Getting neighbourly

03_pumpipumpe_brief05_pumpipumpe_sticker 06_pumpipumpe_briefkasten 07_pumpipumpe_leihen A group in Switzerland has come up with a simple and rather lovely way to use your humble letterbox to build community.

But it’s not through the writing and sending of letters, it’s about sharing, and involves (gulp!) actual face-to-face contact.

You know the old saying about popping into someone’s place to borrow a cup of milk? When I was growing up, we really did that. We knew all the neighbours in our little suburban cul de sac, and they knew us. When someone new moved into the street, we would bake them a cake or pick them some lemons and we’d knock on the door with our gift, to say welcome. And if someone in the street needed to borrow something and someone else in the street had it, no problem!

Relying on that kind of old-fashioned community spirit, a group called Pumpipumpe has designed a series of stickers depicting household items that we don’t necessarily use every day: things like lawnmowers and blenders and fondue sets.

The simple idea is that if you have one of these items and might be willing to lend them to a neighbour, you put a sticker on your letterbox.

They say, “That is how you can stand up for a reasonable, sustainable way to use consumer goods in your own neighbourhood, build a local network, get to know your neighbours better and buy less all together!”

The project is deliberately low-tech. They could have built an app, or a website, designed for sharing. But Pumpipumpe is about bringing back neighbourhood: walking around the streets where you live, and still having to physically knock on the door of your neighbour, say hello, and say “yes please I’d like to borrow that bike pump.”

Likewise, they say, they leave it up to the community how they will manage or reimburse each share.

“Do you want a deposit, in order be sure to get your jigsaw back? Maybe you and your neighbour will in the end share your expenses for a common newspaper subscription? Or will you offer your neighbour a piece of the delicious cake you made with his cake tin? Please do individually discuss the ideal conditions with the people you share your things with. Pumpipumpe promotes the sharing (not renting for money) of personal belongings, so please use these generous offers of your local neighbours respectfully. Good sharing to everyone!!”

The scheme started in Switzerland and that’s where it's strongest, but is now spreading across Europe, and at last count was making use of 7290 letterboxes for the purpose of sharing and community. The Pumpipumpe people have created an online map that shows where items might be available to borrow, to save you having to roam the streets for days, searching for a sewing machine.

I’d love to see this in Australia! Wouldn’t you? We’d just need a small group of us to make it work. Like say maybe 10 friends who all live in the same city start it off, putting out their stickers and letting each other know, and then they each tell the other people they know, and hopefully it spreads from there.

Stickers are available to buy online at

Cute, super-daggy video explaining it all here:

Images are all official Pumpipumpe media images, owned by Meteor Collectif.