Home Inventory Revisited

Black Friday spoof protest. Source unknown.

Black Friday spoof protest. Source unknown.

Last year I did a complete home inventory. I wanted to estimate the value of my home contents and see of it was in line with what my insurance company would offer me in the event of a “total loss.” Along the way, I gave serious thought to my relationship with Stuff and how I wanted to live. I didn’t end up becoming a minimalist, but I did declutter a lot, and I am now mindful about what I bring in. So I thought I would look at what has entered my house this year and whether it’s in line with my (supposed) values.

Replacement items. Two stonecrop plants for the garden to replace two that didn’t survive. A new 10-year passport. Wiper blades for the car. A tire gauge when the old one went missing. A padlock to replace one that had rusted out. Socks and underwear. Workout tank tops and sneakers. Rain gear and gloves. Additional towels because our existing ones weren’t nice enough for guests! A spatula. Needed 2 water bottles but succumbed to a set of 3 spill-proof ones (the Contigo ones from Costco). Three glass food storage containers – gradually replacing all the plastic ones. A suitcase – gave the old one to Link who has the sewing skills to repair it.  And a chrome dish rack – the previous one was vinyl-covered metal and had started crumbling. Rom got a new iPod to replace his old Zune, and replacement earphones.

Lesson learned: Buy quality and think about the eventual disposal of your stuff. Getting rid of that old dish rack bothered me: it will be landfilled forever. And think of the impact on the environment to adhere a vinyl coating to a metal rack! It makes me cringe. What was I thinking?

Consumables. Not including food, of course. But I did buy 3 bottles of wine – one for Mother’s Day and two for Book Club – and still have remnants of all of them in my fridge! What to do 😉 So far this year I have bought 3 books, 1 magazine, 2 DVDs and 7 music albums – 4 on CD and 3 from iTunes. I never regret buying music. The rest I could have done without – they were impulse buys. However, I am determined to read a Dickens book in the coming year, and I thought I might accomplish it more easily if I had one in the house! I also restocked colour inks for the printer.

Lessons learned: #1, I should drink a little more. #2, I debated whether I could find the same books, DVDs and CDs used, but I wasn’t able to, once I factored in shipping costs. Then it comes down to “Do I really need to read this particular book, watch this movie, or listen to this album?” or would something different from the library fill the same need? And #3, my colour printing at home is minimal, but I like the convenience of printing on demand and not having to open my files at the library or at a copy centre. I just have to remember to make a colour print occasionally so my ink and print heads don’t jam up!

New Stuff. I’ve bought 14 items of new clothing this year – 12 practical and 2 frivolous. I also picked up 2 pairs of earrings and a necklace while on vacation. I added a bunch more Dollarama pantry jars to my cupboards. Meanwhile, Rom the IT Guy is always keen to check out new technologies, and he loves his new Chromebook. We invested in a power washer to clean the siding on the house.

Lessons learned: I like shopping for clothes while on vacation because they are budgeted anyway, and buying jewellery prevents me from buying cheesy souvenirs I’ll regret later! I don’t have anything else the right size to use as pantry jars (for rice, lentils, etc.) so the Dollarama ones are working for me. I tried to scrub the house siding using lots of elbow grease but it didn’t work – a power washer is the way to go. And as for the Chromebook, well, Rom is very supportive of our anti-waste household budget, so I overlook a few indulgences!

Used items: Rom brought home a Mac computer from work that was destined for the junk heap! I was planning to buy a desktop to resolve the ergonomic issues of using my laptop so much, so I’m hoping this will do the trick.

Repairs: We had two furnace/boiler repairs this year. We just got a heat pump system but need to keep the old boiler in shape as a back-up. We both have our car maintenance up to date, and we repaired the lawn mower yet again!

