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Why borrowing from your neighbor is good for your health and your wallet

Woodinville’s Carlene Rivera has never knocked on a neighbor’s door to borrow a cup of sugar.

“I’m distrusting of my neighbors in general, not particular people,” Rivera said. “But opening up a relationship where people can just knock on my door, they might not be my kind of people. So I don’t borrow and I don’t open the door even for an Amazon delivery.”

Illustrated columnist Sarah Lazarovic’s latest piece in Yes magazine is called “Borrow the Sugar.” In the column, Lazarovic says people don’t borrow from their neighbors like they used to. Sometimes it’s because they don’t know their neighbors, so they feel uncomfortable asking. But it’s also related to convenience and our disposable lifestyle.

“You can borrow something from your neighbor, but you have to text them, make sure they’re home, go borrow it, hope you remember to return it on time,” Lazarovic said. “Sometimes it can seem like a hassle when the cost of so many things is so much cheaper than it used to be. It’s unbearably low.”

“You go on Amazon Prime and just order this thing because [you] can,” she said. “I think that didn’t used to be the case. A good drill used to be more expensive. You couldn’t necessarily order a drill from Walmart for $29.99. So I don’t think it’s a malicious thing on the part of humans, but at the same time I think companies are very good at getting us to buy it instead of borrowing it from our neighbors.”

But there are a ton of benefits to borrowing. For one, we don’t all need a garage full of the same tools we hardly use. Lazarovic’s article says the average household drill gets used 13 minutes in its entire life span.

“The hedge between our house and our neighbors house, we need to trim it maybe twice a year,” Lazarovic said. “So we need a hedge trimmer for about an hour of time per year.”

And then, of course, there is the community that comes from talking to your neighbors. Borrowing something leads to conversation which leads to friendship, and less loneliness.

Before moving to her current neighborhood in Stanwood, Washington, Kate Johansen didn’t borrow or lend things to neighbors.

“This sounds terrible but it’s sort of like when you go to a party and you accidentally start talking to the person that you don’t want to talk to the whole night,” laughed Johansen. “Because now you’ve started a conversation with them, you’re cornered and you can’t get out of it. You don’t want to open Pandora’s box with the wrong neighbor and now you have a friendship with somebody that really bothers you.”

But then a neighbor invited her family over for dinner and everything changed.

“At this point, my neighbors…I wouldn’t even call them my second family, I would almost call them my first family because we have dinner together every Sunday night, they’re more involved in my kid’s lives than my own family is. My own family is great, they’re involved, but my neighbors see my kids multiple times a week. We pick each other’s kids up from school, we lean on each other. I had twins two years ago and there was this meal train coming through at a very desperate time in our lives. Even when life is really tough there’s always somebody who has your back.”

Her neighbor, Sarah Watson-Radke, says the bond that’s formed on their block has been life changing.

“When my husband was deployed, Katie’s husband would go to the dad breakfast at the school for my kids so they would have a father figure there. To this day it brings tears to my eyes that he did that for them,” said Watson-Radke. “He took time off work. My kids, to this day, think Jason is Daddy #2.”

Back to Rivera: she said she had a bad experience with a nasty neighbor when she was a little girl and thinks that memory has caused a lifetime of distrust. I asked her if she’d like to get over her fears and meet her neighbors.

“I don’t know that I could change. Honestly, I’m really stuck in my ways. In the right circumstance. Potentially. Maybe.”

The good news is a ton of you do have great relationships with your neighbors. According to what you shared on my Facebook page, borrowing things and helping each other out is common practice. Then there are the Buy Nothing Facebook groups where people can easily give and take things from their neighbors porches without having to have a face to face interaction.

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