The Stuff Cloud

After reading Oli’s post about the stuff cloud, I remembered an idea I once had about a system that helps you share all sorts of objects you need around the house. In his post, Oli wrote about how you should sell the stuff you don’t really need and buy it again (on ebay for example) as and when you need it rather than storing it in your house. I have an idea for a “stuff cloud” (i borrowed the name from Oli since it’s just perfect!) where you don’t even need to buy and sell your stuff – instead you borrow it when you need it and share the things you already have. It would be a portal on which you can share your physical objects with others and access all the objects other people have shared on the portal.

The problem

There are lots of things you don’t need on a regular basis, but when you need them, you need them. Since you don’t know anybody who could lend them to you, you go and buy them. After you use them, they tend to sit around your house for a long time before you need them again. They take up space, sometimes need maintenance and when you move house, you have to move them with you.

Let’s say your nephews come to visit you for a weekend and you’d really like to play some video games with them. Unfortunately, you don’t own a games console and buying one (plus games) for several hundred Euros just for the weekend is a waste of money.

carpet cleanerAnother time, your kid throws up on the carpet and you really, urgently, need a carpet cleaning machine. If you buy one, there’s a good chance you won’t need it again and it’ll just sit there loosing value for years to come. Plus it takes up a lot of space.

The solution

Imagine there’s a website (let’s call it – the domain’s free to buy, go ahead) where you search for the thing you need, sort the search results by distance from your home and rent the item for free or for a very small fee.

It should be a worldwide portal but focused on local communities. If you move away from your neighbourhood, you should be able to use the system in your new location, taking your positive reviews with you.

So how would it work?

  • The system would be based on reviews and you would only be able to lend your stuff to people who have positive reviews and/or pay a deposit in the system.
  • You wouldn’t necessarily have to share any of your own stuff, but people would see what you are currently offering and have shared in the past. So if you do share something, other people are more likely to want to share their stuff with you.
  • After you found your item, you would apply for it by clicking a button and writing a short text about why you want it. The owner would then decide within a specified period of time whether to lend to you.
  • The focus would be on your own neighbourhood to avoid shipping stuff around. It would also save time and provide a great opportunity for you to get to know your neighbours.

What happens if things break or get lost?

I don’t know how feasible it is, but maybe it could be mandatory for all users to have personal liability insurance (Haftpflichtversicherung). That way the insurance company would ideally cover the costs if items get broken or lost.

Another idea is to make users put down a deposit and only let them rent stuff that has a lower value than their deposit. Users would be able to top up their deposit any time Paypal.

Lenders could also ask for a deposit, especially for expensive stuff.

I’m not the first person to have this idea

Although I didn’t know that such portals existed before I started writing this post, after a little googling I found a number of similar ones:

  • (US): This looks pretty much like the one I imagine but it seems it’s not very active – it only has 3264 items on offer.
  • (DE): This is different from my idea since you have to offer an object in exchange for each item you borrow.

What do you think of the idea?

If you use this portal, you won’t have things lying around your house taking up space and losing value, and you won’t need to take care of stuff or move it around. Instead, you can invest the money you would have spent on buying it and get even closer to financial independence.

Does anyone know of similar portals in Europe and/or Germany that actually work?

Build it! 

Whether or not there are already portals like that out there, why not build your own? If you’re reading this, the stats say that you’re very likely to be a software developer. But even if you’re not, I think this is a great opportunity to make the world a better place and even make a nice business from it! You could take a small commission from every new user or every item leant so you can maintain and develop the system. If I didn’t have 20 other things I need to do every day, I would probably do it…

I’d be really happy to hear your thoughts about this and develop the idea and the rules etc. Maybe somebody will actually make this happen! So…let me know what you think!