The Sharing Economy — how I discovered a new way to think about space.

Sometime ago, I was laid off from a position that I did not very much love. It was not a distressing event and I had already made the decision to take some time off. I had savings to cover me while I explored other lifestyle options and discovered the meaning of life. And yes, that was the sum total of my plans. Like many-newly freed former employees, I set my sights on travel. I locked up my home and traveled for a couple of months. While travelling alone, I discovered much to my surprise that I loved the communal and social nature of dorms and shared accommodation more than I enjoyed the privacy of a personal hotel room.

When I got home, I missed the ever changing company of strangers-turned-friends and realized that I could supplement my savings by converting my office/storage/catch-all into a guest room to be listed on Airbnb. The task seemed daunting and expensive initially when I considered the traditional channels of creating a beautiful guest room.

First I would have to sort, pack up or discard the contents of the room which I had avoided for months. The room held 2 desks, a twin bed, totes full of seasonal clothes, winter bedding, a toolbox, bookshelves, keepsakes and everything that did not belong in the other rooms in my home. To my dismay, I realized that I would only be able to discard a few things and I would still need a place to store and access my things regularly.

I needed a storage space. I called a few storage companies and for a 7x10 foot space, the cost would be $285 per month but they had an offer to throw in your moving cost. Over a year, that brought it down to $250 per month which was a little pricier than I hoped.

If I rented my own truck from a moving company like U-haul for 4 hours, the cost with gas and mileage would have been about $110.

A search of personal storage units in a self-storage facility hopefully close enough to access my belongings on a regular basis turned up nothing in my neighbourhood, which meant that I, a die-hard downtown car-free person would have to rent a car every time I needed an item from my storage unit.

As I explored the options above, the set-up costs and inconvenience of setting up my guest room was beginning to seem prohibitive. And I was not even sure that I would make any money from renting it out once I was up and running. The total cost of moving, storage and a handyman was about $3000. That was not workable so I started to look into other options.

I already used a car share service for shopping and for the unavoidable forays into suburbia to visit friends. And to my delight I discovered that I could book a cargo minivan for the hours I needed. The cost at $60 was 40% less than a moving truck rental company once insurance and gas, which is included in the car share service, was factored in.

Then I heard about SpaceiShare, a self-storage company that hooks up people who have storage space with people who need them ideally in the same neighbourhood. I found about 70 square feet of dry basement space with a family about 3 blocks away from my home. The space was available for a year and would cost $100 per month. I was able to request a visit through the site and the homeowner agreed. Cora, the chatty owner of a beautiful Victorian house led me to a side entrance, which led straight into the basement. And I got to see my space, a 7x10 foot area in a corner of the basement closest to the door. All I would have to do is notify them when I needed to access the things and we would arrange a visit.

Cora told me that I was her second renter. A student had used the space for 4 months during the summer break. Cora asked me why I needed storage and I mentioned that I was setting the room up to rent through Airbnb and lamented the cost of handymen. That’s when she told me about

Jiffy allows you to input the job you need done, see service rates and a nearby professional will accept the job and come over and take care of it. All payments happen through the site. I signed up, put in the details of the job, my location, the date I needed the job done and a contractor accepted it almost immediately. The cost came to $300, a full 50% less than the original contractor quote! He came over 3 days later after I had moved all my things to Cora’s basement and completed the job in one day.

I saved 50% off the cost by accessing the same services through the apps and sites. 10 days after I started this project, I was up and running on Airbnb and my first guest would be arriving shortly. I don’t think I could have done this without the access the sharing economy provides. I saved myself time and money and a whole lot of headaches by using these services. I now pay $100 in storage costs but I make much more renting out my second bedroom. The income has created a new freedom and time to pursue new opportunities. This, people, is the new way to live.

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