Neighborrow: Saving money and making friends

A few years ago, my wife and I had a bit of a furniture crisis. Our bookcases were overfilled, our coffee table consisted of a door perched atop three milk crates, and most of our kitchen chairs were intended for outdoor use. While I tend to be a little lax when it comes to interior decoration, I had to acknowledge that the time had, indeed, come to buy some new furniture.

After visiting the furniture stores in our area, we were absolutely disgusted. A sturdy, well-made, attractive armchair cost slightly more than the car I was driving at the time. Granted, it was a ten-year old used car, but still! If we wanted more reasonably-priced items, the quality quickly went through the floor. Luckily, I've always been a little handy, so I decided to make our new living room set all by myself. Over the next few months, I read book after book about carpentry and cabinetmaking, and ultimately produced a nice set of bookshelves, a couple of curio cubbies, and a coffee table that was cool looking and weighed only slightly less than a Volkswagen Beetle.

While the money I spent on tools ended up being far less than the money I would have spent on furniture, it was still considerable, and I found myself yearning for a fellow carpenter who could loan me the occasional band clamp, mortiser, or chisel. For that matter, it would have been nice to talk over my projects with someone who had a little more experience.

Recently, New Yorker Adam Berk developed, a website that is designed to create exactly the sort of community that I was looking for all those years ago. Essentially, Berk's website allows users to find local people with items to loan. In the meantime, users can put up their own items for loan. Not only does this help members save money and space, but it also brings people into direct contact with each other. Berk hopes that the "neighborrowhoods" created by his website will encourage closer connections between strangers.

Having unintentionally given away a lot of books, I tend to be somewhat cynical about loans. However, I like the idealized sense of community that Berk's website represents. I'm sure that numerous people will take advantage of it, but I hope that they won't. And I hope, like Berk, that might help bring the world a little closer!

Bruce Watson is a freelance writer, blogger, and all-around cheapskate. He has a sneaking suspicion that there won't be a lot of powertools in the "Fordham, Bronx" neighborrowhood.
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