Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Day 80: Borrowing Instead of Owning

One of the ways we've been able to radically reduce our possessions (and it's a big journey, it still feels like we have so much stuff!) is by choosing to borrow rarely used items instead of owning them. Here are some of the things we've discovered we'd rather borrow than own.

  • Large Kitchen Items:  We've given rarely used items such as a second roasting pan and a large chafing dish to my sister-in-law who caters weddings.   This way, these things are being used many times throughout the year instead of the once or twice we may need it. And when we need those items for a big shindig, we are welcome to borrow them back (along with anything else we may need!) 
  • Movies and Television Series' on DVD:  Let's face it, we probably won't watch every single episode of Corner Gas ever again (it would, after all, be the forth or fifth time...) but if we ever decide to watch them again, there is a good chance that we can borrow them back from the library we are donating them to. I wouldn't suggest donating anything to your local library that you know you will need again, it may end up getting sold in a book sale or damaged. But for items you may-sorta-kinda want to refer to again someday, this is a great solution....because it's actually getting used in the mean time!
  • Camping Supplies:  Unless you regularly go camping with everybody you know, there is really no reason for every household to own every possible camping item.  We can avoid buying some things by borrowing them from friends and family who weren't going to be using them that weekend anyways.
  • Serving Utensils:  When hosting a potluck or  large holiday dinner where everybody has committed to bring something I can just remind people to bring the serving utensil needed for the dish they are bringing.  That way I only need to own one ladle, one pie server, and one slotted spoon. This keeps my kitchen drawers more manageable for all those days when we don't have 3 different pies to serve.

 Some benefits of borrowing (and lending) instead of owning:
  • It saves money.
  • It builds and encourages community.
  • It allows our things to be used, instead of collecting dust, when we don't need them.
  • It means we don't need to devote space to storing infrequently used items.
  • It reduces rampant consumerism.  Which means less stuff being manufactured, less stuff being transported, and less stuff being disposed of in a society where the richest 16 percent of the world (if you are reading this, that number almost certainly includes you) consumes 80% of the worlds natural resources.
  • Stuff begets stuff.   I'm not sure I can explain why this is, but the more stuff we have/want/buy the more we think we still need.  In some backwards way that I can't quite articulate yet, having less = wanting less.
I think this is an important principle of minimalism, but also of being a conscious consumer, building community and living with a global perspective. We are looking around our home for more ways to put this idea into practice.  And we get all excited when a friend asks to borrow a tool from Luke's necessarily large tool stash instead of buying one they will rarely use!

We are doing one small thing (almost) every day for a year to create a simpler, quieter, more intentional life. Take a moment to read all About Us, check out The Rules of our year long project and sign up for our RSS feed or "like" us on facebook so that you can follow our journey to radical simplicity!


  1. We've really applied this principle with books and movies. We borrow all our books from the library except for those very rare few that we can't get through the inter-library loan system. (The Navy-Europe library system has a LOT of books!) I have requested the library to buy books for me, too, which takes months sometimes (...), but for a book I'll only read once anyway, it's worth it. We also borrow all our DVDs; even though there is a video rental store on our base, I've never been inside it. It's probably just a few dollars that we're saving here and there, but every dollar counts, and I am so glad we're actively using our library!

  2. I love this!
    We do something similar in my family (especially with large-party items such as beverage bins and platters).. they are "in the family" and anyone is free to use them!

    We took advantage of this with our gardening this year. Instead of spending 1/2 the price on "okay tools" we borrowed all of ours this year so next year we can buy better quality, used items.

    31 Days to Living a More Intentional Life

  3. I love your year of less idea. Starting in January I was trying to get rid of one item a day, I'm running out of things but still trying! This post made me smile because I LOVE Corner Gas! Its been really hard for me to find in the US but the few places I've been able to watch online I just LOVE it! Anyway... Thanks for making me smile!

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. I think this is a great idea if it is mutual. I have had neighbors that were big on borrowing but brought nothing to the table. For me it stopped when they were bragging to others that they were not going to buy a lawn mower because they could just use mine and then they wouldn't have to pay for upkeep or worry if they hit a rock or dog crap. They did not return things, you had to ask for them back. After many damaged or "misplaced" items I stopped loaning things and they became bitterly hostile.
    I think if you are going to borrow you need to know what you have to offer in return. I would be great if one had a snow blower and the other a hedge trimmer etc.. Right now we need a wheel barrow for a job so my son is going to offer to mow and trim our current neighbor's yard in exchange for borrowing the wheel barrow (we are in a new neighborhood with great neighbors). It will be offered as a trade.
    I completely agree with the idea of one item for a number of households but it only works if you are all playing by the same rules.

