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Sharing is as easy as crossing the street

By Liz Shield - posted Wednesday, 10 August 2011

The Sharehood started in 2008 as an idea. Theo was living in an inner city suburb of Melbourne's north and his house didn't have a washing machine. He was walking to a friends' house to do his laundry when he realised many folks in his street would have washing machines and if he knew his neighbours, he might have been able to borrow theirs. He made a list of all the things that could be shared between neighbours and it was a long list! Then he letter boxed all the people living within a 5 minute walk of his home, to share his idea and ask them to contact him if they wanted to participate.

From there, the first Sharehood was formed.

Since then, the Sharehood has grown to have over 1500 members across 4 continents. People have been borrowing ladders to put in light bulbs and working together to create food producing gardens or grey water systems. There have been film nights and BBQs in local parks and street wide garage sales. People have found babysitters and had their pets walked or minded. There are so many reasons to share with people and the experiences are as individual as we are.

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Sharing things with people in your neighbourhood means you don't spend as much money. Most of us own stuff that we haven't used in years. Do you have a shed full of things you use occasionally, such as a lawnmower, a sewing machine, a ladder or a wheelbarrow?

Many of these things take up a lot of space so people in small dwellings simply don't have room for them, and low income people can't afford them. Wouldn't it be great if we could all get what we needed by borrowing and lending things within our neighbourhoods?

Share... to go Green
Sharing things with people means we don't have to all go out and buy everything we may need. This reduces waste and excess items ending up in landfill. Sharing skills such as composting, seed saving, baking or making jam not only saves you money, it helps the environment too.

Some Sharehoods have started community gardens in their neighbourhoods. Growing your own fruit and vegetables saves money and helps the environment by reducing the pollution associated with transportation and packaging of conventional produce.

Sharing locally is part of a low-carbon lifestyle that can reduce our collective impact on the environment. Most everyday items involve using fuel for transportation, petrochemicals in construction (plastics) and create pollution caused during production. The more we can sew, bake, create, grow and borrow means the less dependent we are on these non-renewable resources.

Share…to meet your neighbours
Perhaps the best reason for sharing is to meet other people in your local area. This builds trust and that warm feeing you get when you walk down the street and people say hello. It also reduces social isolation and makes for safer streets.


When you meet your neighbours with the Sharehood you immediately have a common interest – a belief in the value of sharing things! Knowing your neighbours is handy: it makes us safer, it can get you out of a pickle and it's a lot of fun. But connecting with your neighbourhood goes beyond all that. It answers the deep need within us for a sense of belonging to the place we live. It improves our wellbeing and goes to the heart of what it means to have a home.

In modern society there are demands on people to be engaged in paid work to pay for necessities. Therefore, our non-working time is reduced. As "time poor" people we simultaneously need to also consume more. We have an unprecedented market of consumer goods available for purchasing around the clock on-line and from stores, markets and shopping centres.

This pressure for working and consuming reduces the time people previously had for getting to know their neighbours, through sharing cups of tea, swapping recipes and sharing belongings which builds relationships and strengthens neighbourhood communities as well as reducing consumption and people's isolation.

Tighter local communities will help us flourish, restore hope and increase positivity despite uncertainties.

Share...for your health

Reducing people's isolation will drastically improve their quality of life. This is particularly important for those vulnerable members of our communities; elderly people living alone, new parents or emerging refugee communities, for example.

The Sharehood provides a means to remove barriers between people by showing that "everyone can be your neighbour". The Sharehood experience can, too, be a bridge between people of different ages, nationalities and cultures. As well as people with mental health diagnoses, the lesbian or gay community and also bisexual and transsexual people.

The principle of the Sharehood is that you can share with your neighbours and get to know them, and then "everyone is your neighbour".

There is an identified link between people's sense of belonging in a place, or a community and being connected with other people that is critical for good mental health. Recent Government policy in Australia has focussed on "social inclusion" to encompass those who are marginalised in the community.

People's isolation from others contributes to poor self image and mental health. In Western capitalist societies, participation is often dependent on an ability to buy something, such as items from a shopping centre or the entry price to an event.

The Sharehood offers an alternative to "inclusion by consumption" as we promote sharing resources we already have with those who don't have access to them.

The Sharehood has been discovered from Aotearoa (New Zealand) to the UK. Joining is free! And once you have entered your details, you will be linked to the closest 100 members to you, where you can see what they are offering and seeking to share.

If there aren't enough people close to you, the website has instructions and a form letter to help you get a Sharehood started in your neighbourhood. And then the fun begins! It all starts at

It really is as easy as crossing the street.

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About the Author

Sharehood project worker, activist and community development worker.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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