Minimalism A to Z: B Is for Borrowing (and Lending)


“For years, my mum’s side of the family have had a “party box” of cutlery. There was enough for 100 people and anytime someone had a party, the box was there….No-one had to buy extra cutlery when entertaining – you just borrowed the party box.”

– Brooke McAlary

Have you considered borrowing stuff instead of buying it? If you have nearby friends and family, talk to them about sharing rarely used items so you can all save money and storage space.

After all, most of us have tools and equipment we could loan out for a few hours, days or even weeks without noticing the loss. Maybe you have camping equipment and your best friend has a chain saw. Could your friend use your camping equipment for her trip next weekend? Can you borrow her chainsaw to cut down the dead tree in your yard?

“Borrowing from neighbors was once a commonplace practice, part of the web of relations we once had with those who lived within close range.”

– Lara Rabinovitch

Many people don’t even know their neighbors’ names, much less feel comfortable asking to borrow something from them. But wouldn’t it be nice if we could walk a few houses down to borrow something?

Some homeowners’ associations and apartment complexes have set up “libraries” to share tools and equipment. Others have Facebook groups that can be used to make sharing arrangements. If your neighborhood doesn’t have a library or Facebook group, consider setting one up yourself.

Or, just get to know your neighbors. Arrange a block party or have your three or four nearest neighbors over for appetizers.

“The sharing economy saved my dinner. In less than four hours I found somebody willing to loan me three most needed chairs! Not a friend or even a friend of a friend. A complete stranger!”

– Maria Paula Oliveira

I’ve never used them, but online services can help you find items to borrow and people to share your stuff with. Neighborgoods is like Craigslist for borrowing. You can list items you’d like to borrow and those you’d like lend.

Nextdoor is a social networking site that restricts communications to those people who live close to one another. It’s more of a community resource than Neighborgoods. In my area, people are seeking pet sitters, roofer recommendations, walking companions and owners of found items. They’re also advertising free yoga classes in the park and giving away furniture.

“When I get hold of a book I particularly admire, I am so enthusiastic that I loan it to someone who never brings it back.”

– Edgar Watson Howe

Maybe you’re not comfortable with unstructured borrowing arrangements. At least use your local library (if you’re lucky enough to still have one).

If you haven’t been in a long time, you might be surprised about all the services libraries offer. I can borrow books, audio-books, e-books, music CDs, DVDs, video games, board games and museum passes from my library. If I want to borrow an e-book or an audiobook, I don’t even have to go into the library. I can do it from my home computer using OverDrive.

Some libraries even lend more expensive items like art prints, telescopes and musical instruments.

“Success is finding satisfaction in giving a little more than you take.”

– Christopher Reeve

Being a minimalist is not an excuse for freeloading.

Don’t always be a borrower. Lend your stuff out, too. If you don’t have things anyone wants to borrow, return the favor in some other way. For instance, mowing your neighbors’ lawn might be “payment” for borrowing their lawn mower.

This doesn’t just apply to person-to-person borrowing situations. Most public libraries are woefully underfunded. If you’re always borrowing stuff from your library, donate some cash or volunteer to shelve books for a couple of hours a week.

Also, always return borrowed items in as good – or better – condition – as you received them.

Do you regularly participate in borrowing arrangements with friends, family, neighbors or strangers?

8 thoughts on “Minimalism A to Z: B Is for Borrowing (and Lending)

  1. Love it!

    This post reminds me of live on the island. We lived in a communal neighborhood where sharing was common. I recall times when while cooking where we were low or didn’t have an ingredient like eggs. “Go ask Ms. Alexander for eggs, sugar” and so on. The same was true with tools, book, movies, and other items as you mentioned. And we returned the favor as well.

    In minimalism, I’ve noticed the sharing (borrowing thing) but in a different light. We minimize so we don’t have to own it but then borrow from our friends and neighbor. That’s ok, but some go too far and becomes an abuse.

    You’ve brought balance to the subject.

    Thanks Christy!!

    • Thanks for sharing, Kelvin. I grew up in a new suburban neighborhood where no one would’ve dreamed of “borrowing” sugar or eggs, but visiting my grandparents in an older neighborhood in a small town allowed for more of a true community experience.

  2. Hi Christy,

    I love your thoughts about borrowing and lending. My husband and I do some of this with family.

    Thanks for the information about how to engage more people in these arrangements.

    Wishing you well,

  3. Our local library is one that loans artwork. It’s nice to be able to change the art above the fireplace on a regular basis.

  4. I do borrow and lend things, it’s the way I grew up and it makes perfect sense to me. Currently I need tools for jobs around the house and property that I will only need once or twice. I ask my boys and one of them will have what I need. With the hobbies I have such as restoring furniture my sons always know which tools I have if they need them. My neighbors also share what they have so in that respect I fit right in here. One family picks up bikes and scooters at yard sales and shares them with all the children in the neighborhood. When my grandchildren are here the offer to use the extra bikes is always open and saves me from buying, and storing, bikes for the few times the grandchildren stay over.

I'd love for you to share your ideas and experiences.