If you read the news in the world of business and technology, you might have seen mention of a new trend that is rapidly snowballing into a movement. Some call it the sharing economy, while others have deemed it collaborative consumption or the access movement, but the upshot is that a rapidly increasing number of companies are creating ways that everyday people like you and me can connect with other people to use or share things, homes and services.
From high-end clothes to children’s clothes, home solar systems to college textbooks, there are now a number of ways you can access and use these things wihout buying them outright, new and at full price. These companies tend to provide tech platforms and communities that make sharing, borrowing and even buying from peers safe, convenient and often more affordable that buying the item outright from a retailer.
Here’s the thing: If you own a home, your ability to participate in this new and fast-growing movement — which, in the wake of our post-recession interests in saving money, being resourceful, designing our own lives and connecting with other human beings — is likely to grow, not fizzle. Let’s take a look at a few home-centric ways you can engage in this sharing economy, shall we?
1. Share your house. This is not your standard "get a roommate" fare, folks. This sharing economy empowers individual homeowners to rent or share their homes much more flexibly — and safely — than ever before. Don’t want to be a landlord? Just going out of town for a week? Have just an empty room or couch? Just want some company? You can use a site like Airbnb or VRBO to rent out a bedroom or two, a floor, a flat, the studio over the garage, or even your entire house for as little as a day or as long as the summertime (though city laws vary — in different places, you might become a "hotel" and be subject to hotel taxes or a landlord subject to rent control laws after a certain period of time — these sites can often help you research that issue).
These sites allow homeowners to put their largest asset to great use, defraying their expenses of owning it or helping you achieve financial goals like paying off your credit cards or student loans; the sites also verify renters’ identities, manage the money matters and even mediate security deposit disputes. In fact, apartment renters can also use the services, assuming their lease terms allow for it.
In particular, people who have homes located very near large festivals or other events have been able to pay their rent or mortgage for the year on what they make renting their own place out for the week. If you’re just interested in having some company and accessing free crashpads yourself — worldwide — consider using Couchsurfing.com, a hospitality-exchange network that matches travelers looking for a place to stay with locals willing to accommodate them.
2. Put your home to work. These "sharing" companies also offer a wide array of ways you can actually put your home to work: running a business out of it and using it as a home base to provide services that people in your community are out there searching for, in your spare time without having to go to all the expense of getting a storefront or paying for advertising. Here are just a few:
- DogVacay allows you to sign up to sit dogs while their owners are on vacation, at your house (and yes, you do get paid!)
- Skillshare and The Learning Annex let you take your expertise and become a teacher, guru-style, delivering online courses at your convenience right from your living room.
- Zaarly and TaskRabbit let you turn your skills and spare time into cash, whether you want to cook chicken soup, bake cookies or make floral arrangements (Zaarly) or assemble IKEA furniture, pick up dry cleaning, or make a Trader Joe’s run for people in your neck-of-the-woods (TaskRabbit).
- Etsy has a wildly active marketplace for crafters and high-design home creatives who want to sell the goods they make in their living rooms.
- And on Eatfeastly, home chefs can connect with — and cook for — neighbors and get paid for their in-home dinner parties.
3. Sell your clutter. Lest we forget, there’s always eBay, Craigslist and even Facebook to get rid of your clutter-turned-someone else’s treasure, if you want to declutter your home and turn all that stuff you’re not using into cash to pay your bills — or your mortgage. I’ve also found that the more of this sort of decluttering I do, the less likely I am to accumulate more clutter. I’ve even implemented a rule at my house: For every thing I buy, I have to get rid of one, too!