Let Go of the Ego of Ownership

"consume less; share better"

“Did you know that the average domestic power drill is used for less than one hour over its entire lifespan?

You need the hole, not the drill!”

Rachel Botsman, TED Talk 2012

Imagine the resources used in producing that drill – the man-hours, energy, shipping and packaging, not to mention the potentially unfair work conditions in the developing country that manufactures the drill. All for less than one hour of use over two, three – maybe ten years.

What if, instead of owning one of everything we occasionally need, we adopted a culture of sharing? A co-operative attitude of non-ownership? Of shared ownership?

Imagine the savings:

  • save money simply by not needing to buy every occasional-use item
  • save storage space by not needing the room to keep all of these items
  • decrease your environmental impact by not buying items you don’t need to own

Sure. But That’s Pretty Inconvenient.

Maybe driving to a friend’s house to borrow a drill – when you only need one hole – is inconvenient. But how did we get into this financial/environmental/hyper-consumerism mess in the first place? By buying reflexively instead of looking for alternatives, instead of experiencing a little inconvenience, instead of calling a friend and asking to borrow a drill.

Your actions have consequences. Weigh up inconvenience vs negative impact and ask yourself if there is a better alternative.

Shared Ownership – It is Possible.

Without realising it, my family have been long-time sharers. 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. I don’t even know who owned it, but I do know that one box of cutlery stopped countless uneccessary purchases and even more uneccessary waste.

No-one had to buy extra cutlery when entertaining – you just borrowed the party box. No-one had to use disposable cutlery – you just borrowed the party box. Everyone benefited.

We also share power tools, trestle tables for parties and gatherings, extra chairs, toys, baby clothes, camping gear, crockery, serving platters, wine glasses and linens.

Most of these are not everyday items. Which is why it works so well. But just consider the possibilities of sharing, if you pooled resources with your nearby friends, family and neighbours.

You could share your:

  • power tools
  • lawnmower
  • car (there are many car-sharing options now – which don’t work for everyone, I admit. But it’s worth considering if you live in an urban area)
  • party needs – extra tables, chairs, cutlery, crockery and wine glasses
  • toys
  • fabric nappies
  • baby items – rockers, prams, bassinet
  • extra linen and bedding for guests
  • surfboards, snowboards and ski gear
  • DIY equipment – ladder, painting gear, dropsheets
  • luggage – suitcases, backpacks
  • hiking gear
  • skills
  • knowledge

Go Against the Grain.

Sharing these things runs counter to what we’ve always done. Surely someone who has to borrow a drill, a mattress, toys or a suitcase is doing something wrong? Successful people don’t need to borrow things – they own them. And if they don’t, they can certainly go out and buy them.

But it’s time to turn that thinking on its head. It’s time to own less and be open to sharing. It’s time to let go of the ego that comes with “having everything you need”.

It’s time to pool our resources, before we deplete the earth of its resources completely.

But sharing only works if:

  • everyone contributes – by borrowing from others, you need to be OK with lending your belongings to them in return
  • borrowed items are respected and returned – it’s not an excuse to keep things for months on end or treat them poorly
  • there is trust – if you’re constantly concerned that someone will steal your belongings, then you’re probably sharing with the wrong people
  • you plan ahead – it will prove too inconvenient if you wait until the last minute to borrow what you need
  • you talk it through with your friends, family and neighbours – there’s no point in having a one-way agreement that only you are aware of.

Create Your Own Movement

Talk to your friends and family about starting a co-op. Float the idea with like-minded people to begin with and talk about the benefits – financial, environmental and social. Give it a test-run for a month or two and then be open to changes. Expand your network of members if it’s going well. Talk over any problems if it’s not.

And if you don’t have nearby friends and family to share with, then consider starting your own community co-op.

It doesn’t have to be complicated – start by posting a notice in the newspaper or establishing a group on Facebook. Each member needs to be willing to share their occasional-use items and be happy to borrow from others. Keep a list of what people are happy to lend and let members contact each other when they need to borrow an item.


We need to shift priorities. It’s no longer about proving our personal success by showcasing all that we own.

It’s about removing the ego, stripping away the importance of personal ownership, and looking for a better alternative.


Do you think this movement of shared ownership could work in your circle of friends and family?


12 Responses to Let Go of the Ego of Ownership

  1. “It’s time to pool our resources, before we deplete the earth of its resources completely.”

    Not to mention our own resources. I love the idea. I’m going to look into doing this. I’ve heard of some large, successful groups doing this in Boulder, CO and similar places.

    Dan @ ZenPresence

  2. We’re huge sharers – but have learnt that not everyone is a good loaner. Given that we all own so much stuff these days we’ve found that some loaners loose our stuff in among theirs and don’t return. Or don’t look after it properly.

    But we have learnt which friends are good loaners and borrower and we stick with them :-)

    • Agreed! I think it’s just as important to be mindful of where your belongings go – otherwise the hassle of losing items will make us more likely to just go and buy new ones. Which defeats the purpose entirely!

  3. It seems that I’ve been doing this without really consciously labelling it as such. I live in a family housing community at a university (with several hundred student families), and we have a Facebook group that we use to share items. People often post items they need to use (e.g. tools, cookware, highchairs, etc) and others then lend out whatever they can. It seems to be working great, and it’s amazing to know that I can find items I need infrequently without having to buy them. I hope that when I finally graduate I can find or make another community with like-minded people!

    • I love that, Sarah! It’s so wonderful to hear that people are adopting the idea naturally. And that’s an example of Facebook being used to truly connect people. Awesome.

  4. This is a great reminder. So many people think they just have to own things even if they only need them once or only annually.

    Since we desire to live with less, we’re definitely asking to borrow things before we buy. It’s free to borrow plus you don’t acquire excess stuff. In the past year or so we’ve borrowed a baby bassinet, trailer (to get garden soil), chain saw, books and more which has saved us hundreds!

    • I love that, Rachel! If we looked at a family or a group of friends, collectively we would have almost every occasional-use item we’d need. Why not make the most of it? :)

  5. Great post, I completely agree! Plus, I feel that inconvenience can breed mindfulness, so sometimes I don’t even consider inconvenience a bad thing. I don’t want to be numbed by conveniences.

    Does anyone know of online tools that facilitate this? Something along the same lines as couchsurfing, freecycle…?

    • Kelly, I love that – “Inconvenience can breed mindfulness.”

      I’m not sure of online tools off the top of my head. Will look into it for you though. And if there’s none, maybe I’ll create one?! ;)

  6. We are huge on sharing around here, not only family but friends as well. One person owns a truck and does landscaping for a living. We do occasional babysitting for him in exchange for his skills. Christmas, I loan my dishes to my son so he doesn’t have to use paper plates or purchase extra dishes he will only use one day a year. In my apartment building, we know who has what. One neighbor has garden tools, another has household tools, and so on. There is simply no reason to own everything. On the subject of a drill, my son owns one and I borrow it when needed.

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