09/01/2010 06:20 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

How Sharing My Stuff on Made Me a Better American

As a country, we own way too much stuff. We've been on a shopping bender for the last 50 years and now we're paying for it. Americans spend over $22 billion a year on self-storage space. According to the Self Storage Association, the amount of self storage space in this country is equivalent to 7.4 square feet for every man, woman and child. Think about all the stuff stored in all that space as well as in our closets, garages, and bookshelves.

Sharing that stuff with our neighbors obviously helps us save money and live more sustainably. By sharing stuff we already own, we are buying less stuff, getting more use out of what we've already purchased, and throwing fewer items away. The financial and environmental benefits are very plain. That's why I created a place to help neighbors share with each other.

Lately, I've been most interested in another benefit of sharing -- it's positive impact on local communities. Working to help our members share, we've learned a lot about how that activity can bring neighborhoods together. We've learned that people do trust each other, that people are friendly, and that they want to help their neighbors. We've learned that sharing something you own is the ultimate ice breaker. Once you share a few things with a neighbor, you are friends forever. Sharing your power drill with your neighbor takes a certain amount of trust. When you get that power drill back, that trust is reinforced. Now you've helped your neighbor. You both share a feeling of accomplishment and connection. Those feelings go a long way toward recreating small town connectedness even in the most urban settings.

I've noticed this change in my own neighborhood. After months of sharing on NeighborGoods, I've also noticed a change in myself.

As the founder of NeighborGoods, it's not surprising that my neighborhood (Atwater Village in Los Angeles) has a very active sharing group on NeighborGoods. I've made really great friends using it. On top of lending stuff to each other on NeighborGoods, we now help each other with rides to the airport, moving furniture, and walking dogs. We watch each other's houses when we go out of town. We've got a built in local support group. A few of our members are very active on the neighborhood council. We often get together over a few beers and talk about all the upcoming events and neighborhood improvement projects. For the first time ever, I feel connected to where I live. I feel engaged with my neighborhood and my city. I want to help make Atwater Village a better place to live. Through NeighborGoods, I have become a more active local citizen.

When I created NeighborGoods, I knew sharing would help connect neighbors, but I didn't understand the deep and profound implications of that connection until I experienced it myself. Sharing our stuff might be just the activity we need more of to create a more engaged, connected and active citizenry, one neighborhood at a time. is a safe and fun community for sharing stuff with your friends and neighbors. Save money and resources while strengthening your local community by renting and borrowing instead of buying new. Create a group for your neighborhood!