How to Trade a Paperclip for a House

Have you heard of the fellow who was able to trade a paperclip for a house?

It’s a terrific (and quite funny) story that points to the possibility for us all. What if we are in the midst of a transition from a “consumer” society, back to our roots in a “trading” mentality?

If you’ve ever put anything out on the curb with a “Free to a good home” sign and knew someone else would come along and put it to good further use, then you are probably part of this changing vision. There’s a growing movement afoot that we will dive into today, and I suspect we will all come away looking at our “stuff” with completely fresh eyes!

First, let’s do a little thought experiment:

Have you ever stopped to think about how life worked before there was such a thing as money?

We were all traders and barterers. That’s all there was! Everyone’s needs were completely personal and defined moment to moment.

For example, our needs were only successfully met if we were good at working with a network of people who could trade goods or services seamlessly.

Most importantly, the “value” of everything was strictly determined by how much something would be worth when we wanted to trade it away for something new that we needed. Think about that. Things had to be durable or easily repurposed into something else that was desirable.

Here’s another question:

When was the last time you bought something and considered what you would do with it when you didn’t need it anymore?

That endgame consideration was crucial before money was invented. There was no place for shoddy workmanship, “one-offs” or single-use. Food was the only thing we just “consumed.”

Still a little fuzzy on where this article is going? I get it. This is a totally new way of looking at the real value of what we buy.

Trading a Paperclip for a House

This short TED Talk is by a fantastic fellow who is famous for trading a paperclip for something a little more valuable, and then repeating the process again and again until he eventually ended up with a house. Of course, Kyle MacDonald is the best one to tell his story, so we’ll leave it to him.

Be patient, the video is a little slow, but after a couple of minutes, Kyle gets on a roll and we get an entertaining look at the future of a kind of commerce that might save our budgets, our sanity, and the planet! Here’s Kyle:

Great work there, huh?

If Kyle’s experiment is any indication of what the future could look like, then “trading” for the things we need (or just giving things away) could be the way of the future!

We might all eventually consider ourselves more like temporary owners, rather than consumers.

Finding a Trading/Bartering Network to Join

I was curious about how one makes a conscious shift towards this lifestyle and looked into this growing movement of people who are trading with others for what they need.

Turns out, websites like Craigslist, FreeCycle, and apps likeTradeMade and LetGo are gaining momentum like never before. In fact, I’ve got a few kids’ bicycles and some archery equipment I’m never going to touch again and I plan to list them this weekend on TradeMade and see what happens! Should be an interesting experiment, at the very least.

The Best Ideas Expand Us All

There’s no doubt that Kyle MacDonald is a thought-leader. And as you might expect, that paperclip project was not a “one-off”. In fact, he got even more creative several years later and tried another experiment that points to more possibility for us all! Take a look at this…

Great work again! I suspect the possibilities are endless.

Maybe we’re all dabbling in this kind of economy more than we realize?

Rather than packing your garage or closets to the gills, are you giving away those things you don’t need, or haven’t touched in years? Whether you’re listing your objects online, having a yard sale yourself, or donating it, there’s something wonderful in knowing that someone else is enjoying the objects that you no longer give attention. (And the fact that they aren’t ending up in a landfill definitely doesn’t hurt.)

But are we bartering and “trading up” as much as we could? I suspect most of us have no idea how fun and fruitful it might be to be a part of a few trading networks!

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