Outgoing: Fortunately, I have kept decluttering to offset all of these purchases. My list of recently decluttered items includes a stack of VHS tapes (!), 37 books, 17 items of clothing, 11 kitchen items including a bread maker (bought used), a hot air popcorn maker (am now devoted to stovetop popcorn), and a glass cutting board (the wood one is kinder to my knife and we don’t eat meat). Two broken and unfixable things were discarded: a travel alarm clock and a hair brush. 35 toys and games were sent away after reviewing our extensive toy-and-games list with Link. And I moved out 9 or 10 decorative things like candle holders I no longer used.

My conclusion, as you may have guessed, is that Mastering Stuff is a constant battle and I need to keep on top of it. In the coming years I hope to be more honest with myself about what hobbies I am likely to resume! I am already thinking, “Hmm, what are the chances I will go camping again – in a tent?”

Have you been battling Stuff lately?

39 comments

  1. I think this says it all:

    “Mastering Stuff is a constant battle and I need to keep on top of it.”

    That applies to me as well.

    • Every once in a while I think I would like to pack it all in and start over, maybe move and bring less with me, but I know I don’t want to in reality. I like being surrounded by my stuff.

  2. Fiona

    Wait – 3 bottles of wine so far this year? Surely a typo 😉

    I also keep track of the post-consumer fate of anything we buy. It really bothers me to know the $10 cheap whatsit that I might pick up will be in landfill for a thousand years. That is part of my big issue with stuff.

    You’ve done well though, so far this year. It’s a great idea to keep a running list like this!

  3. I think we’re getting better about making good choices regarding what to bring into our home but I agree with you that it’s a constant battle. My biggest downfall is free items – like when people at work bring in unwanted things from home and offer them up or things are left by the curb. I try not to take those items unless I would be willing to actually pay for it.

  4. I love that you have concluded you should drink more wine! I have drank even less than that, so I think I am definitely with you there!

  5. Jo

    Ooh, I like what you are doing here so much Dar. This is such a mindful way to live. I now try to be so careful of what comes into my life, and so aware of the resources being used to cater to my first world whims, but I remember the years when ‘stuff’ threatened to overwhelm me – it was like things just magically flew in through my front door, when the awful truth was that I brought it all in myself. I have now reformed and am a very stern door keeper, as are you it seems. What a good idea to have a yearly audit. Very brave:)

  6. My issue with stuff is that I declutter too much which sometimes leads me to having to buy replacements for things I used to own. I’m at the point where I’m holding myself to a one year rule: I must own any new purchase for a year before getting rid of it

  7. All the charity shops near us are now refusing to take VHS tapes as no one buys them so unfortunately they are all going to landfill. Sometime in the future these will be worth a few bob like most objects buried in the landfill sites.

    It does feel good to have a good sort through, hope your well x

  8. Gam Kau

    I think there are less than 10 items I regret giving away, mostly I regret hanging onto things for so long. My children’s toys seem to be the final frontier and even those I’ve decluttered over the years. Sometimes at night I lie in bed and think about all the belongings we have. I can visually walk from room to room and take a mental inventory. There are many things I keep for others. Furniture (I know most people aren’t too happy sitting on the floor), furniture in the spare bedroom for guests, bedding/towels for guests, etc. If not for visitors I would get rid of all of it, but one has to compromise. 🙂

    • I regret hanging onto things for too long as well. I can do a mental home inventory by now, too! I am still storing stuff for Link but am fine with that for a few years. But I have learned to give up gifts I haven’t been able to use!

  9. Gam Kau

    and this…
    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/10/books/review/books-for-the-road.html?action=click&contentCollection=Sunday%20Book%20Review&module=RelatedCoverage&region=Marginalia&pgtype=article

    “When I pack for a tour I just grab dungarees and a couple of T-shirts. The big trauma is what books to take.”

    hard not to love Patti!

    (delete these comments if they are too much clutter, never mind off topic!)

    • Thanks a bunch, Gam Kau! I wonder if book reviewing will become a regular gig? BTW, I have only read 2 Murakami books and now I want to read more! I am always choosy about what books to take when travelling too – I have one on my iPad at any given time, but prefer print.

