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:
- Count Everything – The first rule is that everything must be counted, I did not leave anything as a set or a kit or exclude accessories. Some examples are counting my wireless mouse and it’s dongle, or counting my laptop and its charger, or counting each of a pair of shoes. The rule of thumb was “could the item be quickly subdivided into smaller, functional sub items?”
- Leave Numerous Bulk Items As a Group – I would guess that my number would increase by some 500 if I counted every screw, bolt, nut, anchor, ect that was in my tool kit. The rule I used was “if knowing the quantity would affect my near term decisions all else being equal, then the items should be counted individually.” Thus I counted my forks and batteries separately, but only counted a box of drywall screws as I could not conceivably exhaust the screws in the short-term unless there was some large event that would require real planning anyway.
- Skip the Food, Count the Containers – Similar to the above rule, I did not count my exhaustible food, but I did make a point of counting each spice jar and non disposable storage container.
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