Do you ever look in your garden shed or garage, under the bed or on top of the wardrobe and wonder where all that ‘stuff’ comes from? I’ve always been a bit of a womble, keeping hold of items in case they come in handy one day, but what about all those items you have one of but very rarely use? Things like paste tables, spare chairs and suitcases, power tools and smoothie makers? When my new neighbours moved in next door and mentioned they needed to get a mower for their lawn, it got me thinking. Why do we all feel the need to possess one of every household (or garden) tool, gadget and implement going, just for those occasions when we will need to use them? Maybe this is a sign of a loss of community spirit. Or maybe it’s an opportunity to revive community spirit!
“Don’t bother buying one,” I said. “Borrow ours! It only gets used every few weeks anyway and it saves you money. It’s not an inconvenience – most of the time it’s just sitting in the shed so it makes sense!”
So I unlocked the shed, retrieved the mower and passed it over the fence. Our neighbours have borrowed the mower twice now, and it’s no effort to organise; just a Facebook message and a trot down the garden path to retrieve it.
I’ve been on the receiving end of such kindnesses, from borrowing tables to do car boot sales and spare chairs for my mum’s 60th birthday party from my mother-in-law, to a dog cage from a fellow presenter I met through a community radio station when my cat needed bed rest. Not having to pay out for our own cage or tables that probably wouldn’t be used again was great. But having somebody offer their items for you to use makes you feel happy that they trust you with their belongings and also pleased to not be using up new resources. In fact in the case of the dog cage, a message on Facebook asking if anybody could help was met by the offer of 3 cages to borrow which was really wonderful!
To me, the huge benefit of somebody else not needing to buy a piece of equipment like this is fantastic. OK so the local DIY store gets one less sale, but how many resources go into making tools, gadgets and gizmos that are just sitting in storage in between uses. You could even take it one step further and if you really get on with your neighbours, share the cost if something goes bust! But it got me to thinking… how many others do this? And I found StreetBank.
StreetBank is a website that brings together neighbours to share resources, from skill sharing – you could offer tutoring or gardening skills in exchange for somebody teaching you to knit for example; rehoming unwanted items to new loving homes, or what captured my eye, lending out resources to other people in the local area. People have shared rollerblades, fondue sets and… lawnmowers!
What interests me most is the great sense of community that could be built around this premise. People get talking again, speaking to the people behind the brick walls and garden fences of our homes. Ideas like tool sharing and stuff swapping can be a fantastic way to get to know new people and even try out new hobbies without the commitment of paying out for all the equipment. So why not give it a go? Let us know about your experiences if you exchange items with friends or neighbours and let’s save resources whilst building communities.