  10. You are so thorough! I have had too much come into my home – and that I can’t remember it all, tells you I have too much. Or maybe, because I can’t remember if I bought things this year or last or the year before that, the lesson is life is going too fast and my memory is failing and not that I buy top much stuff.

    Like other commenters, I have to work to manage the desire for stuff or the entry of stuff into my home. My financial goals are helping me not to buy stuff – I want to pay off my mortgage and travel to Europe.

    I still declutter things – on average one thing a day. Broken secateurs were yesterday’s decluttering. Along with a fancy shopping bag that I used to deliver a book to a friend.

    My advice for the wine: if the bottles are open and have been in the fridge for a while, empty the contents down the sink and out the bottle in the recycling. And next time buy a piccolo. Or drink more! Or invite more friends around!

  11. Oh yes it’s a constant battle with incoming and outgoing (and the guilt thoughts with shopping and looking at things and deciding to buy or not, which I always struggle with when travelling!). I am heartened to hear you are a little towards the decluttering side of the spectrum than perhaps you were before?

    Actually I was feeling a little fidgety just today about ‘stuff’ – after having to fix a shelf which pulled out the plug in the wall. Due to a heavy (not used once this year) extra vacuum. I really want to get rid of it, but it’s the BFs. Anyhow, it’s on my mental list…

    • Yes, I am more in the Declutter Camp now! I used to get whatever I needed (and a lot of what I wanted) and just bought more and more storage containers and shelves to hold everything. Finally it occurred to me that I didn’t want wall-to-wall storage in every room!

  12. urbanmythcafe

    I have a week vacation, so I am going to tackle at least one room.
    It is four years since we moved here, so it really is time for a home inventory. I like the idea of a thorough accounting of every item that is weighing us down!

    • Yeah, after a move and a settling in period, it’s easy to coast for a few years! I moved 10 times in less than 20 years, but I’ve been in my current house 10 years now. I never needed a routine before, because I had always just moved on!

  13. Juhli

    It sounds like you have been very mindful regarding the battle with stuff. I have recently found it fascinating that my FIL is just walking away from almost a houseful of stuff without a thought when I spent the last 35 years watching him acquire and enjoy it all. He picked out what he wanted to take to his new assisted living apartment and instructed us to sell the rest. I have to keep reminding myself as I look at what we have in our home that it is just all stuff.

  14. My parents are hoarders. I am not. Suffice it to say, I anticipate my doom to be in our basement one day squashed by the wall of toilet paper. Yes, toilet paper.

  15. Mastering stuff is always tough but getting rid of the old when you bring in new helps. How long did it take you to do a house inventory? It would take us a long time… there’s so many things to account for?

  16. I’m trying to be very mindful of what I buy now that we’ve moved – there isn’t room to be any other way really! I still have issues not buying certains things though – decorative house items spring to mind – but I’m trying to repurpose as much as possible,

  17. I’ve become more mindful of what I buy over the past few years. I’ve never been a big shopper of new things, but my downfall was op shops (thrift stores). Now I stay out of them unless there’s something I specifically need.

    I’ve also been decluttering a lot lately because I’ve had a lot of spare time. I’ve got three garbage bags of stuff in the boot of my car, and now just have to go through my books. It has definitely been a good process.

  18. Sadly, I am the world’s most unexacting person, but I love your blog and read it when i need to gird up my loins for yet another declutter. Love your budget posts also. Found your blog via odds and evens–another inspiration for me. Thanks!

  19. Thanks so much! The Proust–started many times over the years–was a great accomplishment and took me 14 months. My husband is a Proustomaniac and he’s proud of me. -I did it straight through, but my husband recommends reading the first volume, then the last, and then doing the middle ones.

  20. Pingback: 2014 Goals Update | An Exacting Life

  21. Pingback: Home Inventory Update, Part 1 | An Exacting Life

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