Stop Wasting Resources - Reciprocal Uses


The Concept

I’d like to introduce this concept that I refer to as Reciprocal Uses as in R U using that right now? Basically you take the idea that most resources in life are fixed. You can’t magically produce more time, or more space, you’re kind of stuck with what you’ve got until the laws of physics say otherwise. We have talked a lot about how to maximize your time and your efficiency to get the most out of those limited resources. Reciprocal uses takes another approach toward efficiency by examining how you allocate the same resources to different uses at different times.

Confused? Sorry about that…the perfect and most concrete example I can give you is a Murphy bed, you know, the kind that folds up into the wall. We spend roughly a third of our lives in bed (less if you are the kind of person reading this blog) but beds are always there, taking up space. A typical queen size bed takes up nearly 20 square feet. When you think about the size of apartments in most big cities, that can easily amount to 10% of your living space. Of course with a Murphy bed when you aren’t sleeping, the bed disappears and you have that much more space. For an unbelievalbe example of efficiency in a small aparmtent see this video. Make sense now? Let’s move on.…


Sometimes there simply isn’t a way to use complex systems of automation or outsourcing to get more output from less input. A lot of the time you can just look at your constraints and see how things can be juggled around. I’ll give a few more examples to drive the point home. I’m developing a retail real estate project on the eastern end of Long Island and because of local building codes and the size of the lot I was only able to have 8 parking spaces. The building had the potential for 3000 square feet of retail space but that would require 12 parking spaces, and I simply could not make any more. So I made a 1200 sf apartment and 1800 sf of retail space, which still required 11 spaces. I was able to explain to the town that the apartments would mostly be using the parking lot at night and the retail during the day, so even though there were physically only 8 spaces, I could still meet the capacity.

Another example which I hold very near and dear is my stand up desk which I have had in my office for nearly a year now. This affects two aspects of my life. First, I don’t have a very big office because, honestly, I don’t spend a lot of time in my office, so I didn’t want to allocate a large portion of my home to it. Not having a chair or a desk that even touches the floor (my screen is wall mounted as is the small desk) leaves me feeling like I actually do have a big office. It leaves me enough space to bring my bike trainer into my office, so I can watch movies on the computer while I train for Ironman France. Second, sitting down means I’m not active, and that’s simply not healthy. I need to get certain amounts of work done but I don’t want to be sitting down when I do it. I also need to get a certain amount of activity in to keep up with my training schedule. There is simply no comparison between sitting for an hour and standing for an hour before running. The energy just seems to flow better if you don’t sit.

I’ll admit that I sometimes feel like a shark that would die if it stopped moving but than again.…A final example is your car. It’s getting more difficult each day to justify owning a car when the environment is in peril, gas prices are high and there are a variety of car sharing programs like Zipcar and Mint. However, if you do own a car, odds are you only use it for a about 10% of the time and it just sits there the rest of the time. If you drive to work, it sits there for 8 or more hours, if you go to dinner it may sit for 3 hours, and if you have "staycation" at home for the weekend, that’s 36 hours of dead time.

Now there are programs like RelayRides that let you put the car you own into a car share program and get paid. It’s really incredible, they install a small computer in your car that securely controls the locks and the ignition, you set the schedule of when the car is available (you can change it at anytime), and then you get a check each month. The checks are not peanuts either, for example if you have a standard car, and it gets “rented” 20 hours per week you can make $6,000 per year. That’s more than enough to cover your gas and insurance and even have extra left over to take a little vacation somewhere. You could almost consider this a form of automated income. Just don’t get nervous when you see some random person walk up to your car, get in, and drive away.

If You Only Walk Away with One Thing

Look for things that spend a lot of time in idle mode like a car, tools, extra bedrooms, etc…then find ways to put them to work and possibly earn money.