Would you like to save time and money? Learn new skills and teach others what you know? Use fewer resources and reduce your carbon footprint? Get to know your neighbors and build community? You can get all of these valuable benefits—and many more—through sharing.

"Share" is a word of many meanings. As children, we "share" our crayons by letting others borrow them. We "share" our cookies by giving some to a friend or by exchanging them for some cheesy crackers. During "sharing time," we tell our stories. We "share" a bike with our little sister and take turns using it. We "share" a task by cooperating to build a fort or put away our toys. At night, we "share" a bedroom, where we sleep together with our siblings. As adults, we "share" homes by dividing the space with someone else, we share in the ownership of a company by buying "shares" of corporate stock, we "share" information by making it available on the Internet, and we flock to see " Cher" on her final concert tour.

We won't be covering all these ways to share in this book. For example, while we're all in favor of donating money or time to charitable causes, giving away things you no longer need, and helping out people who've fallen on hard times, that's not what this book is about. As we use the term, "sharing" refers to two or more people coming together to pool property, resources, or obligations or to do or create something together. In other words, the sharing arrangements we talk about in this book are mutual and reciprocal. Everyone involved is giving something and getting something, through endeavors like:

co-owning property or pooling resources

  • sharing use of property, either by taking turns or through simultaneous use
  • cooperating to perform a task, make decisions, share responsibilities, or collectively purchase goods or services, and
  • exchanging goods or services in a barter process.

This chapter will help you get started. Here, you'll find information, ideas, and tools you can use to figure out your sharing goals and what you might like to share. To decide whether and what you'd like to share, start by considering your needs, wants, and personal preferences. For example, if you love to be surrounded by others, you might want to consider shared housing. If you want to build community with your neighbors but need lots of time and space to yourself, a neighborhood home improvement group or shared garden might better suit your needs. Using the worksheets in this chapter, you'll be able to put together some sharing ideas that will really work for you.

For those who are already sharing or have a sharing plan. You may have picked up this book because you are planning to share something—for example, you want to share a car with your neighbor or a nanny with a friend—or are already sharing, and want to make sure you've considered all the important details. You may still benefit from considering your sharing goals and using some of the worksheets in this chapter, but it you're anxious to get started, you can skip ahead to Chapter 2 (if you don't yet have your sharing partners) or Chapter 3 (if you already know whom you plan to share with or are already sharing).

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