I've rarely regretted going carless, but I did briefly on Friday morning. It was 8:15 a.m. and I saw that the drizzle had turned into steady rain. "Eh bien, c'est la vie," I sighed. I put on my raincoat and some old shoes, dug out my umbrella and headed out. I was only a few steps out the door when I heard someone call my name. It was Rouguiata, my neighbour, with her daughter Namarel.
She gestured me over. "I'm driving Namarel to the bus stop," she told me. "Get in, and we'll give you a ride." I got in and thanked them, but then I learned that Namarel needed to catch a bus downtown. I wasn't going that way. "Thanks so much," I said, "but you can drop me off at the corner and I'll walk from there. It's not very far. " But they wouldn't hear of it, insisted on driving me to my workplace, and dropped me off at the door.
I entered, and right behind me came Marie-Paule. I couldn’t help admiring her stylish rain shoes and I told her that I wished I could have some like hers.
"What’s preventing you?" she asked.
I explained that my narrow feet slip out of any slip-on shoes. "But I don't need rain shoes, I have great neighbours!" I quipped, and told her how I’d escaped the rain.
It was just a silly remark, but I was struck by the truth that lay behind it. One of the reasons many North American homes are so large is that we have so much stuff. I own tools, equipment, and appliances I rarely use. I'm thinking of my exercise ball, food dehydrator, electric sander, hydraulic jack, two stepladders... At some point, I “needed” each of these things and so I bought them, but then I put them away, and take them out maybe once a year, sometimes less, or not at all. Do I truly need them all?
If neighbours were open to sharing some of these rarely-used possessions with each other, we'd need so much less stuff and a lot less storage space. Think of everything in your basement, crawlspace, storage locker, shed, or garage that's been stored there for months or years without being used. Do you really need it all?
I know I don't. What I need is better relationships with my neighbours so I’m not embarrassed to knock on their doors when I need to borrow something.
I'm looking forward to selling my lovely old house and moving into my right-sized new home at Prairie Rivers, Winnipeg's first cohousing community. I currently have at least twice as much space as I need and much of it is used to store rarely used "treasures." I'll need to sift through it all and sell or give away much of it. I'll probably keep the food dehydrator as it's something that most households don't have, so it'll go into Prairie River's shared kitchen where my neighbours will be welcome to use it when they need it. And if at some point I need a griddle or a pressure cooker, I won't buy one. It's safe to assume that there'll be one in the community kitchen, or else one of my neighbours will lend me theirs.
Would you like to have less stuff cluttering up your home and life? If so, consider joining Prairie Rivers Cohousing, where you'll help to plan and design our new community, and where neighbours won't need so much stuff. You, too will be able to say, "I don't need _____ (fill in the blank), because I have great neighbours!"