Sharing materials was not really done, except for exceptional situations: e.g., it was not necessary for each farmer to own a combine harvester as the thing would only be used once in a blue moon, was excessively expensive to buy and would sit in the shed for most of the time. Sharing it with other farmers made perfect sense: cost would go down for everyone, while everyone was still able to make use of the machine when it was needed.
These days, owning a lot of things has become a luxury problem. Cheap prices, cheap materials and easy availability of items has made it more common to buy and own stuff rather than being sensible and sharing it. However, we are moving in a different direction these last couple of decades: more and more things have become shareable now, especially in cities above a certain number of inhabitants things have clearly taken off.
Think back, the most common thing to share are books! Everybody who has ever gone to a library and took a book home to read is familiar with the idea. It is an amazingly simple way to share something that in all likelihood you will never ever use again. Yes: I know, there are books you do want to own, like dictionaries, specialist literature, etc., and that is perfectly fine. But then, do you really need your own copy of “Fifty shades of Grey”? Once you have read it, you’ll probably never read it again, right? These days you can find pretty much everything (including “Fifty shades of Grey”!) in your local library. So there’s your precedent: if it works for books, why not for other stuff, too? Renting a CD, video or DVD is pretty much the way a lot of people enjoy the latest movies! And again, public libraries have jumped on that wagon a long time ago.
So, looking at the purely practical level, this might actually work. However, a big part of ownership is related to showing off that you can afford to own something. And that is a completely different issue, or course. One of the earliest show-off items that has become shareable is – believe it or not – the car. City folk have run into parking issues a long time ago and the obvious solution – at least for those who do not need a car every single day – has been to join a car sharing scheme and only use a car when necessary.
It’s cheaper, it’s simple, and you do not need a parking space in front of your house any longer. You can also use a smaller or larger car according to your needs at that particular time. Of course, there are disadvantages as well: it is sometimes difficult to find a car at a specific time and date, but a bit of flexibility will take care of this issue easily enough.
This goes to show that even things that traditionally show off our wealth and standing can be turned back into what they started out as: practical items that make our life easier. Many items of a purely practical nature can be rented these days, like power tools at the local DIY shop. If you have a good understanding with your neighbours, a number of gardening items like lawnmowers, hedge clippers, pressure cleaners and the like can easily be shared: one of you owns a lawn mower, the other has the pressure cleaner in his shed. Why not use them together? It makes so much sense.
Quite apart from the practicalities of life, even things of beauty can be shared: there are schemes to rent artworks for your home and exchange them whenever you grow weary of it or you have come across another item in the collection that you would rather see in your private space. Many of those renting schemes allow for buying artwork down the line, if you really fall in love with a piece!
There are a lot of things that could be shared, and I’m certain that with the further development of technology this will become easier. Furthermore, with our ecological footprint as a species becoming too big to be supported forever by our environment, sharing things might actually become a necessity in the future. Anything that is too expensive, large, rarely-used to own and clog up the space, lends itself to be shared, rented, swapped or traded in for another item. With this in mind, think about the stuff in your attic and garage and consider how much of those potentially shareable items you have: can you come up with ways to reduce some of the clutter?
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Hi, my name is Tilo Flache. My current mission: help my clients declutter mind and space.
This blog contains pointers for your journey towards a happier living experience.