The topic of having too much stuff isn’t new around these parts, and in fact I talk about it a lot. It’s a constant struggle for me as most of my life I’ve been a hyper collector of “things” and over the past few years I’ve been moving more and more in the direction of getting rid of it all. I’ll never really get rid of it all of course, but I desperately want to get it down to a bare minimum.
For me, this started a few years ago when some friends and I started sketching up the idea of Multibasing, specifically this part about hardware. The Multibasing think tank, as it were, was talking about what items we’d need to replicate in each of the locations. What are those things that everyone has but has little use for, that we’d be better off with just one that we all had access to. Do 6 people who are somewhat sharing a living space all need to own the same book? Like most of the Multibasing plans this never ended up happening, but it led to a lot of very thought provoking discussions among our group and bits and pieces of the overall idea have been realized in different ways.
One of the people who helped me shape those ideas was Micki Krimmel. She had the idea that it was pointless for her to go buy something when her friends had that same thing sitting unused at their house. Take a ladder for example – In most cases 99% of it’s life will be spent sitting in a closet or garage waiting for someone to use it. I actually owned a ladder when I lived in Gainesville, I bought it because I needed to get something out of a tree. I used it once, then moved it around for 3 years from apartment to apartment but never used it again, finally I gave it away. During that time I know many friends who had a need for a ladder and went and bought their own, only for it to suffer the same fate. Micki noted that if we’d all known who had a ladder and who needed one, we probably have just borrowed it instead of each person buying a new one.
This is a genius idea because of it’s simplicity, OF COURSE borrowing is better. It saves money, which can then be spent on things that are actually needed. It reduces the demand for an item, which means fewer of them will be sitting around unused at peoples houses, which means fewer of them will eventually get thrown out and end up in landfills. It makes things more useful, which means things that are designed to serve a purpose actually get used for that purpose. It reduces excess, there simply doesn’t need to be 10 copies of an item when one single item can be shared by 10 people just as effectively.
The problem is organizing who already has what, and what is available to be loaned out. Last year Micki launched Neighborgoods.net to deal with that problem specifically. It’s a quick and easy tool to list what you have that you are willing to share with your friends, and see what your friends have that you can use. Have a power drill sitting in your closet unused? List it on Neighborgoods and next week your friend might borrow it from you rather than buying their own, which would just end up unused in their own closet. Need a backpack for a trip? Check Neighborgoods and see if any of your friends have an extra one you can borrow rather than going out and buying one you only have a short need for. Because in most cases if you are going to borrow something from a friend, they probably need to live near you, the launch of this service was limited to Southern California. We were the lucky ones.
Since then she and the Neighborgoods team have been constantly tweaking, fixing, and upgrading the site. Talking to the users and finding out what works and what doesn’t and making it easier to use and offering better options. Want to share something only with a small subset of your connections? No problem. Want to make a group for new parents to pass around baby stuff that gets outgrown while it still has plenty of use left? Done. Have something you aren’t using, and probably won’t use that you just want to give away or maybe even sell? Got that covered too. Of course you could do all of these things before in various different ways, but they were all time consuming and daunting Do you really want to call 25 friends to see who has an umbrella you can borrow for your weekend trip to Portland? It’s easier just to go to the store and buy one for yourself. But Neighborgoods makes it easier to borrow instead.
Neighborgoods has been refined and perfected over the last year, and now it’s available nationwide.
I’m not just being exaggeratory here, I firmly believe that Neighborgoods will change the world. This is a world changing service. The best products/services/ideas are the ones that make your life easier – they shave you time, they save you money, they save you hassle. Neighborgoods does those all of those things while at the same time reducing the amount of waste we will generate that will end up in landfills. It saves you from buying things you don’t need, and lets the things you already have be put to better use.
But it also allows us to be social within our neighborhoods again. There was a time when people actually walked next door to borrow a cup of sugar from their neighbors. Nowadays most people don’t even know what their neighbors names are. Neighborgoods allows you to share your stuff with only your friends, and/or also with people who live near you. Our society is increasingly told not to talk to strangers -but everyone is a stranger until you have a reason to meet them. Neighborgoods makes it OK to be friends with the people who live near you again. It’s not just good for your wallet, for your storage problems, for the environment, it’s actually good for society as a whole. I whole heartedly believe this, and I’m so excited for and proud of what they are doing and I can’t wait to see where it goes from here. People launch sites and products every day, but few of them have the ability to impact your life for the better as much as Neighborgoods does. If you live in SoCal you probably already know this. If you live somewhere else in the US, this just changed your life and you don’t even know it yet – go sign up now.
(or watch this video, then sign up)
It actually makes a tangible difference in the overall health of our communities.