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Renting things from the society

I think I’m quite materialistic. I don’t strive for the latest and greatest, but I identify things that I think I’m lacking in my life, or the things that I already posess and that are not of the level of quality I’d like them to be, and then I start looking for the new (to me) things. Sometimes I would go straight to online retailers, but more often I would set up a search on Kleinanzeigen (Germany’s craigslist), and begin the hunt.

Few years ago I purchased a bicycle from someone who didn’t need it. It wasn’t a great bicycle, but it was something I wanted at that time. I’ve happily ridden it for a few years. When I decided to upgrade, I found a different person who needed it and sold it to them. Looking at this process on a scale of several years, I think of it as if I’ve rented this object from the society.

Being a ukrainian, this process satisfies my ingrained never-ending emotional quest for deals. Somehow being good at finding deals is a virtue in my culture of origin. While I inherently share the feeling, I tend not to get any moral satisfaction from it. In my mind, seeking deals is almost equivalent with being needlessly greedy.

I get moral satisfaction from the fact that a resource is used, either by me or by someone else, it doesn’t loose its value by needlessly occupying space in my basement, and then it is even reused. I get satisfaction from an understanding that I don’t posess an object, but I simply get to use it for a limited period of time. It gives me a feeling of detachment from my posessions. When I don’t need an object, I can give it back to the society. I get satisfaction because this way of consumption is less resource-intensive than buying new things. Ideally this also should bring incentives for the manufacturers to produce higher quality products, that cost more, that last longer and survive many seasons of fashion.

This mind trick is very helpful when one plans to use an object for a limited period of time. Say, there’s a child underway, and a family needs a certain type of stroller for the first six months, and another stroller for the following year. Or one has started training using a kettlebell (like I did), and it’s possible that they will need a heavier one in a few months (like I aspire to) — so there’s no need to order several weights beforehand, because they can simply find the right one for temporary ownership at the time they need it.

Owning right things at the right time means you need less room for storing things. I also usually look for things of higher quality because I’ve experienced that they are more pleasant to use and they break less often.

This whole idea somehow plays well in the sharing economy that is so overhyped in the mainstream news these days. What I don’t like is that participants of the sharing economy are often potrayed as ones who avoid responsibility and planning, who don’t really know what they want in life so they don’t commit to anything.

Counter to that, the idea of renting things from the society has a halo of being environmentally responsible, efficient with resources, using high-quality luxury goods, looking after one’s posessions — all of the things that are opposite of the modern consumption sins.