I have spent the past 10 months conducting a thorough inventory of everything I own. I thought it would take 3 months of weekends – then 6 – and now I’ve gone from March to the end of December! In my previous posts I’ve talked about how the exercise evolved from an insurance document… to an opportunity to clean and declutter… to a soul-searching examination of my relationship with stuff.
For anyone out there who is starting out or starting over, I hope you will do the right thing and consider the entire life cycle of everything you bring into your home. I didn’t, and you’ll see the result!
Before I tell you about the ten thousand plus items I own, I made up my own rules for the home inventory:
- I didn’t include structural or built-in items like the furnace or the kitchen cabinets.
- I didn’t include the cars, the garden shed or the fence.
- I didn’t include consumables: food and drink, personal care items and cleaning supplies.
- I listed everything else, from a box of paper clips, to the kitchen table, to every DVD in the house.
- For the count, everything purchased separately counts as one item: a package of printer paper counts as one, and a set of dishes counts as one.
- The purchase price and the value of my stuff are nowhere near the same. Since this started for insurance purposes, I estimated replacement costs. You’ll find the prices are all over the place. I listed the purchase price if I knew it, but I marked it down if I knew I could replace it cheaper. However, I didn’t mark anything up. If I had to sell everything I own, I would get a pittance!
- I said that very cheap or heavily used items were worth nothing, such as used pencils or old tea towels.
- I recorded the replacement cost of homemade items as zero, not because they’re worthless, but because they’re irreplaceable – and the same for documents and photos.
I’ve mentioned in previous posts that my stuff is typical of my generation in some ways, but there are differences, too. In the 27 years since I left home, I’ve moved 10 times. Since I was never very settled, my personal possessions were my security blanket. They followed me wherever I went and created an instant “home.” I also spent a lot of adult years single, so I spent more money on personal items (such as books and CDs), less on household items (like furniture) and far less on recreation (like sun holidays and hot tubs).
Here are some random and shocking facts about the things I own:
- We have $25,000 worth of electronics and $25,000 worth of music CDs.
- Despite being very precious to us, our cats only own 17 things – and they are all shared! Maybe I should live more like they do!
- I discovered a box of 100 floppy disks with work files on them from the 1990s. Worse yet, I printed all the emails I received for the first 5 years I had email!
- I have enough ornaments and decorative objects to fill several homes, but they aren’t displayed because the cats knock them over. Yet I haven’t been able to give them up.
- Both Rom and I have an embarrassing amount of toys, some from our long-ago youth and some new. We could say we collect vintage toys, but really, I think we are just pack rats who had happy childhoods.
- People walking into the house see the crammed book shelves and say, “You have a lot of stuff.” But I am pretty much a neatnik – everything is organized and accessible. There’s just too much of it.
Here is the summary:
|Arts and Crafts||
|Bedding and Linens||
|Cleaning and Laundry||
|Clothes – D||
|Clothes – R||
|Documents and Photos||
|Garden and Lawn||
|Media – DVD||
|Media – VHS||
|Media – Video Games||
|Music – Cassettes||
|Music – CDs||
|Music – Downloads||
|Music – Magazines||
|Music – Sheet Music||
|Music – Vinyl||
Here is the worksheet for pet supplies (chosen because it is a small category):
|Boot Mat (for food dishes)||
|$ 10.00||House|Kitchen|On Floor|
|Cat Carrier, Large||Pet Voyageur 300||
|Cat Carrier, Small||Pet Voyageur 200||
|$ 52.00||House|Living Room|
|Cat Toys (Pkg)||
|$ 10.00||House|Kitchen|On Floor|
|$ 14.00||House|Kitchen|On Floor|
|$ 20.00||House|Laundry Room|Floor|
|$ 8.00||House|Laundry Room|Floor|
|$ 30.00||House|Kitchen|On Floor|
|$ 10.00||House|Laundry Room|Utility Shelves|
|$ 17.00||House|Kitchen|On Floor|
I did a worksheet for every category. I made sure to give a name, number, price and location for everything. The rest of the info varied – I listed serial numbers for electronics, the colour or size of something if it seemed relevant, and so on.
The big question you are probably asking is, “Why?” It all began when I wondered if my $180,000 contents insurance (an amount proposed by the insurance company) is sufficient. Answer: Yes! I also wanted to clean and declutter the whole house (which is now done), because I find clutter stressful. I dislike the feeling of not fully knowing what’s in my house, if I kept or gave away something from years ago, or that sinking feeling I get when I’m in a store and I am about to buy something and it dawns on me: “I don’t know if I already have that or not!” Since Rom moved in (end of 2009), he brought all his personal stuff with him and it’s never been Analyzed in an Exacting Way, so of course I had to see to that! I won’t be making him get rid of stuff because that would be too hypocritical.
It bothers me to think I have a lot of duplicates and unused stuff that a less fortunate person could be using on a daily basis. I gave away two carloads of stuff. I still have a ridiculous abundance. At the back of my mind, I can’t help but think about things like, “I would hate for anyone to have to go through all my stuff if I died.” I know that’s morose, but the more I deal with, in the Land of the Living, the less someone else will have to deal with it later! I saw a quote today that I loved, “All clutter is postponed decisions” (Source Unknown)
I am also worried about my values! Why am I so attached to Stuff? What have I taught my kid? Ironically, I tried to buy good quality kids’ toys, games, furniture and decor, and insisted that everything was treated with care. Now it’s lasted a couple of decades and those deferred decisions are still waiting for me!
I know the answers, though. Besides the “buzz” of shopping (which I am getting over), I am addicted to comfort, and novelty, and improved efficiency, and beautifully designed objects. I love being surrounded by the potential of thousands of hours of books to be read, movies to be watched, crafts and recipes to be made. I like the feeling of abundance – especially when everything is neatly stockpiled and organized. It makes me feel successful, and that is hard to give up. At the heart of it all, I like to be at home and I really value domestic life…which is what this blog is all about.
How does your home rate: minimalist, medium, or mega-stuffed?
For the uber-curious, my complete home inventory can be downloaded as an Excel workbook here: