go, especially for clothes used infrequently.
  • Maternity clothes. If you join a group of expecting mothers (for example, a birthing class), suggest sharing maternity clothes.
  • Costumes. If you have a particularly festive group of friends, actors, role-players, Elvis impersonators, pranksters, or sci-fi convention goers, you may have the ideal ingredients for forming a costume-sharing group. It's the best way to ensure that your gorilla suit is put to good use.

Sharing in the Fun

There are plenty of ways that people can cooperate to maximize leisure, fun, recreation, and entertainment:

  • Form a group of friends or neighbors to create a shared library of DVDs, videos, music, books, board games, video games, and audio-visual and gaming equipment. Each person could make a list of what they have to lend, or everyone can pool their things in one place.
  • Start a family book sharing and reading group. Here's a great resource: Family Book Sharing Groups: Start One in Your Neighborhood, by Marjorie R. Simic and Eleanor C. Macfarlane (Family Literacy Center).
  • Organize neighborhood board game or movie nights.
  • Give neighbors access to yards for use of a pool, trampoline, basketball hoop, and so on. (See Solution 5, below, on sharing spaces.)

Sharing Season Tickets

Groups can save a great deal of money by sharing season tickets for sporting events, theme parks, and music and theater performances. Especially for major sporting events, tickets can be prohibitively expensive—and not everyone wants to go to every home game in a season.

Ticket-sharing consortia are very common in sports. There are a number of ways to do this. At AT&T Park in San Francisco, for example, one four-person group shares two season tickets under one person's name. The owner gets all the informational notices from the team and receives and pays for the tickets. At the start of the season, the participants get together and choose the games for which they want tickets.

Another two friends have a different sharing arrangement. Each "owns" one seat, next to the other. This means each pays for her own seat and receives information—and sometimes promotional items—from the team. However, they consider the two seats shared, and they decide together how they'll use them. Each month they decide which games they'll attend together, and then each one takes both tickets for certain games. The leftover tickets are sold through an email list maintained by one of the seat partners, who sends out a notice each month listing the available games and sells them at face value.

Take someone out to the ball game. Parking at an arena or stadium can be very expensive, and traffic to and from the game can also be a hassle. Save money—and have some companionship for the ride—by setting up a carpool. (See Chapter 10 for more.)

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