It's a common act of neighborliness to loan the occasional cup of sugar or odd-sized cake pan. But what about sharing small-but-space-hogging appliances like blenders, stand mixers or ice-cream makers? Or things that come in handy on occasion such as a special-subject cookbook or canning equipment? And how far out in your circle of friends/neighbors are you willing to let your stuff travel?
A friend lives in an apartment building that has a 'share closet' in the building's basement. Among many other things, it has a super-sized roasting pan, a blender, a chafing dish, and a large water bath canner. There's a stack of cake tins perfect for making a tiered wedding cake and a large, party-sized coffeemaker.
The building's residents are invited to join the 'share club' for a small fee which goes towards maintenance and repair of the shared items. The club member receives a key to the closet's door, which is locked because not everyone in the building participates. There's a log for signing out items, with the check-out date, return date and info about the borrower. Each item has a labeled spot to which it must be returned.
Donations of new item for the closet are voted in by the users via email, which is also used by the club's administrator to handle other business such as repairing and maintenance decisions, and deciding on new members (or kicking out those who haven't been playing well.) Once a year, the members gather for a potluck meeting which my friend reports is often more fun than business.
There are of course rules about returning something in the same condition in which you borrowed it and there are of course people who join up but aren't very well-versed in the fine art of sharing. But all-in-all my friend says it works pretty well and certainly saves on money and space for the folks involved.
The share closet could also work in other forms of community such as churches, or in neighborhood community centers. In fact, there are even online versions of the share closet concept, like NeighborGoods, which believes their service helps lessen the demand for manufactured goods and thus has a positive impact on the environment. Another take is SnapGoods (currently in closed beta in NYC) which uses a timeshare model and taps into your existing social network and promotes "access to stuff over ownership of stuff."
What do you think? Would this kind of sharing work in your neighborhood or apartment building? Are some items better for sharing than others?
Related: Five Small Appliances You Can Live Without