Rent your life

By Jaquie Brown

If you feel that things are a bit humdrum, try renting a different life for a while

'Collaborative consumption' is tipped by Time magazine to take the world by storm. Photo / Thinkstock
'Collaborative consumption' is tipped by Time magazine to take the world by storm. Photo / Thinkstock

You buy a new thing, lose interest in the thing, find a newer thing to buy, stick the old thing in a cupboard and repeat forever until you die. Ugh. Sound familiar?

We don't really give much thought to the waste this mindless consumer cycle creates or the gradual blackening of our hearts as we spend.

Gordon Gekko (played by Michael Douglas when he was hot) in the 1980s movie Wall Street said, "Greed is good". I think he was high at the time. Because greed, as far as I can tell, makes you miserable. Fact: a new designer gold jumpsuit will not tell you jokes and make you cups of tea if you are sad.

But there is a new way of consuming and, says a recent Time magazine article titled "Today's Smart Choice, don't Own - Share", it's tipped to be one of the top 10 trends to change the world. It's called collaborative consumption, or the shared economy. Not "mine mine mine, get away, it's mine" - but shared.

The website allows you to be part of this movement. The name gives it away - it's a place where you can rent anything, the Trade Me of renting if you will.

Renting saves and makes you money. It's the perfect crime. Not that it's an actual crime, unless you are renting out your criminal cousin to burgle houses. But the website has rules about that kind of thing.

Site founder Robb Huskinson says the site gives New Zealanders the chance to rent the life they want, then give it back.

"It also allows people to make money from the things they are not using and, through the virtue of sharing, we can ease back on consumption and take the pressure off our planet's limited resources."

The beauty of the site is is that it enables you to get familiar with the people through their profiles and references before accepting a booking, he says.

Collaborative consumption is a great way to make more meaningful connections. Looking the person in the eye when you meet and knowing they trust you with their rented item is scientifically proven to boost oxytocin - the feel-good hormone.

It's a way to build communities, make conversations, connect. I feel a song coming on.

Huskinson says sites such as Rentaholic are growing internationally. I can see it taking off. Imagine you want to impress a date but your flat is a damp hovel with baked bean stains on the walls.

You don't need to spend thousands redecorating, You just hop on to Rentaholic and rent an enchanting cat tapestry. You hang it, it's a talking point, you bond over your shared love of cat tapestry. You end up laying the tapestry on the ground where you make sweet love on it. Then when things don't work between you, the cat tapestry need not be a painful reminder of your romantic failings, you simply clean and return it and maybe ask the cat tapestry renter out on a date.

The site is very entertaining and boasts an array of rentable items, from the practical - like a Swiss ball - to the more unusual, such as a vintage caravan.

I wonder what I have lying around that I can rent out. I have been told I give the most excellent hugs. Maybe I could rent myself out. Should I offer to sing at the same time? So much to think about.

But site founder Rob Vaassen says: "We do not tolerate any illegal activity or renting anything that we would consider to be in poor taste."

Better leave my singing out of it then.

I was keen to experience this site and the magpie in me spotted a pair of gorgeous Christian Louboutin high heels. Normally way out of my price range at more than $1,000, I've never even seen a genuine pair in real life so, after a bond payment of $100, they were in my hands. So easy. Malik Demeulemeester, the owner of the shoes, says she listed them on a whim because she thinks it's necessary to find another way of being rather than consuming constantly and "making a shit-load of trash that the environment can't handle".

I asked if she was worried about my sweaty feet being crammed into her lovely new shoes or me spilling milk on the suede and ruining them.

She was pragmatic saying: "I think it's going to take a bit of a cultural shift, we'll have to trust each other more."

Luckily for her I didn't check the size and could only fit 25 per cent of my feet into them. But I admired them anyway and they looked great. I've now rented a slice of life that was previously out of my grasp and knowing that someone else can share in this after me, makes me feel pretty good. And I didn't spill any milk on them, either.

Read also: Dog-bond for an hour

- Herald on Sunday

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