When Polonius counselled his son Laertes, “Neither a borrower nor a lender be”(Hamlet, Act I, Sc iii), he was talking about money, not stuff.
When it comes to stuff, borrowing and lending, a.k.a. sharing, is the minimalist’s secret weapon. It can also be a way to bless others and share Christ’s love along with our tools.
If people shared, then everyone wouldn’t have to own everything. My neighbour has been borrowing our extension ladder for 25 years. And our wheelbarrow. We borrow their mitre saw. We borrow another neighbour’s pressure washer and since he has everything and never needs to borrow anything from us, we often share our garden/greenhouse produce in return. We often loan out our truck and we have borrowed others’ vans.
Lending and borrowing can save time, storage space and money. To ensure continued good relations a few simple rules might help.
Greg Seaman outlines The 8 Simple Rules of Sharing: (edited for length)
1. Balance the ‘take’ with the ‘give’
Ideally, everyone in a community has something to contribute to the pool of goods available to share. But in reality, some people have more resources to share while others borrow more often. If you are among the latter group, look for ways to contribute with a service or skill so that the give and take relationship is more balanced. Sharing is a two-way street. Borrowing is a one-way street; stay on it long enough and you’ll drive yourself right out of the neighborhood.
2. Inspect the item before lending it out
There’s an interesting phenomenon that occurs when someone returns a borrowed item – you see it in a new light. The saw blade you thought of as brand new when loaned out now has a chipped tooth that you never noticed before. The pressure canner, upon return, looks stained on the inside but you vaguely remember it as still clean and new looking.
3. Always ask before borrowing
Relations with neighbors may be friendly and casual, and you may have borrowed items from the same person before with no problems. But assuming you can borrow without asking is a prescription for souring relations. The way things go, the one day you borrow your neighbor’s pruning ladder without asking turns out to be the same day he promised it to someone else. Even if the ‘lend-borrow’ balance is in your favor with a neighbor, always ask before borrowing. If the person is not home and you must borrow an item, leave a note which includes when you will be returning it.
4. Return items in better condition than when borrowed
The best way to develop a healthy borrowing relationship with anyone is to spruce up the borrowed item before returning it. A borrowed saw blade can be cleaned with steel wool and lightly oiled before being returned. A loaner truck is returned with more gas then when borrowed. If you return a cookie sheet with a small bag of fresh baked cookies, the lender will welcome your next loan request with open arms.
5. Set a date/time for return
After a task is done, our minds leap forward to the next thing. If the borrowed item is not returned right away, it quickly fades from thought and easily becomes forgotten. It is the responsibility of the lender to establish an ‘end date’ for the transaction. A clear, specific timetable, such as “I need this juicer back by Saturday morning” does a service to the borrower because the loan is not open-ended, making it easier to ensure a timely return.
6. Keep a list of outgoing/incoming shares
It may seem overly formal and structured, but it will make things simpler and prevent misunderstandings if you keep a list of the items you have loaned or borrowed, with corresponding dates for their return. Even smaller items like books, DVDs and cookware which may seem inconsequential when loaned out can suddenly seem more important when you need them and can’t remember who you lent them to. By keeping a list, your mind is freed from having to remember the details of every small loan.
7. Keep money out of the equation
When it comes to borrowing and lending, transactions involving money are best left to banks. Unlike other items being shared, money disappears when used. It does not sit around, like a borrowed pipe wrench, as a visual reminder that it needs to be returned.
I’ve seen otherwise sensible people go absolutely snarky over an overdue cash loan, so it’s best not to put people in this position.
8. Accept the deviations from the rules
Sharing embodies a culture of trust within the community, and the value of this culture exceeds the value of any loaned item. Some people may not follow the rules or will fall short of expectations. It’s usually best to view any problems in this perspective, and not let the sharing process be tarnished by anyone who plays by their own rules. If you follow the advice “Don’t lend out anything that you aren’t prepared to lose”, it’s less likely that the process of sharing will result in disappointment.
What about you? Do you like to share? Could you share more? What’s keeping you from sharing? Feel free to share your views on borrowing and lending!