    1. Debbie Sue, it's unfortunate, but your experience is similar to mine. I have loaned out books and DVDs to several people, with the full assumption that they would be responsible with them and return them. Uhm...that hasn't been the case 90% of the time. So my new rule is that I don't loan out my stuff. Period. I don't ask to borrow other people's stuff either. Period. I know this outlook totally runs contrary to today's blog post, and I really do hope other people have better borrowing/lending experiences than me. But my experience has been that if I lend something out, I shouldn't expect to ever see it again.

    2. I'm so sorry this has happened to you. For me I only loan out things if I assume I will never see them again. With books I now get mine from a local thrift shop that sells them for .25 cents on Saturdays. When I finish with them they go in a basket. When i get together with girlfriends I bring the basket and they can take whatever they like. Some of them have started doing the same so we swap. They often go through several hands before being sent back to the thrift store. It supports hospice so it helps everyone involved.

  6. Great post - I LOVE this blog and the ideas it represents. This seems like something I can get on board with.

  7. My husband and my cousin who are great friends have been sharing tools for several years now. We both have purchased fixer uppers and thought it would be sill for both of us to buy certain spetality tools. We havea paint sprayer and they have the drywall hammer thing. It has been working out great!

  8. Ok, I am finally posting. I have been following you for awhile and although I'm not committed in the same (admirable) way that you all are, your outlook has made me think twice about the things I have in my home and what I bring in. Thank you!!

  9. Great post!
    We've borrowed and lent DVDs to/from friends and it has worked out great.
    I read a long time ago never to lend a book that you want to see again, so with books that I really love, I adhere to this rule.

  10. I often wish we'd applied this to the used truck we purchased three years ago - for the two times a year we could use a truck. We could have saved not only the initial purchase price, but the insurance, registration, tires, clutch and brakes we've had to pay since. You can rent a truck from Home Depot for $10 per hour. . . We would have saved thousands!

  11. That last part is funny...My father-in-law visited a few months ago from the eastern end of the province, and he bought us an air compressor nail gun. What?!?!?!? We do have baseboard to install in a couple of rooms, but I don't even think we would have ever borrowed one. Oh well.

    I felt a pang at the camping gear. We have lots, since we had hoped to be a camping family when we got married, but that hasn't happened. Maybe it's time to let go of the dream...we'll give it one more summer.

  12. This is a great idea-- I agree, it only works if the people you lend to/borrow from are on the same page, but when it works, it's genius. We just recently borrowed a camp stove for a two week camp trip- no need to go out and spend $90 ourselves (and our friends were happy to lend us the stove considering they borrowed our tent last year!).

  13. Love your post and agree with 99% of it. We have and will keep all our camping gear, though we do not camp as much, now that my husband is back in college. We live in earthquake country, and have power outages due to the sudden thunderstorms(one coming today), and snow. We consider all our camping gear, our emergency preparedness gear. Our propane stove, lanterns and such, have come in handy more than once due to no power caused by outages. Everything has been placed into large plastic totes for easy transporting. Our extra blankets are stored in new plastic trash cans, (that I have been using for the last four years), for our 'end tables' next to our bed. Just cut a circle from plywood, cover it all with an old sheet or fabric, and instant nightstand. My husband's nightstand holds our emergency food and first aid supplies. If need be, we could load up our truck and be out of here in less than 10 minutes, due to everything in totes. I realize keeping camping gear is not for everybody, but now that I think of it as 'emergency gear', I am willing to keep it around.

    blessings, jill

  14. That is brilliant Jill. Your idea could save lives.

  15. Oh wow! The library donation never even occurred to me! I have 6 seasons of Grey's anatomy on DVD and this would be PERFECT for that.

  16. I fully support the prinicpal of lending/borrowing stuff and we do this in our family and community. It is unfortunate that people dont always respect possesions they borrow but I believe the benfits outweigh the negatives. If a neighbour didnt return something in good condition it would be totally fair not to lend them something again and to explain why. I recently lent a new neighbour our flymo and it came back without any blades which he admitted straight away but didnt seem to think it was a problem so I wont lend it again. Luckily we do have spare blades but otherwise it would be very annoying.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.