Skip to content

That time I wrote down every single object I own

McKinley Valentine — 2 min read
That time I wrote down every single object I own
Photo by Kaleidico / Unsplash

I am super into minimalism, although not in the sense that I own only what is needed, because, ahhh look, I live in a house not out of a backpack, I can have some stuff. I have two pairs of nail clippers because that's the number you need to actually be able to find a pair of nail clippers when you want them. I don't want to have a capsule wardrobe (where you have only a few items but they all go with each other) because that entails only ever wearing work-appropriate neutrals. But I do like to only have things I recognise, use and like. (Recognise = no "oh I forgot I had that!")

Last weekend I did a big declutter and then did the mildly psychopathic thing of writing down everything I own in a spreadsheet. I own 416 things (not counting consumables). If that seems like a lot, you are probably drastically underestimating how much stuff you own.

The number is deeply flawed as an indicator - I have a built-in wardrobe so I didn't count it, but you wouldn't somehow be more consumerist for wanting your clothes not to be in a pile on the floor. You could make a case for not counting things like bookcases - no one is hoarding empty bookcases, you hoard books and then buy the right number of shelves to store them on. And actually the sign that you are hoarding too much stuff is probably when it's in boxes or piles or hidden, not accessible on shelves. But I decided to go for "comprehensive" instead of "fair" since I'm not even sure what number I'd be comparing myself against.

Plus I counted laptop+charger as one item, "bobby pins" as one, and a bunch of arbitrary stuff like that.

I fully recommend this activity to anyone who finds the idea appealing! If you don't, I don't recommend it to you, I'm pretty sure it was an act with no intrinsic value.

From the same issue:

'An inventory of all my possessions, before and after i moved apartments' (The New Yorker)

"I thought I had a decent grasp on the number of things that I owned. But then I moved, and it became clear that I did not. Here is an inventory of my perceived possessions before I moved and what I realized I actually own."

Before: A few books that I re-read often.
After: An entire library of books, some of which I’ve never seen before in my life, on subjects that I didn’t know I was interested in or even existed.

Before: A few necessary paper documents in a folder labelled “important.”
After: A large drawer full of loose, largely unimportant papers—ranging from my 2016 tax return to three copies of my birth certificate, from when I studied abroad—that I will probably get rid of only when my grandchildren are rooting through my garage in fifty years and ask, “What’s this?,” and I respond, “Please, I beg of you, help me get rid of these Ikea receipts from 2013.”

Read the whole thing

This piece was originally published in The Whippet #59 – subscribe to get the next one in your inbox!

Unsolicited AdviceBe More Functional


Sign in or become a Whippet subscriber (free or paid) to add your thoughts.
Just enter your email below to get a log in link.