My home inventory is in full swing. I’ve had a few revelations. Because I know it will be documented “for posterity,” I am reluctant to keep certain things. I can suddenly see how ridiculous it is to list 3 square, 3 round and 2 heart- shaped layer cake pans, when I haven’t made a layer cake for at least 5 years! To give myself extra motivation, I have a copy of one of my favourite books on hand: Material World: A Global Family Portrait (1995). Do you know it? A photo journalist took pictures of typical families in 30 countries, outside their homes, surrounded by everything they own, laid out around them. This book made a huge impression on me and opened my eyes to my consumer lifestyle. While I can’t say it made me a minimalist, it made me aware of excesses and how very privileged I am.
Three weeks into my home inventory, I am finally thinking about: how much is enough? If I lost everything tomorrow, would I replace all three of my novelty iPod speakers? I think not. Do I need a bin of toys and clothing that belonged to me as a child, to help me remember my childhood? What have I taught my own child about the value of possessions?
There is the “beautiful or useful” rule. And there is the rule that every room should serve its function. I’ve done a lot of reading and viewing about decluttering over the years, and here are some points I’m keeping in mind:
- What kind of home do I want? Private retreat? Welcoming to guests? What do I do to show this?
- Are there any areas of the house I avoid because the clutter makes me feel closed in?
- If every object in the house stayed where it was, and it was perfectly clean, would I want people to see it?
- When someone walks into a room in my house, do I feel the need to defend what is in there? Would I be able to explain why I have each item, instead of saying, “I need to have a clear-out,” “I’m so fond of that silly old thing!” or “I’m going to get back to my stained glass work someday”?
- Would someone describe my house as being cluttered, cozy, functional or minimal?
- How much work is it to own each item? Is it worth it to clean and maintain it? Would I prefer having more uncluttered space instead?
- How many unused items do I have?
- How many duplicates of items do I have? For example, how many sheets and towels do I really need?
- How many ornamental items do I have? If there isn’t room to display them all, do I put them out in rotation?
- Why do I have collections that are packed away in boxes instead of displayed?
- How many things do I own that are “too good to use” or must be kept “new in box”?
- How many sentimental items do I have, versus functional items?
- Does it look like I am stuck in the past?
- If a friend of a friend was looking for items to set up a household, what could I comfortably give them?
- Am I happy having 3 of something when I know someone else is in need?
- If I gave an item away, can I envision ever having to re-buy it?
- Can I get my hands on any single item I own in 5 minutes?
- And, perhaps most importantly, if I ever lost everything I owned, what would I want to replace? What would I truly wish I had been able to save?
This weekend I inventoried all of our household electronics. Rom helpfully listed the models and serial numbers of all of his. It seems like a lot (cough, cough!) But as Rom put it, he’s an IT professional and an amateur musician – would I tell an artist he had too many pencils? LOL!
I had already pared down the kitchen, but I didn’t go nearly far enough. While taking stock of what I had, I cleaned the cupboards, cleaned the horrible shelf/ledge on top of the high cupboards, completely cleaned all of my glassware, and washed my collection of candy tins. And then I thought, oy, do I really want to do this on a regular basis, like, forever? Unlike my mom, who has china and crystal she uses a few times a year, my unmatched stuff is rarely used. Do I think my lifestyle is going to change?
I am actually slowing down my home inventory instead of speeding up, because I want to be more thoughtful about what I keep. Again, I am not a minimalist. I just want to pause and think about how much is enough. How much would make me feel wanting and how much makes me feel greedy?
To recap, I’ve spent three weekends on the inventory so far, and have finished detailed listings of all of my furniture, large and small appliances, collections, electronics, and kitchen items. Some major areas yet to complete are DVDs and CDs (just a count), craft and hobby supplies, hardware and yard/garden tools, home decor and linens.
I am feeling quite oppressed by my possessions right now, but I will continue taking stock, decluttering and “right-sizing”!
Postscript: The home inventory was eventually completed and the results are here.