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  • Arts & Culture
  • Issue 49

Lease on Life

How to make rentals more meaningful.
Words by Annabel Bai Jackson. Photograph by Lauren Bamford.

In the 18th century, a peculiar genre of fiction became popular among British readers. Known as “it-narratives,” these stories were told by objects—spoons, waistcoats, sedans, you name it—and were designed to show the many hands a single object passed through in the riotous early days of consumer culture. Relishing in the exchange, leasing and circulation of things, it-narratives exposed how temporary “ownership” really was.

This fluid circulation of things resonates with what, in the 21st century, has become the “sharing economy”—where people increasingly rent, rather than purchase, their items. Now more than ever, it’s not just real estate that’s up for hire: it’s movies, vacuum cleaners, wardrobes, cameras. Want to nuzzle a cat without emptying the litter box? Or hang an artwork knowing you’re moving in a month? The rental marketplace can fulfill these desires, with users on sites like Fat Llama and


This story is from Kinfolk Issue Forty-Nine

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