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As part of preparing to move to a new apartment, I though it would be interesting to inventory everything I own to see how much of a “minimalist” I really am. I must say that I am a bit dismayed at the eventual result, but the exercise was quite telling as I detail below. I encourage you to do the same if you think this number too high. It only took me about 12 hours; I’d venture to say that if you can’t take down and categorize all of your stuff in a weekend, then you may have too much stuff!
I used the following general rules during my inventory to keep consistent and prevent insanity in some cases:
The process was simple, I just went from room to room, wall to wall, surface to surface, cabinet to cabinet, in a determined methodical way. Everything was quickly entered into my laptop, where I noted the item, quantity, location, sub-location, category, and sub-category and approximate value.
Nail Clipper -> 1 -> Bathroom -> Drawer -> Toiletries -> Nails -> $3
The “Approximate Value” field is one open to some debate. My preference would be to know what the liquid worth of all of my items are, but that requires there be some market for the items and I be able to value the items in that market. This is easy for something like a Mercedes SLK 350, but much more difficult say the “Laundry Bag” given to me by my dry cleaners. The method they I chose is something I call “Discounted Replacement Cost” which is a fancy way to say that I pulled a lot of the numbers out of my ear. The basic idea is that I would determine what it would cost to replace the item with the closest approximate, discounted a bit to smooth the numbers. It is more important here (to me anyway) that I draw some general conclusions from the value breakdown, rather than know how much money I would have if I sold everything (which just won’t happen.)
After all the counting I have a total of 1252 items worth a total of about $44,497! Lets take a look at some analysis:
As I suspected the numbers were driven by the numerous small items that make up larger sets while the value is dominated by a few expensive items. I have quite a few tools, clothes and supplies, while my vehicle items (bike, car, motorcycle, accessories) make up the majority of the value with my wardrobe coming in second.
A more compelling view of the data was created with the IBM Many Eyes platform, the tree-map shows hierarchical boxes with size determined by the number of items and color determined by the value.
One interesting view built with the Many Eyes tools was a tag cloud of the brands of my clothing. The Calvin Klein number is so large because of all the underwear I have by him.
Having collected all this information my next goal will be to find duplicates and synergies where items could be cut down, consolidated, or replaced. I plan to keep this as a working document, recording when I lend something, removing things as I sell them, and adding as I buy them.
For a full view of the live data check this link: https://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?hl=en&hl=en&key=0ApVIZxyMe-B5dG9PN3djVVJ3U0d4X0RfSHJSSU5SNlE&single=true&gid=4&output=html
The article suggests that this exercise will help you get get a feel for the monetary cost of clutter and motivate you to do something about it.
I like the idea of this article as I’m a nerd and getting data and numbers around more intangible problems always helps me deal with them. However, there is some assumption that there is value in empty space, that even if you are not using something it is better to not have it. I more or less agree with this, we make a contract with each item we have, and if we are not using it, just looking at it will make us feel bad.
As my constant revolution in focus and decluttering continues, I thought I would turn to a potentially sensitive subject, that of social connections. Many of us have quite a few Facebook friends, and I have decided to take the contrarian (but seemingly sensible) position that our social networks should be limited to those with which we are actually social, as opposed to a competition to catalog every human with which we have crossed paths.
Dunbar developed a theory known as “Dunbar’s number” in the 1990s which claimed that the size of our neocortex — the part of the brain used for conscious thought and language — limits us to managing social circles of around 150 friends, no matter how sociable we are.
The article went on to note that even among modern social networks, the core interaction happens among a similarly small number of connections. So then what is the point of having so many friends of Facebook if not a popularity contest? Perhaps I’m short-sighted and the real value in a huge friend list is the ability to send out notifications to all about blog posts and promotions?
Be that as it may, this bit of science inspired me to follow in the steps of another blogger, who kept his Facebook friend list down to about 100 to allow for the real life connections that don’t have Facebook profiles, although I must admit, even my eldest of relatives have opened accounts. Think of the benefits:
I encourage you to cull your friends and strip down your Facebook to those 150 real connections; if you find that you are no longer my friend, don’t take it personally I probably don’t speak with you much, haven’t in forever, or never got to know you in the first place.
While cleaning through my Evernotes in a effort to get a little more organized, I stumbled across a recipe that some how made it in. This just goes to show that even your digital archives can start to become cluttered with stuff you don’t realize is there. It appears that this is a recipe for aphrodisiac muffins, my suggestion is that you eat them throughout the day with your lover and see what happens. Please comment with your stories!
As 2010 winds to a close, I thought it fitting to write about my weekly process of cleaning and organizing, think about this post not only in the context of a week, but also in the context of a year. Time to start off 2011 with a clean slate!
I’ve notice over the past few weeks that my room’s cleanliness is cyclical, it grows messier over the course of a week and then becomes clean again on the weekends. If only this happened naturally! I find that at the end of a long week of work, play and errands, that Sunday is the perfect day to refocus and clean your slate.
If you feel overwhelmed by your to-do list or your next week as often I am, try first looking at your surroundings for clutter that can cloud your mental state. By first cleaning my room, I am able to clear my mind of everything and once I have both a physical and mental blank page, then it feels effortless to plow through all those little items that have been piling up.
Try these steps every Sunday:
At this point you should notice that your room(s) are clean and clear of any clutter. It should feel calming to know that everything is in its proper place. It is at this point that my physical work is mostly at an end and for the most part I can spend the next bit of time processing that large drawer/pile from step 6 above.
With a clear mind I can whip through all of the items, enter the bills, toss the trash, add any future to-dos to my list. This is also a good time to process your outstanding email (I use the Inbox Zero method, which means you strive for no mail in your inbox, but rather sort it into archive, to-do, and waiting).
It’s great to start the week with a fresh clean room, a clean inbox, and an organized list of things that need to get done this week.