How to deal with a neighbor that borrows and borrows

Neighbors can be a joy, providing you a sense of belonging and community. They can also be a PITA when they treat your stuff like community property. This is especially true of equipment that we use only occasionally, such as ladders, roto-tillers, chain saws, car jacks, rug shampooers or slide projectors.

Unfortunately, the reason your neighbor needs to borrow a piece of equipment is often seasonal, and you'll need it at the same time. Nothing is more frustrating that needing your leaf blower only to find it locked in your vacationing neighbor's garage. Here are some strategies for dealing with a chronic borrower.

1. Set a deadline. When your neighbor asks to borrow the ladder, request that he return it the next day, because you have plans to use it. Open-ended lending usually becomes just that.

2. Make sure your stuff is clearly labeled with your name. The only thing more ire-producing than unreturned goods is finding those goods in your neighbor's garage sale.

3. Borrow something from that neighbor of equal value and hold it ransom. This can be done with subtlety, so that it doesn't cause a shouting match.