What Can Be Shared?

Now that you've thought out why you want to share, it's a short step to considering what you could share to meet those goals. There are unlimited ways of sharing, and nearly unlimited things to share, too. Here are some ideas.

Getting Help Worksheet
What I Could Use Help WithWays to Get Help by Sharing
House careStart a neighborhood home improvement group.
Yard careLet neighbors know they can have some of my berries if they help pick them when they ripen.Talk to neighbors in apartment building about starting a shared garden in my back yard.
Taking care of other possessionsOffer to let neighbor use my driveway to work on his car if he'll teach me how to change the oil.
Meal preparation 
Chores and errands 
Child care 
Elder care or care for other adults 

Things That Can Be Shared

You can share ownership or use of tangible objects, like:

  • a vehicle, including a car, truck, motorcycle, motor scooter, or RV
  • a bicycle or scooter
  • a canoe, kayak, paddleboat, or surfboard
  • a boat or airplane
  • household appliances, like a vacuum cleaner, washer and dryer, sewing machine, or extra refrigerator or freezer
  • gardening and yard work equipment, such as a wheelbarrow, weed whacker, shovels, rakes, lawnmower, tree trimmer, or snow blower
  • tools for carpentry and home repair, like a circular saw, painting equipment (tarps, rollers, brushes, and so on), a lathe, or a tile saw
  • tools for working on a car or other vehicle
  • an emergency preparedness kit
  • recreational gear, like a tent, skis, camping stove, beach chairs and umbrella, bike rack, scuba gear, or sports equipment (bats, balls, tennis rackets, and so on)
  • a work of art
  • a piece of expensive jewelry, or
  • clothing, such as formal wear, business attire, and specialized sports clothing (like a wetsuit or ski jacket).

You can share ownership or use of spaces, like:

  • a house, apartment, condominium, or other living space
  • a work space, garage, or studio
  • a retail building, office space, commercial kitchen, or selling space
  • a laundry or storage room, or
  • outdoor space, such as a yard, garden, swimming pool, tennis or other sport court, or play equipment (like a swing set, tree house, or jungle gym).

You can share services, privileges, or subscriptions , like:

  • season tickets to a sports team, music or dance series, or theater group
  • newspaper or magazine subscriptions, or
  • services, like a nanny, elder care worker, house cleaner, or gardener.

You can pool resources and purchasing power to bargain collectively for goods and services. For example, you could:

  • form a buying club for food, dry goods, or other household staples
  • cooperate to purchase things that are cheaper to buy in large quantities, such as a cord of firewood, a tank of propane fuel, or a ton of gravel, mulch, or potting soil
  • form a purchasing group to bargain collectively for expensive services, such as solar power, or
  • take part in community-supported agriculture, by joining with others to "adopt" a farm.

You can share your time, skills, or expertise to cooperate with others to:

  • create a child care cooperative or a simple babysitting trade with one or two neighbors or friends
  • establish a dog walking tradeoff
  • set up a mealsharing group or trade cooking skills for something else
  • carpool to work, to school, or for a long-distance trip
  • start a neighborhood home improvement group, or
  • offer to swap skills—for example, teach your neighbor to build a bookcase if she'll show you how to make pasta.

Ways to Share Things

You may choose to share in many different ways, including:

  • Shared ownership. Each sharer owns a part interest in something, such as a house or car.
  • Shared responsibility. The sharers agree to do something together, like trade child care or hire a gardener.
  • Shared use. The sharers all use something, even though everyone might not have an ownership share.

In most cases, you can set up your sharing situation in whatever way best suits your group's needs. For example, if you're sharing a car with another person, you could split use equally by trading off days or weeks, or you could agree that one of you gets the car more often. You could share costs equally or one of you could do the minor repairs yourself while the other foots more than half of the bill for major repairs. You could agree that other people may—or may not—borrow the car, that you'll both chip in to buy a car seat that your kids will share or a bike rack for the roof, or that one of you will pay a bit more to buy a new hybrid in exchange for getting to claim the tax deduction. This is one of the best things about sharing: For the most part, you get to decide how to structure the arrangement.

The exception is when you are sharing something that has some kind of legal or regulatory rules attached to it. For example, many shared housing situations must be designed to comply with local laws, such as zoning restrictions that may limit how many families can share a home or how you may use property. But regardless of whether you have to consider legal issues or not, there are certain common practical and logistical issues that you should consider in any sharing situation to help you create a solid sharing plan, ensure that you meet everyone's needs, plan for changes and unforeseeable events, and so on. These issues are covered in Chapter 3, which lists the 20 questions that every sharing group should consider.

In the chapters that follow, you'll learn much more about these ways of sharing and the different considerations involved in each.

Your Sharing Ideas

The following worksheet is a tool for you to fill out on your own or use together with a group of people who are exploring sharing ideas together. It will help you:

  • think of ways you might share and how sharing might benefit you
  • think of things you already own that you might be able to share, and
  • think of things that you can't afford to own, but that you could borrow from, or purchase with, someone else. (Vacation home, anyone?)

The worksheet will also help you brainstorm ways that you can partner with others to make purchases, or cooperate with them for things like pet care and home repair. We provided examples throughout to help get you started; you'll find a blank copy in Appendix B.

What Could I Share?
Categories of Things to ShareWhat I Have to ShareWhat I Hope to Get Through Sharing
Tangible Items
Household appliancesA bread machinePerhaps others will share bread that they make.
Household goods  
Electronics Video camera: I don't own one, but it would be great to have occasional access to one.
Tools A circular saw: Dave across the street does some repairs and construction; we could buy it together and share its use.
VehiclesPickup truckHelp with expenses of keeping the truck through allowing others to use it regularly
Work equipmentMassage table: I hardly ever use it. I could advertise for someone who wants to use it sometimesCopy machine: Too expensive for my home office, unless my neighbor who also works at home regularly would share the cost.
Recreation/ HobbiesSeason tickets to the Durham Bulls gamesWant to share some games and defray the cost of the tickets.
Fitness/ Outdoors Elliptical trainer: Ron and Sue down the street have said that they want one too. We could keep it in my basement and they could have a key to the outside basement door. We could use an online calendar to schedule use.
Clothing/ Accessories Wetsuit
Laundry room  
Storage space  
Vacation home  
Work space  
Services, privileges, and subscriptions
Food I would like to take part in Community-Supported Agriculture.
Goods/SuppliesFirewood: I will be getting a delivery and could share the cost. 
CooperationWays to Cooperate with Others
Carpools and ridesI drive from Raleigh to Atlanta frequently for business. I could advertise online to look for a rider to share the cost.
Child care 
Adult care 
Pet careI could do a pet sitting exchange, to try to get occasional cat sitting when I'm in Atlanta.
Gardening/ Yard work 
Home repair/ Improvement 
SkillsI can teach bicycle repair; I would like to learn how to cook.

Now that you've brainstormed and crunched some numbers and even dreamed a little, you can look over your list and decide where you want to start sharing. As is true of many things, it's often easiest to start small, with an arrangement to share something relatively simple, like tools or appliances. If that is a success, you could move on to thinking about sharing larger or more involved things, such as a vehicle, childcare, or physical space, like a yard.

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